Gardenseeker

Best evergreen climbing plants - our top ten

One of the most sought-after groups of plants in our mailbox, is evergreen climbing plants - and even more sought-after is flowering evergreen climbing plants.

We often get queries about a colourful berried climber or sometimes about the bright blue flowers on a climbing shrub against a wall. These inevitably come down to being Pyracanthas - firethorns - in the case of the berrying shrub, and Ceanothus - Californian Lilac - in the case of the blue flowered climber.

Neither of these are true climbing evergreen plants, but as they are commonly perceived as such we will include them in our list.

 Climbers, either evergreen or deciduous, can be broadly categorised into two types. Those that cling to walls by way of aerial roots, and those that are the twining evergreens. The twining plants either twine their stems or leaf tendrils around supports such as other plants or trellis, whilst those with aerial self clinging roots, normally use them up rigid surfaces such as walls and sometimes fences.

The evergreen climbers in our lists are hardy to varying degrees, and as evergreen climbing plants are normally seen as a permanent solution to a problematic situation, care should be taken to ensure that you choose a hardy evergreen climber for your locale and situation. This will avoid the disappointment in years to come, when your not so hardy evergreen climber is no longer evergreen, but simply a tangle of bare stems!


True Climbing Evergreen Plants - Those that Twine and Cling.

Twining evergreens that are suitable for growing up trellis, open fence, tree or shrub, or wired supports on wall. In fact anywhere that they can find spaces to twine around or supports to grip.

Evergreen Clematis Climbing Plants. The Clematis are normally associated with sunny walls of dripping over the top of a fence, amongst them being the increasingly popular group of evergreen climbing Clematis.

  • The Evergreen Clematis include.Clematis armandi - evergreen Clematis
    • Clematis armandii types such as Clematis armandii itself - a winter flowering scented type that is vigorous once established. Distinctive leaves, with quite a dense covering, so suitable for screening. One of the Clematis armandii types is Cl.a. Apple Blossom is very popular and differs only in that it has pink-tinged white flowers, which eventually fade to white. Both have gorgeous scent and the glossy - waxy - leaves give good screening. Not really suited to container growing as roots need plenty of space. Both are best suited to either full sun or light shade. I have also seen them quite successful on a north facing fence - but with less flowers. No pruning required. 
    •   Clematis cirrhosa var. balearica is again winter or very early spring flowering - pendant flowers are cream with pink speckles inside the bell-like flowers. Clematis cirrhosa Freckles, being a little more showier with deeper coloured speckles - or freckles. It is a vigorous grower - to 8ft (2.4 m) and if you like plants that flower on Christmas day, then this is your one. It starts around early November and I have photographed them in full flower during late January also.
    • Clematis x cartmanii - the best one for me is the  variety Avalanche, though the variety Joe is also popular - probably because of its endearing name! Both these grow to around 2m high with flowers that are up to 75mm (3in) across - showy but not scented. the foliage is not as dense a cover as the 'armandii' types, but these can be grown in a container as the roots are not so vigorous.
    • Clematis repens is very unusual in that it has drooping yellow waxy flowers. It flowers in summer - unlike the winter flowering clematis listed above. Not as vigorous - but evergreen - as the armandii, cirrhosa or cartmanii types. Worth growing for the novelty yellow pendant bell flowers.
  • Climbing Potato Vines - Solanums. For me, better described as 'semi-evergreen' though keeps enough of its leaves to be included in this group. More of a scrambling shrub that will climb its way, twining through and over a good sturdy trellis or fence. Also suitable against a wall with wired supports.
  • Solanum crispum - the Chilean Potato Vine has a superb blue variety - Solanum crispum Glasnevin, which has bright blue flowers in masses during summer and right through till late autumn. If you prefer white, then go for the Solanum jasminoides Album. Similar in other respects to the blue Glasnevin. Both will need pruning hard each spring. but will soon re-grow into a dense canopy screen.

Clematis cartmanii Avalanche Solanum crispum glasnevin Passiflora caerulea Constance Spry
Left is Clematis cartmanii Avalanche with Solanum crispum Glasnevin centre, and the surprisingly hardy Passiflora caerulea Constance Spry on right.

The Chocolate Vine - Akebia. Semi evergreen vine rather than fully evergreen, loses some of its leaves in late autumn and winter.

  • Akebia quinata is the only one to mention here - for the others are decidedly NOT evergreen - nor even semi-evergreen. 'Quinata' being because it has a five (quin) lobed leaf. The foliage is a darkish green, but with a purple tinge to the leaves in winter. Flowers are near brown and nothing special to look at, but the emit a spicy fragrance. Chocolate Vine, probably because of the brown flowers. I can think of no other reason.

Jasmines are represented with a few evergreen and semi-evergreen varieties.

  • Jasminum angulare is just about frost hardy with typical white scented Jasmine flowers with fully evergreen foliage. Flowering through late summer until the hard autumn frosts. If growing well, can reach 3m (9 - 10ft) with not too dense foliage cover.
  • Jasminum beesianum gets a place in any garden of mine, with its light red - maybe pink - flowers, and in particular because it is happy growing in a good-sized container. The red flowers - though not brilliantly showy, are different, and it flowers quite early in the summer, continuing to do so for several months. Better than frost hardy. I have grown it through several hard winters in Kent UK. A good all round evergreen climbing plant.
  • Jasminum mesnyi - a yellow flowered jasmine that tries hard to be a climber! It succeeds only if grown against a suitable support such as a stout trellis ir wired frame. may need a little help, but then looks after itself in its upward adventures.
  • Jasminum polyanthum - whilst a gorgeously scented climbing evergreen, is a bit suspect in the hardiness stakes, so best avoided, unless you are prepared for that!
  • Jasminum Clotted Cream or Devon Cream is sometimes sold as being evergreen. It most certainly is NOT.

Honeysuckle - Lonicera - true climbing vines with a few evergreens amongst them.

  • Lonicera giraldii - is not grown too often, but should be. It is fully evergreen and with hairy shoots. The leaves - textured like velvet and dark, are a good foil for the reddish purple flowers appearing in early summer. It will clamber up to 15ft or so (4m +).
  • Lonicera henryi - will climb a clamber up an eight metre - 24ft support, and be happy to show off its reddish purple flowers  at that height! Fully evergreen but a bit suspect in very hard winters. Often shoots out from the base - especially if protected - in the spring.
  • Lonicera japonica Halliana - is normally synonymous with the phrase Evergreen Honeysuckle. If it is the evergreen foliage you want, then be prepared for it to be a little sparse in the winter. The white flowers - that turn yellow - however, leave nothing to be desired in the way of fragrance.
  • Lonicera japonica Dart's World - is a very densely clad bushy evergreen climber, similar to L. halliana but with  reddish flowers that eventually turn yellow. Equally as fragrant as the former.
  • The other honeysuckles - Lonicera - have no place in the list of climbing evergreens!

Passiflora caerulea - The common Passion Flower - Close up of spectacular flower.Passiflora - Passion Flower. Passion flowers are vigorous tendril clad climbers with evergreen foliage and very unusual flowers. Not the hardiest of climbers, but I have got them through the hardest of winters in a dry border, with added root protection. Often get battered in the winter, but can shoot out again from down below.

  • Passiflora caerulea - The most planted and successful of the Passion flower climbers. Has blue flowers with unusual centres. Best in a sheltered place, where it will not only flower, but may also be clad in the orange passion fruits from late autumn. Rarely edible in the UK.
  • Passiflora caerulea Constance Elliot is the white form of this evergreen climbing plant. Seemingly quite hardy, but I have no experience of it other than photographing the flowers after a hard winter!

Trachelospermum - The Star Jasmine - Is not a Jasmine, but often mistaken for one. The flowers are similar, and the scent is heady!

  • Trachelospermum jasminoides - Is not the hardiest of evergreen climbers, but grow it in a container large enought o hold a support - or near a pergola upright and it could well give you several years of pleasure. The purest white flowers in late summer are very scented - especially in the evening.

Berberidopsis - The Coral Plant. Is just about hardy in a hard frost - no more, unless grown in a lot of shelter.

  • Berberidopsis corallina  is nothing like a Berberis! It is however, a twining evergreen - even though it may need a bit of guidance and help. Deep red flowers in drooping sprays make this a very attractive evergreen to grow. Reasonably hardy, but not fully in hard winters. Does best in a dry situation and should be well mulched with open organic mulch in late autumn. get it through the first winter, and it fares better thereafter.

Evergreen Climbing Plants that cling to walls with aerial roots.

This group of evergreens use adventitious roots along their stems to cling to solid surfaces. Good for training up walls that have no other means of support framework.


Left is Hedera colchica Dentata Aureum with Centre of Hedera in flower late Autumn - important late pollen supply for bees and Right the hedera canariensis Gloire 'd Marengo with the reverted green foliage it is noted for.

Ivies - Hedera. - the most noted and maligned of the evergreen Climbers - yet so versatile if grown in the right place. There are many to choose from. we will mention but a few.


Hedera Goldheart

  •  Hedera canariensis Gloire de Marengo,  is one of the better of the large leaved Ivies, with light, silvery green foliage, being white variegated. Suitable for almost any situation,  but prefers a bit of shelter. Hardy and growing to around 15ft eventually, it will need room to grow, and a good strong wall on which to climb. As with all of the Ivies.
  • Hedera colchica has two varieties worth mentioning. My favourite is Hedera colchica Dentata Aurea - or Variegata with creamy yellow variegated edges, closely followed by the Hedera colchica Paddy's Pride - also sold as Hedera colchica Sulphur Heart which probably describes it better. All three mentioned, are large leaved varieties of Ivy and are superb evergreen climbers that will need space, and strong supporting wall or fence.
  • Hedera helix Buttercup is a spectacular small-leaved variety, but the leaves change size and form at the tops of mature stems. best grown in full sun if you want it to live up to the name of Buttercup (The colour). It will be pale green in shade, but nonetheless attractive for it.
  • Hedera helix Green Ripple is another of my favourites with its bright green rippled young foliage turning dark green as the year progresses. Good against a wall and sure to please - even if just green!
  • Hedera helix Goldheart does just as its name suggests. As the plant gets older, then some of the shoots tend to revert back to green - with no gold heart. Cut them out. Not too easy if 10 - 15ft up a wall! The leaves change form as the plant gets more mature - being larger and losing dome of its lobed appearance.
  • There are many, many more Ivies to choose from, that will all do the job of evergreen climbing plants.

Climbing Hydrangeas. There is one to mention. The other (H. petiolaris) is not evergreen

  • Hydrangea seemannii.  A climbing evergreen Hydrangea with dark green leaves not unlike the Camellia foliage - but up to 6in 15cm long! White flowers are best described as lace cap rather than mop head type hydrangea flowers. White and quite scented on warm evenings and mild mornings. It is NOT a twining plant as sometimes described, but instead, climbs and clings by means of aerial roots. Happy in shade - even a North wall like its other climbing hydrangea cousin - H. petiolaris.

Euonymus - Some of the evergreen types will climb unaided once established. best described as rambling plants, however they will climb by way of aerial roots if planted against wall or fence.

  • Euonymus fortunei Emerald Gaiety,  as with the other members of the Euonymus fortunei clan, will climb if placed near a wall or fence. Most are fully hardy - even if getting a little winter leaf scorch.
  • The other of note is Euonymus fortunei Emerald 'n Gold.
  • Euonymus fortunei Silver Queen - if you can get the correctly labelled plant - is also a good evergreen climber.

Pileostegia or Schyzophragma.  (Both the same plant).

  • Pileostegia viburnoides is a superb self clinging climbing evergreen for walls no matter how high, though looks its best if it can get to top of a wall and then clamber along. White flowers - not unlike the climbing Hydrangea - or some of the Viburnums - hence its name. Well worth growing - especially on a shaded wall where it can clamber up to the sun atop!

Shrubs Suitable for Wall or fence Plants.  These mentioned below are not true climbing evergreens. However, they are often used to good effect when planted against walls.

  • Pyracantha varieties. All Pyracantha - Firethorns - are evergreen and quite hardy. They are spectacular when used as a wall or fence shrub, both for their white flowers in May/June and then the berries ranging from yellow through to darkest red depending upon variety. All are evergreen and are also quite happy to be used as shade plants.
  • Ceanothus - the Californian Lilac - is often used as a wall or fence shrub - not without good reason for they are a little on the tender side, and appreciate the cover of a warm wall or fence in the winter. Together with that, most are a bit lax in habit, and prefer to have the stability afforded by training against a wall or fence.
  • Fremontodendron californicum is best classified as semi evergreen and not a particularly good 'screen' but it is happy against wall or fence. The hairs of this plant are very itchy, so beware when pruning or training.

See Also - Climbing Plants | Climbing Roses  |  Climbing Plants for Shade

By David Hughes - info@gardenseeker.com 


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