How to train your climbing roses

I can’t claim to be a particular expert in the language of getting wasted. Out of it, off your face, plain ole drunk: whatever you wanna call it. My friend Rose once told me on a Friday night she was “going to Taiwan-On this evening”. I thought she was off to a glamorous new restaurant featuring yet another promising Asian cuisine, until she explained she was actually planning to “tie one on” – yet another evocative way of saying “plastered”.

When I think about tying anything at all, especially round this time of year, I think about Rose. That’s partly because of our Taiwanese mix-up; and partly because it’s roses in particular that are begging for us to step outside in the spring sunshine with some nails, wire, string, secateurs (the whole gardening bag, in fact) and get on with some knotting, tying in and general training.

It’s the perfect time to be doing it, what with the garden not quite into full-on growth mode yet. You can still see what you’re doing, for a start. I’ve been urged into action this week by James Alexander-Sinclair, one of my favourite gardeners, who sent me a naggy Facebook link with a click-through to his excellent climbing-rose video on the IntoGardens YouTube channel. Climbing roses, James explains, have Actual Scientific Reasons for needing to be tied in and tied on. “Quite often,” he points out, “climbing roses do not do exactly what we want them to do; quite often you will see that all the flowers are way, way, way up in the air, and there is nothing going on at the level of a person.”

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Left to their own devices, as any fairly lazy gardener knows, these aggressive, energetic plants sprout new so-called “structural” stems from the top, which may well be 6ft up. But trained horizontally along wires like a Tube line on the London Underground map, a totally different effect ensues: each budding group of leaves along the route egotistically believes that it alone is the top of the plant, so each “stop” produces flowers of its own. Twofold result: flowers lower down, which you can reach, sniff and even pick; and loads more of them. Is there a downside? No!

So how to proceed? First, buy some vine eyes. Of course you could just use nails, but then in a couple of years’ time you risk watching your elaborate rose-training structure collapse. My technique is to sit myself down with the Screwfix catalogue, as another friend, Mark, recommends for a good evening in. Work out where to put the wires; where you want flowers and scent.

Now the biggest problem is to get the vine eyes fixed. Choose screw-in vine eyes for wooden fencing. (Motivate yourself to get out the drill to do some pilot holes and your hands will thank you later, preferably by not dropping a large glass of wine.) For brick walls, go for the triangular kind, which hammer in between the brick and the pointing (those of you who have done your own may weep at this point). Next, think about the wires themselves. “Horticultural” wire is generally green, in a gruesome deep shade that only “blends in” with plastic plants in hotel lobbies. I prefer Apollo’s galvanised wire with a soft silvery finish: £2.99 from Screwfix.

Finally, it’s time to bring in the plants themselves. Roses at this time of year should be sprouting away but still youthfully bendy, so it really is the moment to grasp the task. Use soft twine or string to do this last bit of the tying, and don’t be afraid to do a little bit more pruning as you go, for shape. And then one last piece of advice: don’t go to any parties, for a week or two, where people are going to look at your scratched arms and be concerned about your self-harming. Thorns, you see: the one bit for which I have not yet found a solution.

Training Climbing Roses – How To Get A Climbing Rose To Climb

When training climbing roses, purchase a roll of flexible tape for tying back canes or other flexible ties like wire with a rubbery coating on them. You will want ties that provide strong support but offer flexibility with growth, not anything that may cut into the canes causing disease entry point wounds. Not only is it important to have good support ties but also check on them often to make sure they are in good order – I have heard of cases where climbing roses have popped loose and collapsed into a heap. Imagine trying to wrestle with a huge thorn-covered octopus!

How to Get a Climbing Rose to Climb

Climbing roses need your attention to help train them in the way that they should go. I have read recommendations to let the climbing roses grow for two to three years without pruning them except to remove broken or damaged canes. This is a good recommendation, but it does not mean that they need no attention. While growing in those first years, keep an eye on where the canes are growing and help train them by tying them back to the support structure you have chosen.

Canes that are totally unruly are best removed early on. Not doing so can become a major frustration as they grow older and larger. These roses do not need to be pruned way back after winter. I give climbers all the time they need to leaf out in the spring. I like them to show me where to prune and not guess at it. Pruning them too much can sacrifice blooms. Some climbing roses bloom on the previous year’s growth, thus over pruning them can severely diminish the bloom production!

Why a Climbing Rose Won’t Climb

In most cases, a climbing rose that will not climb is one that has not been trained early on in how it is expected to grow. The main structural canes, without proper support, bow over into a mass of canes along the ground. Such a sight can make some gardeners toss their hands in the air and run! At this point, the beauty has truly become a beast (remember my comparison to wrestling an octopus?). I have taken different approaches when confronted with such situations.

Either prune out the most unmanageable canes and slowly tie up the canes that are manageable until things meet your vision, or prune out all of the canes and allow the rose to grow back with all new canes. As the rose bush grows back, the canes can then be properly tied back and “trained” in a manner that fits how you want them to grow. Another option is to prune out all the canes and dig out the rose, then plant a new climbing rose bush and start from scratch.

The beauty beheld in those paintings and photographs can be our very own, but you must be willing to dedicate the time and effort into making it so. Enjoy your roses and the time spent with them; they will reward you in a like fashion.

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How to create an amazing garden wall

Gently does it

Rather than using horizontal wires strung across the wall at regular intervals, Troy prefers to use vine eyes drilled into the wall where possible. Usually they go into the masonry, as the mortar is often too soft. Shoots are directly tied to the vine eyes using Nutscene twine ( Occasionally an old nail that is already in place is used and, as mentioned before, shoots are tied to other shoots.

Troy’s dislike of using fixed, permanent wires is mainly because shoots grow up behind them and are then difficult to get out. The wires can also seem too dominant and, he says, they have to be spot‑on level, otherwise they look odd. Occasionally he may need to use a short stretch of horizontal wire, but rarely. His main objective is to cover the wall, to go around doors and windows and, in the case of free-standing walls, to get the plants just over the top to give an ebullient feel. To this end he will run a horizontal wire along the top of the wall.

Troy is known for his attention to detail. The vine eyes are specially made for Sissinghurst by Dave Broadbent, from a Midlands engineering firm, as they are then exactly what they want: less shiny, a good length and sturdy (8cm long shank and 10mm diameter eye). The gardeners drill holes and fix in the vine eyes with a rawl plug or, when into a very hard stone such as granite (as when Troy worked at Bodnant), they put in some epoxy resin to keep the vine eye in place. Epoxy resin is also used if the stone/brickwork is very soft (just a dab on the outside end) as it prevents water from penetrating the hole. If you cannot have yours made, like Troy, a great source is The Essentials Company ( Chris Wheeler, partner in the firm, says their best sellers are the 75mm zinc-plated screw (vine) eyes. Most people use these with Flexi-Tie to fix the shoot to the eye (brown tubing approx £6.50/59m). Troy would use this too if he did not work in Vita’s garden – it was not around in her day.

The commercial versions of Flexi-Tie come in yellow, livid greens and red, as in nurseries they need to be aware of ties for maintenance; but for garden use, the brown version in three gauges, 2.5mm, 3.5mm and 6mm (for trees and stouter plants), is brilliantly low-key. It stretches rather than cuts into the plant. Mary Thornhill, who introduced the brown Flexi-Tie to Britain, has created quite an addiction to it.

Chris Wheeler says if you prefer to use twine, carpet twine is best for plants (he sells a three-ply jute twine). It is uniform and reliable, whereas cheaper Chinese versions tend to be variable and snap.

Clematis and others

At Sissinghurst the system for fixing clematis to walls is pig netting (galvanised wire netting in squares approx 100mm). This spans the entire area they want to cover, giving maximum climbing space. The area of wire available for the plant tendrils to use makes it easy for plant and gardener.

They use “twizzlers” (paper-covered fine wire) to attach the young shoots where necessary to pull the plant across. The ephemeral nature of the shoots means the inner wire will not cause damage. Chris Wheeler says their twizzlers –“Kraft Paper Twist ties” – are especially popular with vineyard owners who find the fine inner wire disintegrates in just the right time frame.

Troy likes to mix a climbing rose with an early and late clematis, so in this situation he trains the rose as usual but leaves the clematis to use the rose or any odd nail or vine eye. Figs spreading across walls are another of the great Sissinghurst sights. Troy leaves his figs until spring, the old growth protecting the plant from the cold weather.

In March-April figs will have the old wood cut out and be trained tightly to the wall. The shoots are tied in (using vine eyes) in any pattern to obtain good wall coverage. All their ties, whatever the plant, are renewed annually (definite memo to self here). Other informal climbers, such as honeysuckle, are just fixed back to odd vine eyes, as their appeal is of a more informal nature and so they just get on with it. If you are tidy-minded, perhaps these are best left where there is lots of space to sprawl in many directions.

Bunny’s tips for tidy walls

The late, great John Cushnie told me that if you have painted, rendered walls and the self-clinging climber Virginia creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, all over them, you can just paint over plant and wall when the creeper is dormant. Ideally, use a plain emulsion (not a paint with plasticisers in it). Indeed, if you try to pull off the creeper before painting you could damage the wall.

At Highgrove, the Prince of Wales’s gardeners use hessian strips to tie wall fruit. It looks organic, does not rub and holds firm.

Many people think climbing plants are only suitable for outdoor spaces like gardens, but did you know they can be cultivated in indoor spaces, as well? Climbing plants add a richness and depth to any garden space and with the proper knowledge, you’ll have healthy and luscious climbing plants.

What’s even better is that certain species of climbing plants can even work well in offices, so you can enjoy the benefits of plants even at your workspace!

Whether you’re a seasoned veteran in gardening in your backyard or a working professional seeking the benefits of indoor plants, our Ultimate Guide to Climbing Plants provides you with everything you need to know about cultivating climbing plants indoors and outdoors.

  • What is a climbing plant?
  • What is a trellis?
  • What type of structures support climbing plants?
  • What type of plants are considered climbing plants?
  • How do you care for climbing plants?
  • How do you plant climbing plants?
  • Can climbing plants include flowers?
  • Where can you grow climbing plants?
  • How do you care for indoor plants?
  • How fast do climbing plants grow?
  • How often should you trim climbing plants?
  • What are the benefits of climbing plants?
  • What is a creeper plant?
  • What is the difference between climber and creeper plants?
  • What are some examples of creeper plants?
  • How can I incorporate indoor vines into my workspace?
  • Which climbing plants work well in office spaces?
  • Where can I learn more about plants in the workplace?

What is a climbing plant?
A climbing plant is a plant which climbs up trees and other tall objects. Many climber plants are vines whose stems wrap around trees and branches but there are other methods of climbing.

Botanists divide climbing plants into two broad groups: Bines and Vines.

Bines typically twine their stems around an object for support. They have rough stems or downward-pointing bristles to air their grip. Some examples of bines are:

  • Hops
  • Morning glory
  • Honeysuckle

The second group is vines. Vines use tendrils or specialized stems used by climbing plants, suckers, thorns and other methods to support themselves. Some examples of vines include:

  • Climbing rose – thorns
  • Virginia creeper – adhesive pads
  • Trumpet creeper – leaves
  • Passion flowers or passion vines – stems

What is a trellis?
A trellis s a framework made of either light wood or metal bars used as support for climbing plants or fruit trees. You can make your own trellis or buy one at your local garden center.

Some climbing plants require a support system like a trellis, but others don’t, so it’s important to do your research and determine which climbing plants you’d like to grow and if you have the resources to support them.

What type of structures support climbing plants?
Sure, you can use fences, walls, arches and porches. But be careful, climbing plants can get heavy so make sure your support system is durable.

What type of plants are considered climbing plants?
Tendrils – skinny structures along the plant’s stem that reach out in the air until they come into contact with structure they can hold on to.

  • Stem tendrils – Passionflower, Grapes
  • Leaf tendrils – Sweet peas, Chilean glory flower

Twiners – There are two types of twiners, twinning leaves or twinning stems. Twinning leaves use their leaves like tendrils. Young leaves twist around wires, string, twigs or other leaves to support itself. Twinning stems twist around whatever they touch, spinning clockwise or counterclockwise depending on the species of plant.

  • Twinning leaves – Clematis,, Climbing nasturtium
  • Twinning Stems – Pole beans, Dutchman’s pipe, Morning glory, Jasmine, Honeysuckle

Scramblers– Climbing or rambling roses are one of the many plants that are considered scramblers. These plants have long, flexible stems that look like vines but are unable to climb on their own. Scramblers sometimes have thorns that help them grip to other stems. If you want to add scramblers to a trellis, tie them with string or wire to neighboring stem.

Adhesive pads – These plants have stem tendrils with adhesive pads that allow them to stick to many surfaces. If they don’t have vertical support, they can crawl sideways.

  • Boston ivy
  • Cissus

Clinging stem rooms – The stems of these plants produce short, stout roots that cling to a variety of surfaces.

  • English ivy
  • Euonymus
  • Climbing hydrangea

How do you care for climbing plants?
Depending on the type(s) of climbing plants you’re growing will dictate how you care for your plants.

Tendrils – They need horizontal support to grab onto, roughly ¼ inch in diameter. But, you can also use two-inch square netting.
Passion Flowers or Passion vines – Mulch heavy in the winter for a good start for growing season. They need partial to full sunlight and need lots of water so keep their roots moist, especially during flowering season.

Twiners – To help twiners grow, they need a trellis, wire or post for horizontal support. Morning glories, Dutchman’s Pipe and Honeysuckle can grow large so they need support to hold their weight.

Morning glories – They die in frost but reseed themselves so they can grow the next year. Morning glories are best planted in full sun and seeds should be ¼-½ deep, eight inches apart.

Scramblers – Their thorns can make them difficult to work with. They too are unable to climb on their own and should be held with gardening wire or string.

Climbing roses – Climbing roses can grow very tall but have flexible canes so they can climb many types of surfaces. Some species need full sun and others grow best in partial shade.

  • Stickers – Stickers don’t need horizontal support due to the adhesive on their tendrils.

Boston Ivy – Boston ivy prefers full sun to light shade with slightly moist to slightly dry conditions. Soil with clay or stony material is optimal for growth.

Stem Rooms – Stem root climbing plants use clingy stem roots to attach themselves to surfaces. These roots are strong, so strong they can damage paint when removed. It’s recommended you grow stem root climbers on homes and use trees or a trellis for support.

Climbing hydrangea– If given enough room to grow, climbing hydrangea can reach tall heights. They are also heavy so they need support. They need full sun to partial shade and any soil conditions will do just fine.

How do you plant climbing plants?
In general, you should plant your new climber 11 inches – 17 inches away from the base of your support structure so water can reach the root of your plant. Depending on the type of climbing plant you are cultivating will determine how you care for it and what kind of structure you will use to support it.

Can climbing plants include flowers?
Yes! Honeysuckle, Morning glories and Dutchman’s pipe are some of the most common climbing plants with flowers.

Where can you grow climbing plants?
Depending on the species of plant you are growing, you can grow climbing plants in containers, on walls, fences, trellis and along buildings like offices or homes. When deciding which climbing plant to cultivate, research how to grow and prune that specific species of plant to ensure optimal growth.

What season is best for climbing plants?
This ultimately depends on the type of climbing plant you choose to cultivate. In the spring, you can choose from clematis, which looks beautiful on pergolas or arches. Summertime is great for star jasmine, honeysuckles and roses. Fall and winter are great for grape vines, Virginia creepers and ivy.

How fast do climbing plants grow?
Fast climbing plants include akebia or “chocolate vine”, star jasmine, wisteria sinensis, vitis vinifera, clematis, etoile violette and morning glory.

Examples of slow growing climbing plants include hyacinth bean vine, moonflower and the pink trumpet vine.

How often should you trim climbing plants?
One of the major reasons gardeners love climbing plants is due to their length and abundance but that doesn’t mean these plants shouldn’t be trimmed. Many plants benefit from a trim and knowing when to do it is important.

For instance, climbers can use a good trim during late winter. Clematis should be trimmed late-summer or late-fall. Depending on whether your clematis is an early flowering, early to mid or late flowering species will depend on when you trim. Honeysuckle is typically trimmed every few years.

What are the benefits of climbing plants?
Climbing plants are a beautiful addition to any garden and provide depth and complexity to simple gardening spaces. They also provide shade on those warm summer days. When harvesting these plants indoors, the benefits include:

  • Reduced stress and increased sense of well-being
  • Improve air quality
  • Reduce background noise

More benefits of indoor plants can be found here.

What is a creeper plant?
Creeper plants or creeping plants are small, vine-like plants that grow close to the ground.

What is the difference between climber and creeper plants?
Creeper plants are commonly found near the ground and grow horizontally while climbing plants tend to grow vertically, alongside buildings or other structures.

What are some examples of creeper plants?
Commonly grown creeper plants include:

  • Japanese spurge
  • Creeping junipers
  • Angelina stonecrop
  • Creeping myrtle

How can I incorporate indoor vines into my workspace?
You don’t have to exclusively enjoy climbing plants in your garden. Indoor vines are similar to outdoor climbing plants but as their name states it, they’re cultivated in different locations.

You can place indoor vines in hanging pots, on eaves and desks.

Below you will find a variety of indoor climbing plants that will liven up any workspace.

Which climbing plants work well in office spaces?

Vines that grow well indoors include:

  • Philodendron Brazil
  • Hedera Helix
  • Devil’s Ivy
  • Scindapsus Jade

Where can I learn more about plants in the workplace?
Ambius provides indoor plants, Green Wall installations, holiday decor and scenting for workspaces all sizes and industries. To learn more about how your workspace can benefit from indoor plants, contact us or call us for a free quote at 1-800-658-0045.

Dispelling Common Fertilizer Misconceptions

Photo: Beth Hyatt/Total Landscape Care

For customers who prefer to maximize their landscape space, suggesting plants that grow up rather than out can be a good idea.

Showcasing a few vine plants will not only let your clients get more plants in a space, it will also create a unique look to have shoots growing skyward. This also gives them the option of looking into trellises or other vertical structures that will give their vines the chance to climb.

Climbing plants all ascend in particular ways. Some will wrap, some adhere and some curl, and knowing which plants do what will help you find the look your customer craves.


There are two types of tendril vines: stem and leaf. Examples of stem tendrils are passionflowers and grapes, while leaf tendrils can be found in the form of sweet peas and Chilean glory flowers. Stem tendrils are shoots that grow out of the stem, and leaf tendrils look similar but are actually modified leaves that emerge from a leaf node.

Tendrils are wiry, skinny structures along the plant’s stem that can reach around in the air until they come in contact with something they can grab. When contact is made, the tendrils will curl and form a coil that then allows the plant to either adjust the degree of tension or pull on the support.

Plants with tendrils need handholds in the form of horizontal supports, such as netting branches with many small side shoots and horizontal strings attached to posts or bamboo poles. Make sure that the strings are not positioned more than four inches apart, or the newer tendrils may not be able to reach the next level of string. The tendrils will also need to wrap around something thin, such as string or wire, that’s no more than about ¼ inch in diameter.


Morning glories, pole beans and honeysuckle, are just a few examples of twiners, and there are two important differences among twiners: they either have twinning stems or twinning leaves.

Those with twinning leaves use their leaves like tendrils to twist around wires, string and more. For these, be sure to provide enough support for the leaf stem to curl around.

For those with twinning stems, they tend to twist around anything they touch. Depending on the species, their stems will wind clockwise or counterclockwise. Wisteria is another famous twiner, and as you know they can become extremely heavy. Be sure to provide a strong structure and support if you know the vine is a perennial that will grow large.


Rambling roses and bougainvillea are two plants that fall into the category of scrambler. These have flexible, long stems that may look like vines, but they aren’t able to climb on their own. Scramblers can sometimes have thorns that help them grip stems close to them, but if you want them to climb they must be tacked into place and most likely tied up with sturdy string or wire.

Adhesive pads

For plants with stem tendrils with touch-sensitive adhesive pads that allow them to stick to most surfaces, take a look at Boston ivy and Virginia creeper. These climbers attach themselves to the faces of buildings or the trunks of trees, but if not provided with vertical support they will begin to crawl sideways and attach to whatever is in their path.

Clinging stem roots

This last group uses their clinging stems to attach themselves. Their stems produce a cluster of stout, short roots that can cling to almost any surface. Some you may be familiar with are the climbing hydrangea and most ivies, like English ivy. These climbers can damage paint work and mortar if you try to remove them from a structure, so exercise caution.

Training them to climb

Once you’ve decided what vine you plan to use in your customer’s landscape, it’s time to teach it to climb. The first step to training your vines to climb is to have support wires in place on the structure before any plants are introduced. After this, the climber should be planted 12-18 inches from the base of the wall to ensure there’s room for root development and for catching rain.

Untwine the climber to let it spread its stems, but leave them still attached to their cane supports. Using three bamboo canes you can train it to climb at an angle to reach the wire supports. Put the bamboo canes under the wires to keep them held in place and adjust the positioning the create a fan shape.

The next step is to tie the stems and canes to the wire supports. Using garden twine is preferable to wire because wire can potentially damage the stems and leaves. After the main stems have been trained into the basic fan shape, you can then prune off any weak growth that won’t contribute to the framework. The rest, as they say, will be history.

THIS volume is a reprint of Mr. Darwin’s well-known treatise on the habits of climbing plants, published in 1865 in the ninth volume of the “Journal of the Linnean Society,” with such additions and corrections as the progress of knowledge since that time has rendered necessary. Although the subject had been investigated previously to that time by the German physiologists Palm and Von Mohl, it was Mr. Darwin’s publication, describing many facts not previously recorded, that first introduced the remarkable phenomena connected with it to the notice of the general public. The phrase Climbing Plant is used by Mr. Darwin as a generic term for all those which, provided themselves with but weak stems that have no power of standing erect, avail themselves of the assistance of neighbouring plants for the purpose of raising their foliage and flowers to a considerable height from the ground. The plants included under this head are arranged in four divisions, according to the part that is modified in order to subserve this purpose: (1) Twining Plants (called in the first edition Spiral Twiners), in which the stem is the climbing organ; (2) Leaf-climbers, which climb by the aid of the petiole or some other portion of the leaf; (3) Tendril-bearers, by far the most numerous class, which are provided with tendrils specially contrived for this purpose; and (4) Hook and root-climbers, which climb by the aid of hooks on aërial roots, or merely scramble over other plants. In all these classes except the last, the mechanical means by which the climbing is effected is a sensitiveness and power of revolution possessed by the extremity of the stem or tendril, or by the petiole.

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