Climbing plants can make a lovely addition to a landscape or home, but are they suitable for everyone?
Some beautiful specimens of climbing plants are available at your local garden center or DIY store. If you, like so many others, want to grow tall plants and vines but are stuck on a rental property and worry about any damage long, trailing plants could cause, you can rest easy. There’s an easy way to have climbing plants in your home; you don’t have to plant them directly in the ground. Simple containers can often be the best spot for climbing plants. Imagine how beautiful it would be to have two planters on either side of your front door featuring classic morning glory or iconic climbing roses. You’ll get the spectacle of vertical gardening with much more versatility.
Finding the Right Containers
Knowing how to choose the suitable container for your garden comes down to size and depth. Consider the root system of the species you’re planting, and ask yourself if you’re working with a climbing plant that grows downward or a creeping plant with roots that tend to spread out in a wide berth. Many planters make the mistake of focusing solely on water drainage when setting up their container gardens. While proper planter irrigation is essential, it prevents the roots of your climbing plant from getting overly wet and rotting, and so is picking the right size, shape, and depth.
Preparing Your Containers
So what happens if you find the perfect container but it doesn’t have good drainage? Depending on what your planter’s made of, you can add some drainage holes yourself. Plastic is the most accessible material to create drainage using a power drill or a hammer and nails. Ceramic planters are a bit trickier, but drainage can be added carefully using either a masonry bit for unglazed ceramic pots or a glass/tile bit for glazed ceramic containers. The key here is to take your time, as rushing could damage your planter. Still, these homemade holes can provide just as much drainage for your climbing plants as an expensive planter that looks like Swiss cheese can.
Even if your container already has adequate drainage holes, you can give your climbers a leg up by adding a layer of rocks and some sand to the very bottom. Then, follow up with the growing media you plan on using. Some climbing plants do better with these amendments to the soil, so tailor your enhancements to fit the needs of your climbing or hanging plant.
Climbing Plants vs. Hanging Plants
Containers should also be sturdy enough to support the upward weight of their climbing plants as they grow. Some planters may tip as your plant gets taller and more substantial. For instance, Chinese Wisteria is a beautiful plant and can spice up any area, but it’s also surprisingly heavy, and the larger it grows, the more strain will be put on your container. It would help if you looked for a container with room for an added support system or even one with a built-in trellis in place.
Alternatively, you can transform your climbing plants into hanging plants by suspending your containers and skipping the trellis. Virginia creeper, for example, is a fast-growing vine that can quickly climb a trellis and reach for the skies or beautifully spill out of a hanging planter with cascading blooms. It can also take over an area with aggressive growth, so do your homework on each plant you want to use.
Planting Your Containers
As with any planting, you can either start your seeds or buy an established seedling from a garden center. Several climbing plants are easy to start from sources, such as morning glories, black-eyed Susans, and moonflowers. Plus, starting entirely from scratch and seeing what you can nurture can be fun. One helpful trick to prep your seeds before planting is to nick the seed coat lightly and wrap the source in a damp paper towel to make it sprout faster. The sooner you have that healthy sprout, the sooner you can place it into your prepared container.
Not all plants are simple to start from seeds (roses, we’re looking at you), and there’s nothing wrong with getting instant gratification from a seedling planted in a container for fast curb appeal. Grow smart, not hard.
Climbing Plants That Work Well in Containers
Putting climbers and creepers in planters is not everyone’s first instinct, as, again, climbing plants are typically vines that wrap around trellises and crawl up walls. So if you choose containers, choose a climber that will thrive in that setting. Some possibilities include sweet peas, morning glories, ivy bougainvillea, climbing hydrangea, passion flower, Virginia creeper, climbing roses, clematis, trumpet vine, honeysuckle, common jasmine, grapes, wisteria, and canary creeper. This list is just a short selection of potential plants to use in your container, and several of them are known for aggressive growth. Also, ensure you are not bringing an invasive plant into your garden. Ivies, wisterias, and honeysuckle all have intrusive members in their families, so take care and ask questions. Don’t be shy when picking out your plants at the garden center. Talk to the staff for recommendations if you’re not finding one you like. They’ll be able to steer you away from the plants that won’t do well in containers or are potentially invasive.
Maintaining Your Planters
It’s time to start changing your landscape with some lovely climbing plants in containers around your home and garden. As each plant is unique, you’ll want to ensure you’re giving them all proper care as they grow taller over time. For instance, any plant in a container will dry out quicker than those planted in the soil. If you’ve suspended any of your planters, an excellent way to check their moisture levels is to try lifting them with your palm. A damp and heavy feel means good water in your soil, but lightweight or chalky-feeling soil may be time to water. Before long, your climbing plants will be the envy of all your neighbors.