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Climbing Plants for Shade - The Best Ten

Shaded areas by the garden fence, near a tree or at side of house, often get neglected because of the 'difficulty' of growing plants there.

This need not be the case for there are many climbing plants that will grow in shade positions.

Some of these climbing plants are evergreen, which makes them even more desirable - especially if they are flowering evergreens!

Growing plants in shade areas can be successfully undertaken if thought and attention is given to the immediate soil environment. Shade areas can sometimes be permanently damp - or as is often the case - quite dry for most of the year.

If no plants have been grown on a barren shade area, then the soil is often left uncultivated - making any physical problem even worse. In both extreme cases - dry and damp shade - the addition of organic bulky compost, such as peat, leafmould, garden compost, or even multi-purpose potting compost will do much to improve the physical properties of the soil.

 It is worth doing, so that your shaded area can then be home to some interesting climbing plants. Addition of a long term fertiliser such as bonemeal - or one of the slow release Osmocote type fertilisers will also be beneficial.

Climbing Plants that thrive in Shade.

Some climbers will positively thrive in shade conditions, whilst others may take a little care to get established. Many climbers are shade lovers in their natural environment. Honeysuckles being one of the woodland climbers, so naturally at home in shade.

  • Honeysuckle - Lonicera. Both the evergreen and deciduous types are happy in shade. They will either need wire framework, or some form of open trellis support for they climb by virtue of twisting round tree trunks and branches in their wild state. For this reason they are best suited to fence areas rather than walls - unless a suitable framework can be provided. Galvanised wire fastened to the wall would suit.
    • Lonicera japonica 'Halleana' and Lonicera henryii are two evergreen types to try, with the latter having longish pointed leaves. L. 'Halleana has light cream flowers whilst L. henryii has flowers of yellow to gold. Both are excellent climbers in shade areas

The Late Dutch Honeysuckle - Lonicera periclymenum Serrotina.

The deciduous types are more colourful - but of course lose their leaves in winter.

 One of the best climbers for these shaded areas is Lonicera periclymenum 'Belgica', with red and white flowers. L.p Serrotina is also good - and very similar. So much so, that the two often get mixed up and sold as each other! Lonicera x brownii 'Dropmore Scarlet' is an old favourite that does well in shade areas also.

Ivies - Hedera. There are some superb Ivies that are well suited to growing in shade areas - especially the large leaved types. They normally take a full growing season to get started, but soon start to make growth in the second year. Ivies are normally self clinging climbing plants, though also twine around anything in reach. Shaded fences that are to be the home for any of the Ivy group will need to be robust - and well preserved before planting, for once the Ivy takes hold, it will be more or less impossibly to remove without damaging the fence!

Hedera colcica dentata Aurea

Hedera colchica 'Dentata Variegata' - pictured on left - is one of the most colourful. H c. 'Sulphur Heart' - or 'Paddies Pride' is also good, though a little slower to establish.

There are many smaller leaved types that will also be suitable in shady places - notably Hedera helix 'Goldheart'. This one is particularly interesting, for whilst it start off as a small leaved Ivy, the newer leaves on established plants take on the 'adult' shape and size of large leaved types. The dark green foliage is splashed with bright yellow gold centre - a great climbing plant to brighten up a dark area.

Clematis armandii - the evergreen Clematis

Clematis are often overlooked for shade areas, but they can be some of the best of the climbing plants for shade. The large flowered hybrids do well in total shade - but better if they can clamber up to some sunlight - so better on shaded fence.

Whilst the large flowers hybrids are universally deciduous, there are a few evergreen Clematis which are also superb in shade. the best of these has to be Clematis armandii - a vigorous climber that will soon cover a shaded wall or fence. Very attractive dark green foliage - which contrasts well with the pure white flowers that abound in late winter. A must-try climbing plant for shade!

The smaller flowered Clematis montana types are also good plants like the shade. Especially if they can reach up to the light. Clematis montana 'Rubens' seems to do better in shade than the other montana types.

Climbing Hydrangea - Hydrangea petiolaris - is without equal on a shaded wall. It is self clinging so not particularly suited to fences, but give it a shaded wall and it will cover a few square metres by year three after planting. Deciduous, but with golden yellow autumn foliage and of course white flowers in early summer. This shrub is also good ground cover on a densely shaded bank!

Virginian Creepers - are true climbing plants and all types do well in shade. Of particular use is the true Virginian Creeper - Parthenocissus quinquefolia. This is a self clinging climbing plant well suited to shade. It climbs by way of small suckers on the end of tendrils.

Shaded Wall or Fence Shrubs that are not strictly climbing plants, will include >>>>>

Orange and red Firethorn berriesPyracantha - the Firethorns. These tri-purpose shrubs - evergreen, flowers and berries, are all good for the shaded wall or fence - or anywhere else in the shade. They are not climbers but are often trained up walls and along fences by way of wires attached firmly. They never fail in shaded garden places.

The Firethorns picture on left shows just two of the colours available for the berries. Perfect plants for brightening up the shade wall or fence.

Cotoneasters are also suitable - especially the larger leaved types which are generally evergreen - and flower in May/June followed with Berries. They will need training as climbers and will need supporting on frame of wires. Cotoneaster frigidus and cotoneaster 'Cornubia' can both be trained for a shade wall, and respond well to trimming back against wall or fence.

Jasmine - The Winter flowered one - Jasminum nudiflorum- is a solid plant for training against wall or fence in the shady part of the garden. Not a true climbing plant, it can be trained to reach a height of around 2 metres and is a delight in mid winter with its bright golden yellow flowers. It never fails in a shaded place, and only needs a few nails or wires on a wall to send it climbing.

Climbing Roses that do well in shade include R Golden Showers (A yellow)  and R American Pillar - A red. If you can treat the mildew, then R Iceberg (white) is also good.

The Potato Vine - If not too dense shade.  Solanum crispum Glasnevin for the blue, ot Solanum jasminoides Album for the white version. Both superb - but need a bit of looking after.

Climbing Plants Main Page | Climbing Evergreen Plants |

By David Hughes - info@gardenseeker.com 


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