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10 of the Fastest Growing Climbing Plants

Cover vertical space quickly by growing these prolific climbers.

By Daniel Woodley at DIY Gardening.

Fast-growing climbing plants can be a real gem in any garden; they can mask unsightly fences and walls, grow over trellis and pergolas, provide background interest and attract wildlife, including pollinators. They also take up very little space on the ground so you can pack more plants into your garden.

We’ve selected 10 of the very best fast-growing plants that are designed to cover vertical space as quickly as possible.

There are a few unusual suggestions in our list below and also a several classics.

1) Hydrangea anomala subsp petiolaris

Hydrangeas are well-known throughout the gardening world as easy plants to grow, and hydrangea anomala subsp petiolaris is no different.

The ultimate climbing hydrangea, this self-clinging deciduous shrub can reach up to 12 metres high with a spread of up to 8 metres.

More impressive is the speed at which this hydrangea can reach its final height once it gets going, often in as little as 10-12 years from planting.

This climber produces dense layers of green oval leaves in spring and summer, which turn a bright and quite distinctive yellow in autumn. They are more than enough to mask walls and other structures. Clusters of flowers up to 20cm are on display throughout the summer and are bee-friendly too.

Pros

  • It copes well with shade or partial shade, so it is perfect for north and east-facing walls.
  • Self-clinging, so no need for wires or trellis.
  • Easy to control with pruning, this hydrangea is a fast-growing climbing plant but isn’t considered invasive.
  • Plenty of white flowers in the summer will brighten up shaded parts of the garden.
  • Generally disease free and easy to grow, few pests are of concern either.

Cons

  • Requires watering more than most plants, as all hydrangeas do.
  • It is deciduous, meaning it loses its leaves in late autumn and remains bare until it puts on new growth in the spring.
  • Attracts some pests such as aphids and mites.
  • It is slow to get going during the first few years but then grows very fast once established.
  • Flowers don’t last as long if grown in deep shade.

Companion Plants and Alternatives

We don’t recommend companion plants as climbing hydrangeas will smoother and choke almost all plants.

The closest alternative is the False climbing hydrangea (shown further down this page), which is an entirely different species but looks very similar.

Hydrangea climbing

2) Jasmine fragrant climber – Jasminum

Jasmine can be either evergreen, semi-evergreen or deciduous and is one of the most popular fast-growing climbing plants in the UK.

This shrub is perfect for growing on trellis, pergolas, over arches and around door and window frames.

The jasmine climber produces an abundance of flower clusters that emit a distinctive fragrance, choose this climber, and you’ll soon understand why jasmine is used in perfumes and other scented products.

Taking 5-8 years to reach its eventual height of 6 metres, this climber puts on impressive growth once established.

Foliage is olive green and variously shaped, often with yellow tinges to the edges of the leaves.

Pros

  • A fast climber, expect vertical growth of up to 1 metre per year.
  • Impressive vertical reach – up to 6 metres.
  • Very easy to train along trellis, wires, pergolas, poles etc.
  • The scent is distinctive and popular; this fast-growing climber is often chosen for its smell.
  • Generally disease-free.
  • Offers a long flowering season from late spring into early autumn.

Cons

  • It isn’t self-clinging, so it will need training in the desired direction(s).
  • The spread of this climber is limited, often no more than 1 metre wide.
  • Requires a sunny spot, although may perform well in partial shade.
  • Jasmines aren’t that hardy, and hard frosts can be a problem, so choosing the right location is crucial.
  • Not the best wall climber, this shrub is better suited to posts, pergolas, trellis and arches.

Companion Plants and Alternatives

Clematis go well with jasmine as it has similar requirements and growth rates.

Jasmine

3) Climbing Ivy

The first truly evergreen, fast-growing climbing plant on our list is ivy.

Our preference is Hedera helix “Glacier”, which has light green, dusty-looking foliage with cream-coloured edges, it also produces an abundance of winter berries, which adds interest.

Perfect for covering old sheds, fences and walls, ivy can also be trained around pergolas and many other garden structures. This climber is as hardy and versatile as they come, grow in full sun or dense shade, ivy will thrive and is perfect for covering dull walls with a splash of light green foliage.

Pros

  • Self-clinging so doesn’t require wire, trellis or other support.
  • Can be trained to grow in any direction, even down or over obstacles.
  • Hedera helix grows up to 12 metres so is perfect for large walls while helix glacier grows up to 2.5 metres, making it ideal for sheds, fences and small walls.
  • Ivy has a good spread with helix growing up to 4 metres.
  • Attracts pollinators and is of enormous value to wildlife as it also provides shelter.

Cons

  • It can become invasive if left unattended.
  • Requires frequent pruning and training.
  • Not everyone appreciates the appearance of ivy.
  • Attracts insects which could result in lots of bugs and spiders entering the property if grown on the wall of a home.

Companions & Alternatives

  • Ivy will strangle most companion plants but can be grown up the trunks of larger trees.
  • There are many varieties of ivy to choose from, and the more compact ones might be suitable for those with smaller gardens.
Ivy on house

4) Climbing Rose

Climbing roses really make an impact when grown against a wall or around doors and windows.

Etoile de Hollande (climbing hybrid tea) is our favourite pick as it’s a fast-growing plant that will reach a height of 5 metres.

Expect large deep crimson red blooms on a backdrop of dark green foliage throughout the summer.

Grow in full sun where your goal isn’t just to mask an unsightly structure but to make an impact:

  • Ideal for growing around windows.
  • Create a frame of red blooms around your door.
  • Perfect for arches.
  • Train along garden walls and sturdy fences.
Climbing roses

Pros

  • Large beautiful blooms.
  • No other fast-growing climbing plant creates such a visual impact.
  • It can be grown up to 4 or 5 metres high with a spread of up to 4 metres, thus covering a huge area.
  • Easier to control than some of the other fast climbing plants listed in this guide.

Cons

  • Requires care and attention, as you can’t “plant it and forget it”.
  • Roses of all types lack density, and climbing roses won’t fully mask the structure they’re grown on.
  • They’re deciduous, so they will lose their leaves in the winter.

5) Strawberry Mount Everest

We couldn’t resist adding this unusual climber to our list – a strawberry climbing plant that reaches 1 metre in height.

Each plant can reach 1 metre with a spread of 0.4m.

Places where you can grow this seasonal climber:

  • In boxes, so they climb up a trellis.
  • Up and through metal fences.
  • Freestanding as a feature.
  • Up low-level walls and timber fences.
  • Up pergola posts and large garden ornaments.

Pros

  • An unusual climbing feature.
  • Plenty of fresh fruit.
  • Fun to grow, great for kids.
  • Free up garden space if you’ve previously grown strawberries in a patch.

Cons

  • Any plant that produces edible fruit will require care and attention, and strawberries are no different.
  • Limited coverage from just one plant, it would take dozens to cover a small area.
  • Once the fruit has been picked, the novelty may disappear.
  • Not self-clinging, so requires training along runners.

Alternatives

Many fruits can be grown along boundary lines such as fences or walls.

Consider:

  • Trained dwarf fruit trees (i.e. apple)
  • Blackberries.
  • Grapevines.
Strawberry bush

6) Climbing Clematis

Our favourite clematis, “Montana”, is a vigorous climber that will reach 12 metres in ideal conditions.

Clematis are versatile, fast-growing climbing plants that can be grown:

  • Up tree trunks.
  • Along trellis.
  • Up and along walls and fences.
  • Up free-standing structures such as poles.

Most are deciduous but produce showy clusters of 4-petalled white flowers from late spring into early summer.

The leaves also turn a beautiful shade of purple in autumn, adding late-season interest to the garden.

Clematis

Pros

  • Regarded as one of the fastest-growing climbers.
  • Can be trained along trellis and wires.
  • Produces an abundance of flowers that often entirely cover the foliage.
  • Some gardeners like the rambling nature of this climber and it does look incredible growing up and through trees.
  • This clematis is very resistant to clematis wilt.

Cons

  • As one of the fastest-growing clematis climbers, it can become leggy with bare stems.
  • Pruning is difficult, and it’s easy to trim off growth that’s needed for next year’s flowers.
  • While clematis performs best in full sun, the base of the plant should be kept moist and in the shade. Some gardeners even build up the base with pebbles to achieve this.

7) Virginia Creeper

No respectable list of fast-growing climbers would be complete without mentioning the Virginia creeper, but this entry comes with a warning – it can quickly get out of control, and you may need to keep it away from rain gutters, pipes and roofs as it can cause all sorts of damage.

So vigorous is this plant that it can also get into any cracks between your bricks.

The Virginia creeper is even listed as a schedule 9 plant of the UK Wildlife and Countryside Act, meaning it’s an invasive, non-native species.

You can legally buy and grow this climber, but extra care should be taken concerning pruning and waste disposal.

Virginia creeper is primarily grown for its autumn colour, where the fruits turn from black to blue and the green leaves to orange and red.

Expect growth of over 1 metre per year to an eventual height of 15+ metres and a spread of up to 8 metres.

Pros

  • Stunning and spectacular foliage display in autumn.
  • A very fast growing climber that can cover entire walls, trees, fences and more.
  • Performs well in shade or sun.
  • A popular alternative to ivy.

Cons

  • Can cause damage to windows, roof gutters, tiles etc. if left unattended.
  • Deciduous so doesn’t provide cover in the winter.
  • Cuttings should be burned or disposed of appropriately to stop them from forming new plants.

Alternatives

Chinese Virginia creeper is less vigorous, reaching no more than 10 metres.

Ivy would be a more appropriate alternative if you’re concerned about controlling the climber and potential damage to a property.

Virginia Creeper

8) Climbing Honeysuckle

Climbing honeysuckle plants are ideal for growing along old fences and walls, up pergolas and over arches.

There is a wide range to choose from, with evergreen varieties the best option for those wishing to cover unsightly walls.

Also, choose from early or late flowering varieties.

Most reach up to 4 metres in height, with a few growing up to 6 metres.

This classic climber produces clusters of tubular flowers from summer to autumn; red berries then form after the flowers have faded.

Honeysuckle

Pros

  • Easy to grow, dependable and generally disease-free.
  • Attracts pollinators.
  • Hardy and doesn’t require winter protection in most parts of the UK.
  • Fast climbers.
  • Unique and attractive flowers.
  • Self-clinging once established.

Cons

  • Some varieties can become invasive if not looked after properly and are left unattended.
  • Not suitable for very shaded areas.
  • New growth is at risk from aphid attack.

9) False Hydrangea

Schizophragma hydrangeoides is very similar to the climbing hydrangea anomala subsp. petoiolaris with only a few subtle differences in appearance.

However, the false hydrangea is slightly slower growing and doesn’t reach the same height at 5 metres compared to 12 metres. This makes it perfect for smaller gardens where one wishes to cover a wall, fence, arch or even a tree trunk without worrying about the climbing plant becoming difficult to control.

The false hydrangea is an excellent alternative to the popular climbing hydrangea, and most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference despite them being from two separate species.

False Hydrangea

10) Wisteria

Many gardeners are put off growing wisteria because of its vigorous growth and strong woody vines, which can cause damage to the property if not trained correctly.

Also, wisteria shouldn’t be planted too close to a home as the roots can cause damage to the foundations and block drains.

There are a few places that wisteria can be grown safely, although close attention to pruning and training is still crucial.

Try growing wisteria up and over garden pergolas or along brick or concrete garden walls where you can appreciate the beauty of this classic climber.

Pros

  • A fast-growing climbing plant, expect well over a metre of growth per year and potentially much more once established.
  • Dense trailing flower clusters up to 45cm long.
  • A distinctive one-of-a-kind and fast-growing climbing plant.
  • A great alternative to grapevines.

Cons

  • Requires extensive supports.
  • It can be destructive.
  • It would be best to buy a grafted wisteria as non-grafted plants can take up to 15 years to flower.
  • Deciduous, so it loses its leaves in the winter.
  • Requires training to keep it growing in the right direction.
Wisteria climbing

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This guide to fast-growing climbing plants was created by the team here at DIY Gardening

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