How to plant a climber
Climbers are great for greening up walls, pergolas and archways, with a wide array to choose from offering flowers, fragrance and attractive foliage. They’re easy to plant in spring or autumn – just follow our step-by-step guide.
- Planting climbers makes good use of vertical growing space
- Climbers are best planted in spring or autumn
- Most need a support to cling to or twine around, such as trellis, wires or bamboo canes
- They take up little ground space, so are particularly useful in small gardens
- Climbers can be great for wildlife, offering shelter and nesting sites
Climbing plants are a great way to make use of vertical space in your garden – whether that’s a bare wall or fence, archway, pergola or a wigwam in a border. When grown up house walls, they can act as insulation, helping to hold in heat over winter, as well as keeping indoor temperatures cooler in summer.
The best time to plant most climbers is spring or autumn, when the weather is cool and damp, which helps them settle in quickly.
Some climbers can cling onto a bare wall or fence (self-clinging climbers), but most have twining or scrambling stems that need trellis, wires or similar to support them, and it’s best to put these in place before planting. For more about climbers and how to support them, see our guide to climbers.
What you’ll need to plant a climber:
- Climbing plant, such as clematis, passion flower or honeysuckle
- Suitable support already in place, such as trellis, horizontal wires, pergola or archway
- Spade and fork
- Home-made garden compost, if available
- Mulch (organic matter, such as chipped bark)
- Soft twine
Choose a climber that will grow to the right size for the space you want to fill, both in terms of height and width. Check the label – it will also tell you if the plant needs a sunny or shady spot.
How to plant a climber in six simple steps
Buy a healthy, vigorous plantChoose one with lots of shoots at the base and roots that reach to the edge of the pot but aren't densely packed – take the plant out of its pot to check. See our guide to buying healthy plants. Read the label to find out the growing conditions it needs and the size it will reach, to make sure it’s suitable for your planting site.
Dig a planting holeDig a hole wider than the pot, but about the same depth. Large-flowered clematis are the exception and should be planted more deeply – see our guide to growing clematis. If planting against a wall, position the hole 30–60cm (1–2ft) from the base, where the growing conditions should be better. Loosen the sides of the hole with a fork if the soil is hard, and add some organic matter, like garden compost, to the excavated soil.
Check the depth of the planting holeStand the plant in the hole to check its depth. Most plants (except some clematis – see above) should be positioned at the same level they were in the pot – with the surface of the compost level with the surface of the soil. Lay a cane across the hole to check this.
Plant the climberRemove the pot and gently loosen some of the roots if congested, to encourage them to grow outwards into the soil. Position the rootball in the hole, then refill around it with the excavated soil, firming it down as you go. Water well to thoroughly wet the soil and settle it around the roots.
Mulch the soilSpread mulch over the soil around the plant, in a layer 5–8cm (2–3in) deep, but not directly touching the base of the stems. Mulch helps to hold in moisture and deter weeds.
Tie the climber to its supportMost climbers are supplied already climbing up canes in the original pot. Keep the canes, leaning them towards your support and tying them to it if possible. See our step-by-step guide to tying in climbers. When the stems reach the top of the canes, they should then start to climb up your supports.
Keep watering your new plant regularly for at least the first growing season, and especially in hot, dry or windy weather.
Pruning after planting will help some plants get established, and many climbers benefit from annual pruning to keep them within bounds and flowering low down. See our guides: initial pruning of climbers and pruning established climbers.
Tie in new shoots if necessary. Some plants may need encouragement to climb your support or head in the direction you want them to, so check regularly that new growth isn’t going astray. Unattached shoots can easily get damaged if they’re blown around in the wind, so tie them loosely to your support with soft twine.
Top up the mulch once a year, to help retain moisture in the soil.
Also see our guide to growing climbers and wall shrubs.
The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.