What are Climbers?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Climbers are plants which grow upright, relying on other plants, trellises, structures, and anything else they can find for support. Climbing vines can be an attractive addition to a garden, and include plants such as jasmine, bougainvillea, honeysuckle, ivy, kiwi, wisteria, clematis, some rose cultivars, passionflower, morning glory, and trumpet vine, among others. Many nurseries carry climbers and can order additional cultivars by special request from customers.

Jasmine is a climbing plant.
Jasmine is a climbing plant.

Climbers can grow in a number of different ways. Some put out tendrils which search for something to lock on to, fixing the plant in place and allowing it to gradually grow higher and higher over time. Others actually coil their stems or leaves around supporting structures. Some use adhesive pads or bunches of roots to grab onto their support structures. Climbers can also simply grow upright without attaching themselves, in which case they may need to be pinned in place to provide support; this type of climber is often grown on an arbor, in which case the plant will spread out when it reaches the top of the support structure.

Ivy is frequently grown near walls and trellises.
Ivy is frequently grown near walls and trellises.

One of the advantages to climbers is that they can add horizontal height and texture to a garden, especially as they grow higher over the years. This can make a garden more visually interesting. Climbers are also ideal for creating privacy screens; they aren't as dense as trees and hedges, taking up less space in the garden, and they can provide a great leafy and flowery screen. Gardeners can also use climbers to divide a garden into various areas, and to create hidden nooks in a garden.

When purchasing a climber, gardeners should take care to buy a plant which will grow in their area. Nursery staff may have recommendations, and gardeners can also look for thriving plants in the neighborhood and see if anything looks particularly interesting or inspiring. Gardeners may also want to consider the height of the plants they buy; the taller a climber is when it is purchased, the more quickly it will achieve a desired height, but shorter plants are less expensive at the nursery.

Something else to think about is whether or not a climber is evergreen. Deciduous climbers can look bleak in the winter months, with a tangle of brown twigs and branches. Evergreens will look lush year round, and in climates where evergreen climbers will grow, they may be a better choice. This is especially true if they are being used for privacy.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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