How to Choose Seasonal Climbing Plants

Learn more about the bountiful climbing plants that will work best for your arch or pergola depending on the climate and temperature.

White Clematis Montana

White Climbing Clematis Montana

Photo By: DK - Arches & Pergolas © 2000 Dorling Kindersley Limited View original photo.

DK - Arches & Pergolas, 2000 Dorling Kindersley Limited


Keeping interest in a garden all year round can be a difficult job, especially in small gardens, where the view is of the whole. Larger gardens may have the luxury of different "rooms" for different times of the year. For both, the range of climbing plants available can, through flower, foliage, and fruits, ensure that appeal is maintained through all the seasons. Failing that, a well-designed arch or pergola can be a feature itself during the winter months.

Spring Climbers

Many clematis are among the earliest flowering climbers to enliven pergolas and archways. Clematis alpine 'Frances Rivis' has pale blue flowers followed by fluffy seedheads. It tolerates exposed conditions and lower light levels than other varieties. A more vigorous clematis for this time of year is C. Montana ('Elizabeth'), whose soft pink, scented flowers appear in late spring.

Summer Interest

This is the time of year that offers a wide choice and is the season when most people want to be outside enjoying their gardens.

Bougainvillea Makes Dramatic Statement in Garden

Bougainvillea Makes Dramatic Statement in Garden

Photo By: DK - Arches & Pergolas ©© 2000 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Arches & Pergolas, © 2000 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Fragrant climbers flourish in summer, especially when planted around seating areas. A good example is the star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), which has small, fragrant white flowers, followed by seedpods. It is an evergreen climber and, in a sheltered site, provides good screening. Actinidia kolomikta is a deciduous, twining climber. Its green leaves are tipped with pink and white, as though they have been dipped into paint.

Many of the honeysuckles (Lonicera) are useful summer climbers: they are vigorous, rapidly covering any overhead structure. Most are scented and evergreen, too. L. japonica var. repens, for example, has all these attributes and an interesting purple flush in the leaves and flowers. Roses, in many forms, can always be relied upon for summer flowers and fragrance.

Autumn and Winter

Several climbers, notably grapes (Vitis) and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus) color dramatically in autumn, clothing arches and pergolas with their vibrant oranges and reds.

Vitis Coignetiae Grape Vine

Grape Vine's Fall Foliage

Photo By: DK - Arches & Pergolas © 2000 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Arches & Pergolas, 2000 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Few climbing plants, apart from ivy and other evergreens, have much interest in winter. An exception is the winter-flowering, evergreen Clematis cirrhosa (var. balearica).

Large Winter Clematis Seedheads

Large Winter Clematis Seedheads

Photo By: DK - Arches & Pergolas © 2000 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Arches & Pergolas, 2000 Dorling Kindersley Limited

More Climbers for Seasonal Interest:

Akebia quinata Vanilla-scented purple-brown flowers in late spring, followed by purple fruit.
Clematis armandii Evergreen climber with small, fragrant, white flowers.
Schisandra rubriflora Deciduous twining plant, small red flowers.

Berberidopsis corallina Red flowers. Evergreen.
Clematis ('Nelly Moser') Large pink-and-white striped flowers.
Lonicera Many, especially L. japonica ('Aureoreticulata') and L. periclymenum ('Graham Thomas').
Rosa Various plant options.
Wisteria Various plant options.

Campsis x tagliabuana ('Madame Galen') Orange-red trumpet-shaped flowers.
Clematis tangutica Fluffy seedheads follow yellow lantern-shaped flowers.
Vitis vinifera ('Purpurea'), V. coignetiae Large, heart-shaped leaves

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