Climbing plants are useful for hiding unattractive fences, providing shade (if they climb over an arbor), or for adding beauty to a vertical space. These flowers are also an excellent option for small gardens that have limited planting sites, as they grow up rather than out. The best climbing plants for one home gardener may differ from another, especially when taking into consideration the location for the plant, according to Meredith Kirton, a horticulturist with Gardening Australia. Still, there are some time-honored favorites that are hardy, beautiful and fragrant.
Jasmine consists of a group of primarily tropical climbers, although some varieties are cold-hardy. In general, most jasmine cultivars grow best in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) hardiness zones 7 through 11. These beautiful and fragrant climbers enjoy full sun in cooler climates, and morning sun followed by afternoon shade in warmer areas. The plant thrives in moist, fertile soil. Jasmine features dark green, graceful leaves and creamy-white flowers that look like small primroses. While this vine likes to climb, it will also grow as a shrub if there is no support structure. J. polyanthum is a strongly-scented cultivar that will climb to heights of 25 feet or more.
Clematis vines are desirable for their fast growth, brightly-colored flowers (especially the deep, purplish-blue varieties) and profusion of blooms. These plants are also hardy if the minimum growing conditions are met, and in particular, the plant's roots and stem are shaded from the hot sun. Clematis plants do well with morning sun, followed by afternoon shade, and thrive in alkaline soil. C. montana is a fast-growing variety that can reach heights of over 40 feet and will bloom for a second time after the first flowers fade if the plant is cut back by one-third once the petals drop. Most clematis cultivars are hardy in USDA growing zones 3 through 8, but some cultivars do not do well in the cold temperatures of zone 3, while others can tolerate the warmer conditions of zone 9.
Wisteria is a showy, high-climbing vine that features dangling masses of fragrant, lavender flowers. The vines are heavy and require a strong support system, such as a wood arbor. Wisteria is not easy to grow--it requires careful pruning and training--but the spectacular show it puts on in the summer is well worth the effort. Wisteria grows best in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 9.
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