Horticulture Magazine

12 Fast Growing Climbing Plants

flowering purple Chinese wisteria

Cover walls, fences and trellises in the blink of an eye with these super speedy climbers.

Climbing plants are a highly valuable addition to any garden. Whether trained along the front-facing façade of an English country manor, wound around the structural supports of a pergola or planted as a decorative addition to a garden fence, climbers add colour and intrigue to otherwise plain surfaces. They can also be a great source of biodiversity, bringing bees, butterflies and other pollinators into your back garden, as well as providing sustenance for creepy crawlies to feast upon. Finally, they consume very little soil space, allowing you to get more bang for your pot and maximise the space available to you via vertical growing.

While some climbing projects are long-term commitments, there are occasions when you might wish to cover an unsightly shed wall or obscure a gap in your border quickly if time is of the essence. If that sounds familiar, there’s no need to panic – there are plenty of climbers which show considerable growth in just a few months, affording you the coverage you need without waiting years for it to flourish.

If you’re in the market for a quick-growing climber, here’s a handful of suggestions to get the ball rolling, including evergreen, deciduous, self-clinging, annual and perennial options to suit every situation. Whatever purpose you have in mind, there’s sure to be a climbing plant to satisfy your needs.

1) Chilean trumpet vine

red chilean trumpet vine flowers
Campsis radicans

Chilean trumpet vine is one of the more ostentatious entries on this list, with its honking great hooter of a bloom growing up to 8cm in size! As well as its ample proportions, the climber isn’t shy in terms of its colour scheme, either; the rich greenery of its leaves is offset by the brilliant burnt orange of its flower, resulting in a plant and a flower that’s guaranteed to turn heads and set tongues wagging.

As the name suggests, the plant originates in the Americas and as such, is accustomed to slightly warmer temperatures, but if positioned in full sun, it should cope with most parts of the UK with no problems. Like many of the other options on this list, it’s such a keen grower that it must be kept in check to avoid it becoming a nuisance for other plants in its vicinity.

2) Chinese wisteria

a climbing wisteria walk in a Paris park
Wisteria sinensis

With its intertwining woody stems, drooping floral blooms and striking lilac flowerheads, Chinese wisteria is a breathtakingly beautiful plant wherever it’s displayed. For best results, you may wish to train it up and over a pergola, trellis or other archway and allow the gorgeous blossoms to dangle tantalisingly through the gaps in the structure.

Chinese wisteria is not just a pretty face, either, but an extremely hard worker, as well. Indeed, the speed and spread of its growth is so enthusiastic that it could be termed as invasive if left unchecked, so you’ll need to keep your pruning shears at the ready to stay on top of this keen grower. But put in the requisite gardening hard yards and you’ll be rewarded with a truly stunning specimen.

3) Chocolate vine

purple flowering Akebia Chocolate vine
Akebia quinata

Chocolate vine is the ideal option if you wish to add a touch of exoticism and extravagance to your garden’s palette. The highly unusual flowers take the form of three curled petals of deep waxy maroon, set against a backdrop of distinctive bright green leaves. Indeed, the whole ensemble is so unorthodox as to appear almost artificial and it’s certainly a rare but pleasing sight in UK gardens.

This spirited grower will do well in full sun or partial shade, but like most climbers, doesn’t enjoy being buffeted by the wind too much, so shelter is advised. It should grow up to a maximum of 10m and a spread of 5m, meaning it’s an ideal option for covering the walls of a shed, garage or other outhouse.

4) Clematis Montana

Clematis Montana growing on a stone wall
Clematis Montana

There are plenty of varieties of Clematis Montana to choose from, all of which are vigorous climbers which will shoot up the side of a wall, fence or pergola at an impressive pace. We particularly recommend the Wilsonii cultivar, which is an early-blooming specimen with delicate, star-shaped petals of white that appear in May and June and add a wonderfully calming aesthetic to any environment they adorn.

Clematis Montana Wilsonii are particularly attractive not just for their visual characteristics, but also the scented perfume which their flowers exude, as well. Meanwhile, the bronze tinge taken on by their vibrant green leaves is a striking counterpoint to the white petals later in the year. They’re not so eager as to require much in the way of maintenance, though regularly deadheading and cleaning up of loose stems can help to tidy the appearance of the plant.

5) Climbing hydrangea

white Hydrangea petiolaris on a garden wall
Hydrangea anomala petiolaris

Although climbing hydrangeas might not be the quickest climbers out of the traps, once they’ve built up a head of steam, there’s no stopping them. The anomala petiolaris variety pictured above is a popular deciduous variety with attractive heart-shaped leaves and oversized white flowers, but there are several evergreen options to choose from, including Hydrangea seemanii and Hydrangea serratifolia.

Whether you choose an evergreen or deciduous specimen will likely come down to a matter of personal preference, though it should be remembered that the former are slightly smaller and more manageable than the latter. Indeed, the anomala petiolaris variety is particularly apt to overstep its boundaries and take up more space than you might have allocated to it, with a 15m-height, 8m-spread possible in mature plants.

6) Honeysuckle

Lonicera mandarin on a trellis
Lonicera mandarin

Honeysuckle is a favourite shrub for placing next to trellises and frames, since the self-clinging nature of many varieties means it requires little in the way of training or maintenance. And there are plenty of varieties to choose from: the lonicera mandarin specimen pictured above offers a lovely burst of yellow and pink in its blossoms, but the most common flowering varieties are a deliciously creamy white which often matures into soft tones of other colours with age.

Whichever type of honeysuckle you plump for, you’ll be rewarded with the beauty as well as the intoxicating fragrance of its flowers, making them an ideal option to place next to windows or doors to benefit from their qualities inside the home as well as out. There are both deciduous and evergreen options available, all of which are fully hardy, fairly fast-growing and will do well in full sun or partial shade.

7) Kiwi

white flowers of kiwi plant
Actinidia deliciosa

Who doesn’t love a plant which also puts food on the table? That’s especially true when the fruit in question is as delectable and as nutritious as the kiwi. A particularly vigorous grower, kiwis can be used to spruce up the exterior of ugly sheds or decorate a wall or fence, all with the minimum of fuss. All that these low-maintenance climbers really need is ample sunshine and warmth – which, admittedly, can be a tricky sell in some quarters of the UK. However, as long as they’re positioned in direct sunlight, they should perform well enough wherever you are.

There are self-fertilising varieties of kiwi available, but most cultivars will fare best when pared with a specimen of the opposite sex. Mulch annually and feed weekly, harvesting their scrumptious payload each August and September. As a ready source of vitamin C, you can’t go wrong with a kiwi!

8) Nasturtium

orange Nasturtium trumpet flowers on a wooden trellis
Nasturtium tropaeolum majus

While the name might sound a little off-putting, nasturtiums are anything but nasty! Instead, these fast-growing climbers boast beautiful blooms reminiscent of a marigold, while the fact that both their flowers and foliage are edible means they can even serve as a salad accompaniment to your culinary creations. Nasturtium is even irresistible to non-human life; bumblebees can’t get enough of the nectar hidden within its blossoms, while caterpillars love to munch on its leaves.

As such, it’s a great addition to any garden – and one which requires very little in the way of upkeep. No pruning is needed whatsoever, and while you may wish to water it in times of prolonged drought, even then the hardiness of the plant will see it bounce back before long. Versatile, it’s equally at home in the ground or a pot. A true wonder plant.

9) Rambling rose

rambling roses in various shades of red
Rambling rose

Not to be confused with climbing roses, rambling roses are a far speedier beast which will quickly cover any surface they’re trained upon. The trade-off with these types of roses, however, is that they just offer a single annual bloom, rather than several cascading blooms throughout the year. But what they lack in frequency, they more than make up for in magnificence, since there are few more impressive gardening sights than a rambling rose climber in full bloom each June.

As with all rose bushes, there are varieties available in most colours imaginable, meaning you can pick a cultivar to correspond with the existing décor outside your home. Due to their single-blooming nature, there’s no need to deadhead them at all – unless you’ve selected one of the few exceptions to the rule such as “Malvern hills” or “Super Fairy”.

10) Russian vine

white Fallopia balschuanica
Fallopia balschuanica

Given that Russian vine’s alternative common name is “Mile-a-minute”, you might have an inkling of just how fast-growing this impatient climber is. Indeed, it’s similar to Japanese knotweed in that if you leave it unattended for too long, it’ll grow too big for its boots and encroach upon neighbouring plants (and gardens!), so near-constant upkeep is required to whip it into shape.

Having said that, Russian vine does reward attentive horticulturalists with an exquisite display. The real star of the show arrives in summer, when floral blooms will burst into life all over its surface area with tiny white florets tinged in pink. However, its deciduous nature means it’s also attractive in autumn, when the lush greenery of the leaves gives way to browns, reds and yellows to create a rustic, almost nostalgic effect.

11) Sweet pea

sweet peas growing up bamboo sticks
Lathyrus odoratus

Sweet peas are an incredible versatile climber in that they perform equally well whether they’re planted in a pot, as part of a colourful border or trained up a frame. This latter option is especially inviting, since you’ll be treated to vibrant blossoms in purple, red, pink or any number of other colours, right through the calendar year.

What’s more, they also come with a delightful aroma attached to their blooms, as is hinted at in their Latin name. This makes them an ideal choice for planting near to a seating area in your back garden, since you’ll be able to enjoy their fragrance as you unwind. They’ll even work well as a cut flower and you may be surprised at just how effectively a handful of sweet peas in a vase will perfume your home.

12) Virginia creeper

virginia creeper on the walls of a house
Parthenocissus quinquefolia

As one of the most instantly recognisable forms of climbing plant, Virginia creeper is a hugely popular option to cover the front of large houses. As you can see from the photograph above, its striking red colours looks particularly impressive when paired with a brick or stone backdrop. It’s at its best in the autumnal months when the colours will really pop, but it provides strong growth for most of the year and floral displays throughout the summer.

Though the species pictured above – Parthenocissus quinquefolia – is widely available in garden centres around the UK and completely legal to plant in your back garden, you should keep in mind that it is listed as a non-native invasive species. This means you should take great pains to ensure it doesn’t infiltrate the wild, since its fast-growing tendencies can mean it quickly becomes unmanageable. With that in mind, liberal pruning is recommended – or else opting for less aggressive alternatives like Boston ivy or Chinese Virginia creeper.

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