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The tendrils of Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) help the plant cling to a support
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Robert Mineau)

Climbing plants are a major asset in small gardens; they offer a maximum of leaves and blossoms for a minimum of ground space.

Their vertical growth gives volume to a garden and is a playful way to cover arches, pergolas and trellises.  

They play a useful role by hiding unattractive areas in the yard or creating a natural privacy screen. When grown around shrubs, they give them new life with a second set of blossoms.

There are various groups of climbing plants, identified by their growth forms. Trailing plants have long, flexible stems that require support in order to grow vertically.

Twiners support themselves by coiling themselves around a support. Yet others have developed tendrils or pad-like suckers at the tips of their stems or leaves that cling to a support.

Finally, another group of plants has aerial roots with crampons that cling to rough surfaces.

Although all these plants are called “climbers,” very few of their long stems can grow upward without some form of support. You should assist them by tying the bottom shoots to a solid, firmly anchored structure. Otherwise, you will end up with a messy tangle of stems. Without some form of support, many species become ground covers.

Based on an article by Gabriel Gauthier in Quatre-Temps magazine, Vol. 20, No. 1

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