How to Train Vines to Climb on Pergolas

Climbing plants on pergolas: the basics

Provided with the proper training and care, climbing plants on pergolas will add more than just beauty to any landscape. They also provide a shaded area where you could cool off during warmer days. It may seem tricky to train climbing plants so it’s important to know the basics. Read on to better understand climbing plants.

Types of vines

Vines have different habits of climbing and supporting themselves. They fall under these categories–twiners, grabbers, and clingers.

Twining vines or twiners like honeysuckle and wisteria physically wrap their stems around structures such as pergolas or wires to grow and climb upward. Twining vines thrive on sturdy support as they have the tendency to grow haphazardly.

Grabbers utilize their thin flexible stems to grab their support like sweet pea, grape vines, and clematis.

Clingers, on the other hand, depend on the sticky substance produced by their adhesive pads to adhere to structures. Virginia creeper and Boston ivy are examples of clingers.

Depending on your purpose, some vines bear flowers and some yield fruits. Some also flourish in full exposure to the sun while some are fine with partial shade.

Soil Health

Before beginning to plant, you need to consider the best vine for the type of soil you have in your garden.

As with most plants, climbing plants have their soil requirements. Clematis, for example, thrives in moist and well-drained soil that has a neutral or little alkaline content. Wisteria, on the other hand, prefers soil that leans toward acidic with a pH that ranges from 6 to 7. Depending on the vine you are planting, you can improve the health of the soil with the help of fertilizers.

The right direction

Vines can be grown on pergolas by either twining the main stem around the base or growing the vine straight against the structure.

Whichever method you prefer, guiding vines start at a young age. During its early stages, vines may require assistance to establish a firm grip on a pergola. Keep the stem securely fastened to the structure by pinning it down with a garden twine or tying it with a fabric tie. Consider using nylon stockings too as their stretchable materials give more room for vines to develop and expand.

Once the stems gain some length, and the vines have naturally gripped the structure, you can choose to remove the ties.

Bougainvillea and some climbing roses, however, may still require support to guide their growth as these are not natural climbers.

Vines on top

Naturally, your vines will continue to climb until they reach the upper part of pergolas. As with the base, you need to tie the vines to guide their growth. To make a canopy of vines, tie their stems in such a way that they cross the beams horizontally.

In some instances, the pillars or the base of a pergola may become bare as vines grow upward. A good remedy for this is to spiral new shoots around the pillars rather than encouraging them to go straight up.

Keep them in check

Vines may grow wildly if they are kept unchecked for weeks as they look for new areas to attach their stems. They may grow away from the pergola and colonize the nearest plant or structure. Redirect stray vines by tying them again back to the pergola. You may also unwind vines that have tangled themselves up. A technique used by some to encourage vertical growth is to pinch out 2 inches of the shoots’ top.

In general, keep your plants well-watered to avoid drying of roots. If you live in an area that is always sunny, you may want to consider planting vines that can handle the heat or drought such as jasmine, trumpet vine, and desert snapdragon among others.

Thinning and pruning

Pruning is performed by removing the damaged and dead shoots to promote new growth and flowering. It is typically done in the dormant season or right before new growth starts. Different vines require various times of year for pruning.

Pruning keeps your climbers healthy and encourages them to produce more flowers or fruits while enhancing their appearance. It is also a way for you to check and remove fungi or plant diseases.

The best plants for pergolas

Numerous climbing plants grow nicely and add character on pergolas. If your garden is situated in an area that receives most of the sunlight, consider planting bougainvillea. Blooming from early summer through fall, bougainvillea loves the sun and would make a great canopy of flowers. Maintenance is pretty low too as it only requires a well-moist soil to continue growing. Bougainvillea comes in many colors, but the most cultivated ones are yellow, red, and purple.

Related: Check out this infographic on the most popular climbing plants for pergolas

Fragrant flowers such as wisteria is also a perfect climbing plant to drape over pergolas. Like bougainvillea, wisteria thrives in tropical areas. It can tolerate soil with alkaline and requires little water. Wisteria grows in various colors too such as red and blue and can reach as high as 25 feet. During its development stage, you will need to support it properly to your pergola. Wisteria may require regular maintenance as they can become hefty. Make sure your pergolas are made of sturdy materials to support this plant.

Another popular fragrant climbing plant perfect for pergolas is sweet pea. They bloom from summer to fall and grows up to 8 feet in height. Sweet peas are annual plants that require a well-drained soil and regular maintenance as they are prone to bugs and pests.

Yucca vine or morning glory is very drought-tolerant and produces saucer-shaped flowers. This climbing plant dies in cold temperature but reseeds itself after the winter. Morning glory requires direct sun to grow and less water. Morning glory is also a low-maintenance climbing plant.

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Roses are traditional climbers for covering walls, pergolas and arbours, but few cultivars have a truly continuous flowering season, so team them with honeysuckle or clematis to fill gaps.

Climbing roses need a permanent framework to cover the designated area because the flowers are borne on side shoots that are pruned back annually. They are good for training on walls, fences or a trellis, up pillars or over arches, but choose one that fits the space available to make sure that you won’t be constantly chopping it back to size.

Pruning climbing roses

When you first plant a climbing rose, it’s essential to space the main stems so that they cover the space evenly. Fix them in place by tying them to horizontal wires, trelliswork or wall nails. Tie new shoots in to fill in the framework so that you can cover the space with a network of stems 20-30cm (8-12in) apart. Anything you don’t need can be cut off and the rose will flower on short stems growing from the framework. As the flowers fade, remove deadheads leaving behind 8-10cm (3-4in) of stem. This does two jobs: deadheading and summer pruning, so the plant stays tidy. With old climbers in winter, cut an occasional old, unproductive stem back to a junction with a young stem, which can be trained in its place.

Training a climbing rose on a pergola

If you let a rose run straight to the top of a pergola post, all the flowers appear at the top of the stems, where you can’t see them. Roses tend to flower best on stems that are as near to horizontal as possible, so if the stems spiral round a post, they’ll flower all the way up. At the side of a post, dig a planting hole three times bigger than the pot the rose came in. Add lots of well-rotted compost and mix in a handful of rose fertilizer. Plant the rose with the bud union (the bulge where the cultivar joins the rootstock) about 2½cm (1in) below the surface, then water the mulch generously. Cut off any dead, weak or sticking-out stems, leaving the most upright ones. Gently wind round the post and tie firmly in place with garden twine. As the shoots grow, continue winding them in while they’re still flexible. When they reach the top of the post, let them run along the pergola top, but keep them tied down.

The Fastest-Growing Climbing Roses

pink climbing rose image by Jodi from

Many gardeners prefer planting fast-growing plants as they provide immediate results in the garden. Several varieties of fast-growing climbing roses exist for the impatient gardener, including New Dawn and Ramblin’ Red; both produce vigorous growth and profuse colorful blooms. Climbing roses are often trained on a trellis, gardening wall or against a tall tree. The fine beauty and fragrance of climbing roses help contribute to an attractive display amongst the landscape. They are exceedingly popular in flower gardens worldwide.

New Dawn

This fast-growing climbing rose is favored for its ability to reach remarkable heights in a relatively short period of time. New Dawn frequently reaches heights between 15 and 25 feet, making it a dramatic asset in any garden. Blooms appear in shades of pink and are quite full. Allow this rose plenty of room to grow since it is known for its enthusiastic side branching. Cut back older canes to the bud each year to limit growth. New dawn requires full sun exposure and regular watering for optimal bloom. Fertilizer aids in growth and bloom production. This cultivar is also cold hardy in USDA regions 5 through 9, providing evergreen foliage throughout the year.

Golden Showers

Golden Showers are climbing roses known for their fast-growing nature and colorful, bright yellow and creamy blooms. The blooms appear in clusters with loosely petaled double flowers. Golden showers emit a sweet fragrance and generally reach heights between 6 and 10 feet tall with adequate care. Golden showers are slightly shade tolerant and can survive in poor soils, making it a suitable climbing rose for parts of the garden that don’t receive full-light. The glossy, dark-green foliage provides contrast to the bright blooms. Many gardeners enjoy growing this climbing rose along decorative fences, columns and garden walls. Golden showers are hardy in USDA zones 5 through 10.

Ramblin’ Red

Ramblin’ Red is a popular climbing rose that’s frequently planted for its vigorous growth habit. Thick blooms in shades of medium red appear in clusters throughout the plant. Ramblin Red is often grown alongside garden walls or trained on a trellis. It typically reaches heights up to 8 feet tall. Generally disease resistant, Ramblin Red is a favorite among beginner gardeners due to the low maintenance required for beautiful blooms. Plant in full sun exposure for best results. Ramblin Red is a cold hardy rose and does well in USDA zones 3 through 9.

How to Grow the Best Climbing Roses


For the first year or two, climbers should be trained in the direction you want them to grow; pruning only to remove dead or diseased branches. This will allow the plant to establish itself and expand at the base for a fuller appearance.


After the first year or two, you can begin lightly pruning as needed in late winter to early spring for maintenance and shape; this will also help promote new growth. The main canes that come directly from the base should never be pruned, as climbers put energy into growing first and flowering second. Therefore, if energy is spent to regrow the main canes, it won’t flower. The lateral canes produce the flowers and lightly pruning these will encourage blooming. There’s no need to prune to outward-facing buds (like on shrub varieties), as climbing roses grow randomly anyway. These lateral canes can be lightly pruned anytime of the year in order to keep the climber in shape. Major pruning is best done after it has finished blooming for the year – this timing will vary depending on the variety. Deadheading (removing spent flowers) will encourage more flowering on repeat-blooming varieties. For more information on pruning, see: Pruning Climbing Roses.


Climbing roses prefer consistent, regular watering; water deeply in the first year to establish roots. Mornings are best. Water at the base of the plant. Be careful not to overwater your roses, as they are more susceptible to fungal diseases if their feet are wet.

Amendments & Fertilizer:

Feed with a time-release fertilizer in early spring, before new growth begins. Water before and after feeding to prevent burning. A few inches of mulch around the base of the plant will help retain moisture through the warmer weather. Add some more mulch in the late fall, piling it up around the base of the plant to provide extra winter insulation. Remove the excess mulch when the ground begins to warm in the spring.

Diseases and Pests:

While most climbing roses offer better disease resistance than their shrubby cousins, they are still susceptible to black spot, anthracnose, powdery mildew, rust and other fungal problems caused by too much water, humidity and heat. They can also be the target of pests such as aphids, scale, whiteflies and rose cucurlio weevil. A strong jet of water gets rid of a lot of aphids and whitefly or you can try the sticky yellow cards that physically trap insects. Lastly, insecticidal soap acts quickly and on contact to get rid of rose pests. However, remember that pesticides don’t discriminate, so it is best not to use them when bees or other beneficial insects are present. Keeping the ground around the base of the plant clear of dead leaves and flowers will help prevent disease and pest infestations. Choosing a location with full sun and good air circulation will also help keep your plant healthy.


Roses are listed as non-toxic to dogs, cats, and horses on the ASPCA Plant List. Rose buds have been referred to as “deer candy” and young green growth (when the thorns are still semi-soft) is also a favorite.

Zone 8 Climbing Roses: Learn About Roses That Climb In Zone 8

Climbing roses are a striking addition to a garden or home. They are used to adorn trellises, arches, and the sides of houses, and some large varieties can grow 20 or even 30 feet (6 to 9 meters) tall with proper support. Subgroups within this large category include trailing climbers, ramblers, and climbers that fall under other groups of roses, such as climbing hybrid tea roses.

Ramblers are the most vigorous climbing rose varieties. Their long canes can grow as much as 20 feet (6 meters) in one year, and the flowers appear on clusters. Trailing climbers are smaller but still capable of covering a trellis or arch, and they usually feature abundant flowers. For almost every color and flower characteristic that you can find in other roses, you can find the same among roses that climb. In zone 8, many climbing rose varieties can be grown successfully.

Zone 8 Climbing Roses

Climbing roses for zone 8 include the following varieties and many more:

New Dawn – A rambler with light pink flowers, highly rated in rose trials at the Georgia Experiment Station.

Reve D’Or – A vigorous climber that grows up to 18 feet (5.5 meters) tall with yellow to apricot-colored petals.

Strawberry Hill – A recipient of the RHS Award of Garden Merit, this fast-growing, disease-resistant rambler produces fragrant pink blooms.

Iceberg climbing rose – Abundant pure white flowers on a vigorous plant that grows up to 12 feet (3.5 meters) tall.

Mme. Alfred Carrière – A tall (up to 20 feet or 6 meters), very vigorous rambler with white flowers.

Sea Foam – This disease-resistant trailing climber was rated as one of the best performing climbing roses by the Texas A&M Earth-Kind program.

Fourth of July – This All-American Rose selection from 1999 features unique red- and white-striped flowers.

Growing Climbing Roses in Zone 8

Provide climbing hybrid tea roses with a trellis, arch, or wall to climb up. Trailing climbers should be planted near either a structure they can climb up or an area of ground where they can grow as a ground cover. Ramblers are the tallest group of climbing roses, and they are great for covering the sides of large buildings or even growing into trees.

Mulching around roses is recommend for optimal soil health and moisture retention and to prevent weed growth. Place mulch 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 cm.) deep around roses, but leave a mulch free 6-inch (15 cm.) diameter ring around the trunk.

Pruning practices vary based on the specific climbing rose variety, but for most climbing roses, it’s best to prune just after the flowers fade. This typically occurs in the winter. Cut side shoots back by two-thirds. Prune the oldest canes and any diseased branches back to the ground to allow newer canes to grow, leaving five or six canes.

Keep the soil moist after planting your roses until they are established. Water established roses at least once a week during dry periods.

Interested in bringing more life to your garden? Check out our gallery for 20 unique ideas for climbing plants that will make your pergola and arbor look amazing.

Many outdoor gardens have structures like pergolas or arbors that help give some character to the space, but if you have a climbing plant to accompany the structure, you will be able to train your plants to create a vertical depth that is simply stunning. A pergola is also a great way to incorporate a bare wall into the garden so that it becomes part of the space instead of something beyond the garden. The right plant can provide some shade as well, which can be ideal for a sitting space where you can relax or enjoy reading a book.

There are a lot of different types of climbing plants that will look amazing in your garden, and many of them are easy to grow and care for, even for a novice gardener. In this guide, we will take a look at 20 climbing plants that can make your outdoor gardening space look stunning.

Each one is unique and will have different growing zones and requirements, so consider them all before deciding which one to add to your pergolas and arbors.

Climbing Rose

Climbing roses can be a beautiful addition to any garden, but the trick to a beautiful pergola is training this beautiful plant early. Roses are available in a variety of colors, and they can grow up to 12 feet long and about four feet wide, which makes them ideal for vertical growth. They do well in full sun and well-drained soil, and since they are hardy plants, they tend to do well in most growing zones.


Honeysuckle is a plant that grows quickly and produces a sweet smell that will attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden. This plant can grow to heights of up to 20 feet in partial or full sun, and it typically blooms from May until late in the summer, with the best results in zones four to nine.


This is a beautiful brightly colored plant that grows well in zones four through nine. With a growth of at least six feet in height and three feet in width, the clematis is known to grow nearly double this size. Blooming from early spring until late summer, it has become a favorite for vertical space.


Jasmine is a plant that creates a full, vine with fragrant blooms that will be present all year long, especially in warm, humid climates. It will bloom more annually in cooler climates. Found in zones six through 10, this vine can grow more than 35 feet with only partial sunlight.


If you want a lot of blues and purples in your garden, then the wisteria, which can reach a height of 25 feet, is a great option that will grow quickly. It does require full sun and slightly acidic soil that is well-drained, and it grows best in zones four through nine.


The bignonia is a stunning climbing plant that has delicate bell-shaped blooms that can grow up to a height of 50 feet. They tend to grow best in full to partial sun with slightly acidic soil in zones five to nine, and the bright orange, red blooms can be seen during the months of May and June.

Trumpet Vine

If you decide on the trumpet vine, you will most likely find hummingbirds and bees in the area because they are great for pollinators. These plants can grow up to 40 feet high, and they can grow well in both full sun and partial shade. Typically best in zones five through nine, it can even do well in drought conditions.

Morning Glory

This plant has a brilliant blue bloom that can be seen throughout the entire summer and most of autumn. Reaching heights of up to 15 feet, morning glories grow best in full sun and relatively dry soil, which means that this hardy plant can grow in zones three through 10 with ease.

Boston Ivy

If you are looking for a climbing plant that will provide a lot of shade, then ivy is a great option. Boston Ivy can be found in zones four to eight, and it is known to change color with the season. It grows well in both full and partial sun, though full sun will bring out the colors of the leaves more.

Climbing Hydrangea

This is a climbing plant that is slower to grow, but if you have the patience to train it, your garden will look and smell amazing. Climbing hydrangea grows best in zones five to eight with full to partial sun. These plants do not like extreme heat so afternoon sun may not be best in some areas.


Moonflower is a great option for gardeners who like to entertain at night because these blooms open from sunset to sunrise during the summer months and the majority of the fall. Typically grown in zones 10 and 11, these plants can reach heights of up to 20 feet or more.

Virginia Creeper

If you are looking for a climbing plant that grows quickly, the Virginia creeper is a great choice. There are no blooms on this plant, but the leaves change colors in the fall, and the vines can grow as high as 50 feet. It grows best in zones three to nine in full sun.

Butterfly Pea

This is a great climbing plant to attract butterflies to your garden. The butterfly pea, which grows best in zones 10 and 11, produces deep blue blooms that grow best in full sun. These plants can grow up to 10 feet in height and can withstand high humidity and dry conditions.


If you find that your garden has a lot of shade, then the bougainvillea is a great climbing plant to consider. This fast-growing plant can grow up to 30 feet high, depending on the species, and it grows best in zones nine to 11 where the temperature typically remains above 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bleeding Heart

Best for zones three through nine, the bleeding heart produces exotic, heart-shaped blooms that that will look stunning dangling from a pergola. It prefers moist soil and partial shade; however, tropical bleeding hearts are a species that grow best in the more humid zones like 10 and 11.

Golden Hops

Looking for a low maintenance vine for your garden? Golden hops, which grow best in zones four through eight, prefer a colder climate. The golden yellow leaves grow best in full to partial sun, and though this plant does not bloom, it can easily grow to a height of 25 feet.


If you are looking to add fruit to your garden, consider a grapevine, especially since there is a variety that will grow well in most zones across the country. The grapes that the vine produces will be sweeter if they grow in the sun, and it is important to note that grapes may not produce for the first few years that the vine is growing.


A firethorn is a shrub that can grow 20 feet in height, and with enough training, the bright red berries and white blooms can make your pergola stunning all year. This plant grows best in zones seven through nine, and it prefers partial sun and well-drained soil.

Passion Flower

The passion flower is a hardy option that grows in zones seven to 10, but it can also grow as an annual in cooler climates. With blue, purple, or pink blooms, the vine can grow up to 30 feet high in a season. They prefer full sun and well-drained soil, which is why they grow best in hotter zones.

White Potato Vine

The white potato vine is a climbing plant that is fast growing and easy to care for. It grows best in zones nine to 11, and it prefers full or partial sun. It can grow to a height of up to 25 feet, and the white blooms can be seen in late spring and early summer.


Popular Garden Ideas

Popular Garden Ideas

Wisteria has a dense foliage making them perfect for shading and long pendant blooms which occur in early spring. The flowers are mauve to violet and are highly scented, adding a fresh fragrance to your outdoor area. Wisteria are also deciduous, which means they lose their leaves in winter, allowing the warming sun to come through

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An evergreen climber, Hardenbergia is an Australian native with dark green leaves and a flush of dark purple flowers. The most widely grown cultivar is the ‘Happy Wanderer’. Prune around August or September to create denser growth, so more shade, and to promote flowering in the following season.

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Ornamental Grape

Ornamental grape is similar to the wine growing variety, just without the fruit so it won’t make a mess of your entertaining area. Suitable for all parts of Australia except the tropical north, it has large green leaves over summer which turn to orange and red in autumn before dropping to let in the winter sun

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Star Jasmine

An evergreen climber, it has lush green foliage and delicate white flowers shaped like a star, hence the name. They’re also beautifully perfumed. It’s not an invasive grower but a light prune from time to time will keep it looking good.

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For a fast-growing climber with incredible flower colour, you can’t go past the Bougainvillea. Pink, red, orange and white are just a few of the flower colours you will find. During flowering, keep in control by selectively pruning the thorny shoots as they appear. In autumn, tidy them up with a prune, which will also serve them well for the next growing season.

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Best climbing plants for pergolas

Pergolas make a great focal point in gardens, and there’s a wide range of plants they can support.


There are many ways to use them, too. A path covered with a pergola can help create a sense of journey in the garden, while even the smallest pergola will provide shady spots – perfect for outdoor seating. You could also use a long pergola to divide up areas of the garden into ‘rooms’.

To grow even more plants up pergolas, trellis panels can be attached giving additional support for climbing plants. For extra shade, consider adding screening in the form of curtains or a canvas cover on top.

More on growing climbing plants:

  • Nine annual climbers to grow
  • Climbers to grow in shade
  • Pruning climbers for better flowers

Discover some of the best plants to grow up a pergola, below.

A path covered with a pergola can help create a sense of journey in the garden. Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum)

With beautifully twining growth, honeysuckles (Lonicera) are ideal plants for pergolas. Lonicera periclymenum is a wildlife-friendly, native honeysuckle with deliciously perfumed flowers. For more colour, take a look at cultivars like ‘Serotina’ or ‘Mandarin’.

Passion flowers

White passionflower (Passiflora caerulea ‘Constance Elliot’

The bee-friendly blooms of passion flowers are spectacular and have an exotic appearance, while plump orange fruits extend its interest. Best grown in full sun or partial shade in moist, well-drained soil.

Potato vine

Potato vine (Solanum laxum ‘Album’)

If you’re after evergreen colour, consider the potato vines Solanum laxum and Solanum crispum. Both grow best in a sunny, sheltered spot, where they’ll produce clusters of summer blooms. The varieties ‘Glasnevin’ and ‘Album’ have both been given the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM).


Grapevine (Vitis vinifera)

Grapevines usually fruit from midsummer to early autumn. By growing them up a pergola, you can enjoy the pendulous fruits hanging down from the canopy. Provides a good, dense canopy for shade. Find out how to plant a grapevine outdoors.

Purple clematis growing up a pergola

If you pick the right clematis, you can have colour throughout the year. Check out these spring-flowering clematis and summer-flowering clematis for ideas. For autumn and winter colour, take a look at these evergreen clematis.

Climbing and rambling roses

Climbing rose ‘Westerland’

If you’re after the cottage garden look, try growing a climbing or rambling rose up and over your pergola. Take inspiration from the Rose Pergola at Kew Gardens. Check out all the advice you need in our climbing rose grow guide and rambling rose grow guide.

Wisteria floribunda ‘Multijuga’

Like grapevines, wisteria is sure to impress with its fragranced, pendulous flowers, which usually appear in May and June. The leafy canopy is ideal for providing shade. Discover how to grow wisteria.

Trumpet vine

Trumpet vine (Campsis ‘Indian Summer’)

For a taste of the exotic, check out trumpet vines (Campsis). In summer and autumn they produce a profusion of showy blooms in rich reds and oranges. Best grown in full sun or partial shade, in moist, well-drained soil.

Crimson glory vine

Crimson glory vine (Vitis coignetiae) Advertisement

The crimson glory vine (Vitis coignetiae) is so called because of its fantastic autumn colour. A large, vigorous climber, it’ll easy cover a pergola producing a lush, leafy canopy.

Don’t leave the bases bare

To stop your pergola looking rather bare at the base, don’t forget to plant around the bottom of the posts or pillars. Bushy plants like hardy geraniums, lady’s mantle and hostas are perfect for the job.

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