Climbers and wall shrubs for sun

South- or west-facing walls and fences often receive prolonged direct sunshine. So, if you want to plant something in these spots, it is important to choose plants that can cope with direct sun, periods of dryness and the heat that is reflected from the wall.

Wisteria 'Black Dragon' trained on a wall. Credit: RHS/Advisory.

Quick facts

Top five plants for sunny walls

Introduction

Climbers have a natural tendency to climb and some will even self-cling, without requiring tying-in to supports.
 
Wall shrubs, by contrast, do not naturally climb. If left alone, they bush outwards and grow like shrubs. With specific pruning and training techniques, they can be trained to grow against walls.

Practical considerations

Choose plants that will be happy in your garden soil conditions. Some plants are adapted to different soil types (clay or sand for example), and others require acid soil conditions.

Make sure your pruning and training technique encourages the plant to cover the wall as quickly and efficiently as possible. Climbers and wall shrubs require training and pruning as soon as they are planted.

Suitable plants

Choose plants that will be happy in your garden soil conditions. Some plants are adapted to different soil types (clay or sand for example), and others require acid soil conditions.

Make sure your pruning and training technique encourages the plant to cover the wall as quickly and efficiently as possible. Climbers and wall shrubs require training and pruning as soon as they are planted.
Suitable plants

See the list below for some of our suggestions on climbers suited to a sunny situation. A much wider range of climbers including other cultivars of those listed can be found at RHS Find a Plant.

(*) suitable for neutral to acid soil
(v) variegated foliage
(e) evergreen
(s) requires a warm sheltered position, if grown in colder areas winter protection is advised
AGM The RHS Award of Garden Merit

Note: Height and spread for each plant is approximate. Location, soil conditions and prevailing weather will influence ultimate height and spread.

Self-clinging climbers (requiring no support)

Campsis × tagliabuana [Indian Summer] = ‘Kudian’: panicles of frosted apricot trumpet-shaped flowers during summer and autumn. Height 4-6m (12-18ft)
Campsis × tagliabuana ‘Madame Galen’ AGM: Showy trumpet-shaped orange-red flowers late summer to autumn. Height10m (30ft)
Eccremocarpus scaber: (Chilean glory flower) (s) slender climber with light green leaflets and tubular orange-red flowers in racemes, late spring to autumn. Height 3m (10ft)
Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’ (v) AGM: (e) greenish-grey leaves with white margins tinged pink in winter. Height 4m (12ft)
Euonymus fortunei ‘Wolong Ghost’ AGM: (e) slender grey-green leaves 8cm long with bright silvery veining. Height 1.2m (4ft) or more
Trachelospermum asiaticum AGM: (e) glossy dark green leaves and fragrant, jasmine-like creamy-white flowers which age to yellow in mid- to late summer. Height 6m (20ft)

Twining or scrambling climbers (supports needed but tying in may not be required)

Actinidia kolomikta AGM: dark green leaves become variegated with white and pink in the top half. Clusters of small fragrant white flowers in summer. Height 5m (15ft)
Ampelopsis brevipedunculata ‘Elegans’ (v): dark green leaves heavily mottled white and pink, small green flowers in summer followed by spherical blue fruit. Height 3-4m (10-12ft)
Aristolochia macrophylla: (Dutchman’s pipe) (s) broadly heart-shaped dark green leaves 10-30cm (4-12in) long and in summer mid green flowers mottled yellow, purple and brown. Height 8-10m (24-30ft)
Cissus striata: (e) (s) small glossy mid-green leaves in leaflets and in summer green flowers then glossy black berries. Height 10m (30ft)
Billardiera longiflora AGM: (s) slender wiry stems and linear deep green leaves and in summer small bell-shaped pale green flowers  followed by deep purple-blue berries
Most clematis thrive in any aspect but some prefer a sheltered sunny wall or give the best flower colour or fragrance in sun. See the following for some examples:
Clematis [Arctic Queen] = ‘Evitwo’ AGM: double, creamy-white flowers with masses of overlapping tepals early summer to early autumn. Height 2.4m (8ft)
Clematis armandii: (e) (s) saucer-shaped scented white flowers with cream anthers, early spring. Height 3-5m (10-15ft)
Clematis ‘Beauty of Worcester’: reddish-purple double and semi-double flowers late spring to early summer. Height 2.4m (8ft)
Clematis cirrhosa: (e) (s) small, cream-green flowers midwinter to early spring. Height 5m (15ft)
Clematis ‘Doctor Ruppel’: large rosy-red flowers with a deeper central bar, late spring to early summer and late summer. Height 2.5-3m (8-10ft)
Clematis ‘Early Sensation’: (e) (s) scented, white cup-shaped flowers early to mid-spring. Height 2m (6ft)
Clematis ‘Ernest Markham’ AGM: abundant, rich magenta-red flowers early to late summer and early autumn. Height 3-4m (10-12ft)
Clematis ‘Freda’ AGM: (s) from the Montana Group, deep cherry-red flowers with a pale pink bar late spring to early summer. Height to 6m (20ft)
Clematis [Josephine] = ‘Evijohill’: large double flowers are lilac-pink tinged green, early summer to early autumn. Height 2.5m (8ft)
Clematis ‘Madame Baron-Veillard’: dusky lilac-pink early autumn. Height 3-4m (10-12ft)
Clematis ‘Marjorie’: (s) semi-double flowers of creamy-pink from the Montana Group, late spring to early summer. Height 8m (25ft)
Clematis ‘Markhams’ Pink’ AGM: double bell-shaped deep-pink flowers in mid-spring. Height 2.5m (8ft)
Clematis montana ‘Alexander’: (s) scented creamy-white flowers mid to late spring. Height 8m (25ft)
Clematis rehderiana AGM: fragrant, bell-shaped flowers are creamy-yellow, summer to autumn. Best scent in full sun. Height 7m (22ft)
Dregea sinensis: heart-shaped mid-green leaves and very fragrant creamy white flowers speckled pink in clusters during summer. Slender seed pods follow. Height 3m (10ft)
Holboellia latifolia: (e) dark green leaves in leaflets, small greenish-white male flowers and purple female flowers in racemes during spring. Sausage-shaped fruits occasionally follow. Height 5m (15ft)
Jasminum beesianum: fragrant pinkish-red flowers in early to midsummer. Height 5m (15ft)
Jasminum officinale ‘Inverleith’ AGM: (common jasmine) with very fragrant white flowers opening from crimson buds in summer and early autumn. Height 10m (30ft)
Jasminum × stephanense: fragrant pale-pink flowers in early and midsummer. Height 5m (15ft)
Kadsura japonica ‘Variegata’ (v): (e) glossy dark green leaves broadly margined creamy-yellow, tinged pink and creamy-white in winter. Cup-shaped yellowish-white flowers summer to autumn. Height 4m (12ft)
Lonicera japonica var. repens AGM: purple tinged foliage and stems, very fragrant white
flowers flushed red-purple from spring to late summer. Height 6m (20ft)
Lonicera periclymenum ‘Serotina’ AGM: (Late Dutch honeysuckle) very fragrant creamy-white flowers streaked dark red-purple late summer. Height 7m (22ft)
Passiflora caerulea AGM: (passion flower) lobed leaves; bowl-shaped pink tinged white flowers with purple-tinted coronas, followed by ovoid orange fruits. Height 10m (30ft)
Solanum crispum ‘Glasnevin’ AGM: (Chilean potato tree) semi-evergreen dark green leaves and deep purple-blue flowers summer to autumn. Height 5m (30ft)
Solanum laxum ‘Album’ AGM: (potato vine) Semi-evergreen, glossy dark green leaves,  white flowers with yellow-orange centres in summer and autumn. Height 6m (20ft)
Sollya heterophylla AGM: (Bluebell creeper) (e) (s) bell-shaped blue flowers from early summer to autumn. Height 2m (6ft)
Tropaeolum speciosum: (Flame creeper) (*) (s) perennial climber with bright vermillion flowers from summer to autumn. Height 3m (10ft)
Vitis ‘Brant’ AGM: palmate bright green leaves turn bronze-red with green veins in autumn when small edible blue-black grapes are produced. Height 7m (22ft)
Wisteria: pendent racemes of mauve, blue, white or pink pea-like flowers, some are fragrant, borne in late spring and early summer. Height to 9m (28ft)

Stiff-stemmed climbers (need supports and tying in)

Roses are amongst the best climbers for a sunny wall especially the repeat flowering climbers. Avoid the more vigorous ramblers more suited to climbing into trees or training over pergolas. See our page on choosing the best roses.

Wall shrubs (need supports, pruning, training and tying in)

Abelia floribunda AGM: (e) glossy dark green leaves and a profusion of tubular bright cerise flowers in panicles, summer to autumn. Height and spread 3m (10ft)
Abutilon ‘Kentish Belle’ AGM: (e) bell-shaped flowers with apricot-yellow petals, purple stamens and red calyces summer to autumn. Height and spread to 2.5m (8ft)
Abutilon × suntense ‘Jermyns’ AGM: deep purple flowers in late spring. Height 4m (12ft). Spread 2.5m (8ft)
Abutilon vitifolium ‘Tennant’s White’ AGM: softly grey-hairy leaves and white flowers in early summer. Height 5m (15ft. Spread 2.5m (8ft)
Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ AGM: (Cootamundra wattle) (*) (e) (s) fern-like grey leaves flushed purple and spherical bright yellow flowerheads in racemes, winter to spring. Height 5m (15ft) or more
Argyrocytisus battandieri ‘Yellow Tail’ AGM: (pineapple broom) silver-grey leaves and dense upright terminal racemes of pineapple-scented yellow flowers in mid and late summer. Height and spread 5m (15ft)
Buddleja colvilei: slender dark green leaves and panicles of dark pink to red flowers in early summer. Height 4m (12ft)
Buddleja lindleyana: dark green leaves and dark violet flowers in panicles late summer. Height and spread 2m (6ft)
Callistemon citrinus ‘Splendens’ AGM: (Crimson bottlebrush) (*) (e) profuse, brilliant crimson-red flowers in spikes 15cm long in spring and summer. Height 1.5m (5ft) or more
Callistemon pallidus: (Lemon bottlebrush) (*) (e) cream to greenish-yellow flower in spikes 10cm long from late spring to summer. Height 2-3m (6-10ft)
Carpenteria californica: (e) cup-shaped fragrant white flowers with yellow centres in early-midsummer. Height 2m (6ft)
Ceanothus ‘Concha’ AGM: (e) reddish-purple buds open to dark blue flowers in rounded clusters, in late spring. Height and spread 3m (10ft)
Ceanothus ‘Dark Star’ AGM: (e) possibly the most vivid purplish-blue of the Californian lilacs with honey-scented flower clusters in late spring. Height 2m (6ft). Spread 3m (10ft)
Ceanothus ‘Puget Blue’ AGM: (e) profuse dark blue flower clusters mid and late spring. Height 3m (10ft)
Ceanothus × delileanus ‘Gloire de Versailles’ AGM: large panicles of powder-blue flowers throughout summer. Height and spread 1.5m (5ft) more against a wall
Ceanothus × pallidus ‘Perle Rose’ AGM: large panicles of carmine-pink from midsummer to autumn. Height and spread 1.5m (5ft) more against a wall
Clianthus puniceus AGM: (Parrots bill) (e) (s) narrow leaflets and brilliant red flowers resembling a parrots bill or lobster-claw borne in racemes, spring to early summer. Height 3m (10ft). Spread 2m (6ft) or more
Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca ‘Citrina’ AGM: (e) (s) blue-green leaves and fragrant pale yellow flowers in late winter and early spring and again in late summer followed by slender pods. Height 1.5m (5ft) or more against a wall
Dendromecon rigida: leathery glaucous grey-green leaves and poppy-like fragrant yellow flowers from spring to autumn. Height and spread 3m (10ft)
Fremontodendron ‘California Glory’ AGM: (e) dark green leaves and from late spring to autumn shallow saucer-shaped deep-yellow flowers . Height and spread to 5m (15ft)
Leptospermum ‘Silver Sheen’ AGM: aromatic silky-hairy silvery-grey leaves and in mid and late summer small white flowers . Height and spread 2-2.5m (6-8ft)
Magnolia grandiflora ‘Kay Parris’ AGM: (e) compact habit and cup-shaped creamy white flowers from late summer to autumn. Height and spread 6m (20ft) or more
Myrtus communis AGM: (common myrtle) (e) aromatic, glossy dark green leaves and from summer to autumn white flowers with central tufts of white stamens. Height 3m (10ft)
Piptanthus nepalensis: semi-evergreen with blue-green leaflets and in late spring and early summer pea-like bright yellow flowers  in racemes followed by seed pods. Height 2.5m (8ft). Spread 2m (6ft)
Ribes speciosum AGM: slender, bell-shaped dark red flowers in mid to late spring, followed by small red fruits. Height and spread 2m (6ft)
Sophora [Sun King] = ‘Hilsop’ AGM: (e) pinnate rich-green leaves in leaflets and racemes of pea-like, rich yellow flowers in late winter and early spring. Height and spread 3m (10ft)

Herbaceous perennial climbers

Although many herbaceous climbers are grown as summer annuals or under glass, there are hardy fast growing, herbaceous perennial climbers with a long flowering season. Growing to maturity each year, they flower profusely before dying down completely during winter.
Apios americana: produces fragrant brownish-purple flowers similar to a sweet-pea, mid spring to autumn. The edible tubers similar to Jerusalem artichokes taste like nutty, sweet potatoes. Height 3-4m (10-12ft)
Codonopsis grey-wilsonii AGM: (syn. C. convolvulacea)  mid-green leaves and bell to saucer shaped bluish-violet flowers in summer. Height 2m (6ft)
Dactylicapnos scandens: slender scrambler with yellow flowers in long racemes during summer. Height and spread 90cm (3ft)
Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’ AGM: (golden hop) golden green maple-like leaves; greenish-straw coloured flowers in summer on female plants. Height 6m (20ft)
Lathyrus nervosus: (Lord Anson’s blue pea) leathery grey-green leaves and fragrant long-stalked racemes of purplish-blue flowers from summer to early autumn. Height 5m (15ft)
Tropaeolum polyphyllum AGM: glaucous blue-green leaves and yellow nasturtium flowers over a long period in summer. Height or spread 90cm (3ft)

Advertise here

Gardeners' calendar

Advice from the RHS

Find out what to do this month with our gardeners' calendar

Advice from the RHS

Did you find the advice you needed?

RHS members can get exclusive individual advice from the RHS Gardening Advice team.

Join the RHS now

Discuss this

for the site or to share your experiences on this topic and seek advice from our community of gardeners.