Climbers and wall shrubs for shade

North- or east-facing walls and fences often receive very little direct sunlight, but that doesn't mean you can't grow plants in these places. When choosing a climber or wall shrub for such a spot, choose one that can cope with cold and shady conditions.

Ivy on a shady wall. Credit: RHS/Paul Debois.

Quick facts

Top five plants for shady 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 Hedera, any species or cultivar can be considered.

Self clinging climbers (requiring no support)

Euonymus fortunei: evergreen; several variegated cultivars; 5m (15ft)
Hedera (ivy): evergreen; many different leaf shapes and colours available; 5-10m (15-30ft)
Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris AGM: Deciduous; heart shaped leaves; white lace-cap type flowers in summer; 15m (50ft)
Parthenocissus (Virginia creeper or Boston ivy): Deciduous; excellent autumn colour; 15-21m (50-70ft) Schizophragma: Deciduous; creamy white flowers similar to a lace-cap hydrangea in midsummer; 12m (40ft)

Twining climbers (require supports but tying in may not be necessary)

Akebia quinata: Semi-evergreen; fragrant brownish-purple flowers in spring, sometimes followed by large purple fruits; 10m (30ft)
Berberidopsis corallina: Evergreen; needs a sheltered, warm spot; dark red flowers from summer to early autumn; 5m (15ft)
Celastrus scandens: Deciduous; small yellow-green flowers in summer followed by orange-yellow berries; 10m (30ft)
Clematis alpina, C. macropetala, C. montana, C. Jackmanii Group: Deciduous; flowers variable according to species or cultivar; 2-7m (6-22ft)
Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’ AGM or L. periclymenum cultivars (honeysuckle): Semi-evergreen or deciduous; flowers, sometimes fragrant, from spring to late summer in white, yellow or pinky-red; 10m (30ft)

Wall shrubs

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)
Cotoneaster horizontalis AGM: Deciduous; branches form a herringbone pattern; pink-white flowers in late spring followed by red berries; 1m (3¼ft) height, 1.5m (5ft) spread
Forsythia suspensa AGM: Deciduous; bright yellow flowers in early-mid spring; 3m (10ft) height and spread
Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ AGM: Evergreen; long silvery catkins in mid winter-early spring; 4m (13ft) height and spread
Jasminum nudiflorum (winter jasmine): Deciduous; profusion of small yellow flowers in winter-early spring before the leaves; 3m (10ft) height and spread
Pyracantha: Evergreen; spiny; heads of small white flowers in early summer followed by red, orange or yellow berries; 3m (10ft) height and spread

Advertise here

Video exclusive for RHS members: expert advice on dealing with slugs and snails

Sign into the RHS website to watch video Sign in

Sign in

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.