Climbing Methods


Climbers attach themselves to supports by various means. Some climbers are self-clinging, attaching themselves to their supports either by adhesive tendril tips or by aerial roots (adventitious rootlets), whilst other plants use coiling tendrils, twining stems and leaf stalks. There are also scandent (loosely climbing) and scrambling climbers, such as Bougainvillea, which produce long stems that need to be tied in at regular intervals.

Curling Leaf Stalks

Some climbers, such as clematis and some nasturtiums (Tropaeolum) climb by grasping their support with curling leaf stalks.

Self-Clinging Plants

These climbers, such as ivies (Hedera spp.) or Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), cling to any surface with aerial roots or adhesive tendril tips. They do not need any additional support except during their early stages of growth, when they require the guidance of a cane, wire or string until they are able to create a secure contact. Climbers with aerial roots are also particularly well-suited for use as ground cover.

Hooked Thorns

Some species, such as climbing roses and certain Rubus species (blackberries, brambles and raspberries), use hooked thorns to help them to scramble naturally through host plants. However, if they are not to be grown through other plants, they should be tied in to sturdy supports.


Scandent, scrambling, and trailing climbers, such as winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum), Bougainvillea species, and Rangoon Creeper (Quisqualis indica), produce long, arching stems that attach themselves loosely, if at all, to their supports. These plants should be tied in to a wire framework or trellis, or left to sprawl over a wall or bank for a less formal effect. Plants in this group are also sometimes used as ground cover.

Tendril Climbers

There are many climbers that twine around their supports with contact-sensitive tendrils, which are often modified leaves or leaflets, such as with Sweet Peas (Lathyrus odoratus) or Cross Vine (Bignonia capreolata). Some plants may use terminal shoots (vines) or axillary shoots (Passion Flower - Passiflora). In Parthenocissus the tendrils develop adhesive discs at the tips once they come into contact with a support.

Twining Plants

Twining climbers coil their stems in a spiralling motion around their support clockwise or anticlockwise, depending on the species. For example, Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) and Umbrella Plant Ceropegia sandersonii twine anticlockwise, whilst Brazilian Firecracker (Manettia inflata) and Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) twine clockwise.

All twining plants require permanent support, usually provided by wire or trellis. They may also be grown up the stems and branches of a sturdy host plant.