Top 10 Climbing Plants for a Small Trellis

Updated on June 20, 2012

Climbing plants are great for creating screens and smothering ugly garden features or bare walls.

Flowering climbers make a really attractive feature in any garden, and here among my own personal favorites are the top 10 best climbers for a small garden trellis, the type you would build yourself, or buy ready-made from a garden center.

Flowering climbers make wonderful features in gardens. Easy to care for, they can fill your yard with scent and color all summer long, and create the perfect backdrop for your more showier plants.

Colorful flowers attract butterflies, bees and other pollinating insects into your garden, which ensures a more productive vegetable or fruit garden.

There are such a wide array of climbing plants available, that it can sometimes be difficult to choose the perfect climbers for your garden, so hopefully you will some find some ideas here.

These climbers are best grown over a small trellis, as none of them will grow out of control and cover an area higher than 6' - 8' high.

Clematis 'Jospehine'
Clematis 'Jospehine' | Source

1. Clematis 'Josephine'

I am especially fond of all types of clematis, and the beautiful pink/lilac hues of 'Josephine' is breathtaking.

Perfect for the small garden, 'Josephine' is a compact plant which will not grow huge and rambling.

Developed in 1998, you can grow this clematis in a container.

It is deciduous and will lose its leaves in the winter, but will return year after year.


Position in a sheltered area that is exposed to the sun for at least part of the day.


In late winter/early spring, cut out all deadwood and damaged branches back to the first strongly-growing set of leaf buds.

Mid-spring is when you can expect to see the strong growth of the new season, and this is a good time to cut out excess stems so that you have evenly spaced stems. this will encourage all-over flowers, many of which carry double flower-heads.

Abutilon 'Kentish Belle'
Abutilon 'Kentish Belle' | Source

2. Abutilon 'Kentish Belle'

Also called the Flowering Maple or Chinese Lantern, Abutilon plants are very vigorous growers and easy to grow. The smaller-flowered varieties can flower all year round even in winter.

This makes the Kentish Belle cultivar especially attractive as it is a member of the Abutilon megapotamicum branch of the family which have the smallest flowers.

With attractive red and yellow flowers, the Abutilon cannot decide if it is a climber or a stand-alone shrub, but is very easy to train up a trellis by tying the stems to the support, which makes for a tidier plant.

Great companion plants for Abutilons are pale blue flowering shrubs like Ceanothus or Plumbago auriculata.

Planting Positions

Abutilons are greedy, and so thrive better when planted directly into a border or very large pot, situated in a place where it can receive regular watering and feed easily, especially if grown in a container.

They can withstand light frost but will become dormant if temperatures fall below 20οF.

They can be planted anywhere in the garden that offers sunshine or light shade, but do best protected from the strongest winds.

Winter flowering is only possible is daytime temperatures do not fall below 60οF.


Abutilon 'Kentish Belle' can be ruthlessly pruned to keep it under control. You can chop it all off right down to ground level, and it will come bouncing back with loads of new growth.

Nasturtium 'Flame Thrower'
Nasturtium 'Flame Thrower' | Source

3. Nasturtium 'Flame Thrower'

I'm a great fan of nasturtiums, and the cultivar, 'Flame Thrower', looks like a winner.

As anyone who has ever grown nasturtiums knows, they readily set seed, and can even become a garden nuisance with their seedlings sprouting up everywhere.

Not so with Flame Thrower, as the seeds are sterile.

Half-hardy annuals, this nasturtium can climb, trail or otherwise spread, and are covered with the most delicious yellow, cream, scarlet and orange split-petal flowers that give it an attractive ragged look, and its leaves are ivy-shaped.

They are fragrant which is unusual for nasturtiums, and of course their leaves are edible.

Planting Positions

Nasturtiums can be grown in full sun or partial shade, and will flower all summer long.

Thunbergia Alata 'Superstar'
Thunbergia Alata 'Superstar' | Source

4. Thunbergia alata 'Superstar'

More commonly known as Black Eyed Susan, Thunbergias are very vigorous, fast-growing annual climbers that will quickly scramble over a garden obelisk or trellis, brightening even the gloomiest days up with their profusion of bright orange-colored flowers.

Many Black Eyed Susans are yellow in color, but Superstar is orange with bigger, and more eye-catching flowers.

How to Grow Thunbergia alata 'Superstar' from Seed

Grown from seed in the year it is to flower, Thunbergia alata 'Superstar' is a real superstar is anyone's garden.

The seeds are best sown under glass in February or March, and transplanted into individual pots when they are big enough to handle.

Then comes a period of gradual hardening off, before they are planted out into their final growing positions in early summer after the last frost.

cobaea scandens
cobaea scandens | Source

5. Cobaea Scandens

Commonly known as the 'cup and saucer' plant, the flowers of cobaea scandens do indeed resemble something you might drink your tea from, with their bell-shaped purple or cream flowers set on a backdrop of pale green leaves that look like saucers.

This half-hardy annual will become perennial if grown in a subtropical climate, or if taken indoors during the winter in cooler climates.

Grown from seed, these fast-growing plants will quickly scramble over a garden feature or up a trellis during the course of just one summer.

Very easy to grow, cobaea scandens produces lush foliage and highly scented flowers, making them a must for gardeners everywhere.

Ipomoea 'Heavenly Blue'
Ipomoea 'Heavenly Blue' | Source

6. Ipomoea 'Heavenly Blue'

Commonly known as Morning Glory, Ipomoea is a fast growing vine with large heart-shaped leaves that is covered in trumpet shaped flowers all summer long.

The variety Heavenly Blue is an annual, although some types of Ipomoea are perennial.

Grown from seed in spring, Morning glory quickly shoots away onwards and upwards, making it an ideal plant for a small garden trellis.

The flowers of Morning Glory always open in the morning, in the direction of the rising sun, and die in the evening, only to be replaced by the profusion of budding flowers already growing on the plant.

Planting position

Ipomoeas are best planted against a sunny wall or terrace where they are offered wind protection and heat.

Sweet Pea 'Cupani'
Sweet Pea 'Cupani' | Source

7. Sweet Pea 'Cupani'

Who could fail to fall in love with sweet peas with their brightly colored and highly-scented flowers that last all summer long?

'Cupani' is a variety of sweet pea that is often considered to be the original of the many sweet pea cultivars, and is especially highly scented, with wonderful two-tone hues of purple and violet.

Hardy annuals, sweet peas are grown from seed each year, and is often sold as plug plants in the spring, ready for planting out.

They are climbers with tendrils to support themselves, and so are best planted against a wire trellis, where they will quickly spread out and cover a wide area.

Sweet pea flowers are especially good for cutting for the house, where their scent pervades and intoxicates for weeks on end.

No summer garden is complete without the most highly-scented sweet pea of all, the Cupani.

Petunia 'Tidal wave'
Petunia 'Tidal wave' | Source

8. Petunia 'Tidal Wave'

Tidal wave petunias are simply stunning.

These half-hardy annuals grow into bush like structures that climb or cascade, depending on where they are planted.

Al summer long they are covered in the most beautiful pink, purple and white blooms with each one 4" across.

This is a must-have plant for any flower garden and would look amazing on a trellis or obelisk as a centre-piece in your yard.

Each single plant can grow to 6 feet high, with a spread of 3 feet.

Decorative Gourds
Decorative Gourds | Source

9. Decorative Gourds

You might think that ornamental gourds are an unusual choice of climber for a garden trellis, but these are fantastic plants for growing quickly to smother an area, and of course you are left with the most wonderfully attractive fruits of all shapes and sizes.

Fast growing annual climbers, gourds are commonly used as ornaments in both the home and garden.

Buy a mixed packet of seeds, and your trellis comes alive with interest as you wait with bated breath to see what shape and color the fruits will take.

Gourd vines wander all over the place, but can be easily pruned into shape as they grow.

Tropaeolum peregrinum
Tropaeolum peregrinum | Source

10. Tropaeolum peregrinum

The Canary Creeper is a member of the same family as nasturtiums, and is a wonderful climbing plant to brighten up any dark corner.

Fast growing, it quickly spreads to cover a whole trellis in bright green leaves through which the prettiest yellow flowers peeking through the foliage.

In all but the mildest gardens, it is grown as an annual as it is frost-tender.

Plant in full sun, and allow the Canary Creeper to scramble through other plants you have growing on your trellis.


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    • profile image

      Kim Evans 18 months ago

      After trailing so many websites you have finally given me the answer i was looking for! Thank you

    • profile image

      Julie tham 18 months ago

      Thanks for sharing those lovely blooms. I loved the Josephine clementis . Where can I buy it ? Also I lived in zone 3-4 in Calgary.

    • profile image

      andrea 2 years ago

      Morning glory is beautiful BUT so invasive. Within a year or two you will regret the choice and after that it will be EVERYWHERE. For your own piece of mind do not use.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Love this hub. Very useful and informative with those lovely photos. I wish I had a trellis for my new apartment.

    • profile image

      Vickie Ebbers 2 years ago

      Stella doro seeds...since the flower comes from a bulb why do they produce seeds or am I missing something here.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 2 years ago from Germany

      Thanks for sharing this very useful and informative hub. Those are all beautiful flowers. Voted this up and useful.

    • GardenExpert999 profile image

      GardenExpert999 3 years ago from Scotland

      Are you sure it is morning glory that is growing rampant in your garden and not its cousin, bindweed?

      Maybe it depends where you are in the world, but in my climate (USDA 9) I have never had a problem with it . Sorry to hear of your troubles!

    • profile image

      Kerri 3 years ago

      I'm shocked to see morning glory on this list. Most homeowners I know fight as hard as they can year after year to keep this weed from choking out EVERYTHING in their yards. Fast growing is the understatement of the year! I'm ripping out ten to twenty feet of vines every week. It's beautiful but terribly aggressive, if you must choose to cultivate this weed I suggest you do so in a pot. Your yard will thank you!

    • erorantes profile image

      Ana Maria Orantes 3 years ago from Miami Florida

      I love flowers. I enjoyed reading your article on climbing plants. They are beautiful. When they grow. Thank you for the information about the plants. You are fantastic Mr. Gardenexpert999. Your hub is creative.

    • profile image

      swarna shanmugalingam 3 years ago

      Beautiful.Loved these climbing plants. Thankyou for sharing.

    • kerlund74 profile image

      kerlund74 4 years ago from Sweden

      That clematis is amazing. Great suggestions on how to make a small garden a paradise filed with flowers!

    • vibesites profile image

      vibesites 4 years ago from United States

      I thought gourds are only for eating, but there are also decorative ones as well. Perfect for Halloween. But aren't they edible too, I wonder? I love petunias as well, and you let me discover a whole bunch of other flowers. Thanks for posting :)

    • GardenExpert999 profile image

      GardenExpert999 4 years ago from Scotland

      Isn't it funny how some years plants won't grow? Sometimes it is better to start them off late autumn indoors or in a greenhouse for the best summer display. Clematis seem to especially like acid soil, even though they are supposed to grow anywhere. You could try adding some ericaceous soil to a container and grow them there if your soil is alkaline. The Tidal Wave petunias are wonderful - you will thoroughly enjoy them!

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 4 years ago from Oklahoma

      I thoroughly enjoyed this hub! The clematis is just so beautiful, and I have had no luck with it. I have a long expanse of wire fence that I am trying to cover. So far, the decorative gourds are the the only thing growing this year.

      I hadn't heard of the Tidal Wave petunias. I am definitely going to have some next year. They are awesome! Voting, sharing and more.

    • GardenExpert999 profile image

      GardenExpert999 4 years ago from Scotland

      They are gorgeous to look at, aren't they? Thanks for commenting :)

    • FullOfLoveSites profile image

      FullOfLoveSites 4 years ago from United States

      Lovely pictures.... I never thought there is also a variety of gourd grown for decorative purposes. Thanks for sharing! Up and useful, beautiful. :)

    • GardenExpert999 profile image

      GardenExpert999 5 years ago from Scotland

      Hey thanks very much :)

    • Eileen Goodall profile image

      Eileen Goodall 5 years ago from Buckinghamshire, England

      Beautiful photography as well as flowers - thanks for sharing - pinned.

    • GardenExpert999 profile image

      GardenExpert999 5 years ago from Scotland

      It's a beautiful plant, crawling or climbing. Thanks for commenting :)

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 5 years ago from United States

      Lovely hub! Have used Tidal Wave as a "crawler" but never as a climber. Great idea.

    • Green Art profile image

      Green Art 5 years ago

      I appreciate your pointing out the link:) Keep the hubs coming!

    • GardenExpert999 profile image

      GardenExpert999 5 years ago from Scotland

      I think you have to find a supplier with plug plants, as the cultivar above must be an F1 hybrid, and is not grown from normal seed. Burpee sell all yellow Flame Thrower seeds which may be a parent of this particular variety. if we knew the other parent, we could cross our own! It is new so maybe not widely available yet. I've put a link to the developers under the nasturtium photo.

    • Green Art profile image

      Green Art 5 years ago

      Excellent HUB! Beautiful photographs of each climber and good explanations of each. I'm partial to morning glories but I'd love to try growing the flame thrower. They embody the colors of fall which is my second favorite season after spring! Voted UP and Beautiful!

    • GardenExpert999 profile image

      GardenExpert999 5 years ago from Scotland

      I am in love with all of them, what wonderful varieties! Thanks for commenting as it allowed me to see that some of this hub was missing after publication (HP experienced a site problem as I was finishing) and so of course I had to rewrite the missing words (as best as I could remember).

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      These are all beautiful climbing plants but the flame thrower is just stunning--thanks for the introduction!