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


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

Note: In some instances, particular species or cultivars have been recommended. With other plants, such as Campsis, any species or cultivar can be considered.

Self-clinging climbers (requiring no support)

Campsis: Showy trumpet-shaped flowers in orange or red; 10m (30ft)
Euonymus fortunei: Evergreen foliage; variegated cultivars exist; 5m (15ft)
Parthenocissus (Virginia creeper or Boston ivy): Deciduous; excellent autumn colour; 10m (30ft)
Pileostegia viburnoides : Evergreen; dense heads of tiny cream coloured flowers in summer and autumn; 6m (20ft).
Trachelospermum: Evergreen; white, fragrant, jasmine-like flowers in mid- to late summer; 6-9m (20-28ft)

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

Actinidia kolomikta: White and pink variegated green leaves; deciduous; small fragrant white flowers in summer; 5m (15ft)
Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’ AGM (golden hop): Deciduous golden green maple-like leaves; straw coloured flowers in summer; 6m (20ft)
Passiflora caerulea AGM (passion flower): Evergreen lobed leaves; bowl-shaped pinky-white flowers with purple-tinted coronas, followed by ovoid orange fruits; 10m (30ft)
Solanum crispum and Solanum jasminoides (potato vine): Semi-evergreen; lilac, white, or purple-blue flowers with yellow-orange centres in summer; 6m (20ft)
Vitis coignetiae and Vitis‘Brant’ AGM (ornamental vines): Excellent autumn colour; deciduous; ‘Brandt’ has small edible grapes; 7-15m (22-50ft)
Wisteria: Hanging clusters of mauve, blue, white or pink pea-like flowers, sometimes fragrant, in late spring to early summer; deciduous; up to 8.5m (28ft) high and wide

Stiff-stemmed climbers (need supports and tying in)

Rosa (rose): Various sizes and colours; evergreen and deciduous types

Wall shrubs (need supports, training and tying in)

Abelia: Evergreen and deciduous types; small funnel-shaped pink-white flowers, sometimes fragrant, in summer; 1.5-3m (5-10ft) height, 2-4m (6½-13ft) spread
Carpenteria californica: Evergreen; cup-shaped fragrant white flowers with yellow centres in early-midsummer; 2m (6½ft) height and spread
Ceanothus (Californian lilac): Evergreen and deciduous types; clusters of small blue, white or pink flowers in spring and early summer); 90cm-4m (3-13ft) high and wide
Chaenomeles speciosa and C. × superba (flowering quince): Deciduous; small cup shaped flowers in white, pink, red or orange followed by small quince-like fruits; 3m (10ft)
Magnolia grandiflora: Evergreen; large cup-shaped creamy white flowers from late summer to autumn. 6-18m (20-60ft) height, 15m (50ft) spread
Ribes speciosum AGM: Deciduous; slender, bell-shaped dark red flowers in mid to late spring, followed by small red fruits; 2m (6½ft) height and spread

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