Rules For Selecting And Installing Supports For Climbing Plants

With the help of climbing plants and various supports for them you can literally take garden design to new levels. But in the matter of finding the best designs and options for supporting garden vines everything is far from simple. Supports should not only meet the purely practical tasks, but also correspond to the features of the climbers themselves, be durable, reliable and fit into the style of the garden. There are a lot of rules in selecting supports for favorite lianas, as well as nuances that are worth paying attention to.

Rules for selecting and installing supports for climbing plants
Selecting a support for climbing plants


  • The plant comes first, not the support
  • Criteria for choosing a climbing plant support
  • Types of climbing plant supports
  • Attention to detail and a bid for durability
  • Basic rules for installing climbing plant supports

The plant comes first, Not the support

As one of the main tools of vertical gardening, garden vines know no competitors in solving important decorative tasks. From facade gardening to decorating arches and pergolas, pergolas and fences, climbing plants can do almost anything. But lianas will not perform their functions without a support that allows them to climb to new heights and reveal all their beauty.

Selection and then installation of supports for climbing plants is not a simple matter. In fact, besides the shape, size and price you have to take into account dozens of other important factors. Mistakes in the choice of supports is unacceptable. Fortunately, the difficulties in observing the rules of selecting a suitable base for any liana are more than compensated by the great variety of both the plants themselves and the variants of supports for them.

The question of what to choose first - a climbing plant or a support - is a lot of controversy. Because the structure is installed first, it is considered that firstly the structure is chosen, and then the liana is planted to it according to one's taste. But this is not always the right approach: Not all climbers can be planted on just about anything.

And different constructions and different climbers have their own individual characteristics and preferences. If we are talking about large pergolas, gazebos or other massive structures that involve large construction work, the first thing to think about is these structures.

In all other cases, start choosing a support for a liana is not at all with the structures themselves, studying their assortment and the features of different options, but with the analysis of climbing plants that you plan to use. After all, such supports are selected individually for each liana. And if you want the choice to be successful, it is better to evaluate the features of specific plants-candidates in terms of their purely practical properties.

Groups of lianas by practical characteristics

Before selecting structures and deciding how exactly to "raise" the liana to a height, it is worth evaluating its features. All climbing plants are different not only in their decorative qualities and size, but also in their weight, tenacity, the ability to remove plants from the support in the future. In terms of weightiness and purely practical characteristics, lianas are conditionally divided into three groups:

  1. Powerful climbing plants, rising to a multimeter height, creating with age a large mass of shoots or having stems of large diameter, whose weight requires installation of reliable, stable supports, appropriate to the load that they will face. The great weight of actinidia or wisteria, maiden vines, and even climbing roses with age requires the construction of reliable structures.
  2. Light lianas whose above-ground part does not become very heavy even after years, and flexible, docile shoots can grow even on the simplest supports. Typical "light" lianas are the lemongrass and clematis, whose flexible shoots and light leaves permit the most ornate structures of little weight.
  3. Lying  plants that are firmly attached to the support, making it impossible to remove them. This includes campsis, which cannot be detached from the support even if you want to.
Rules for selecting and installing supports for climbing plants
Support in the form of a screen of stretched fishing line for light climbing plants. © tetawowe

Criteria for choosing a support for climbing plants

Supports for garden vines are very different. They differ not only in materials and sizes, silhouettes and contours, but also in their functional purpose. Supports can be supportive or retaining - allowing the stems to rise to their full length and revealing the essence of any climbing plant - or formative - giving the liana its growth direction, silhouette and volumetric shape.

There are three important factors to consider in selecting a support for climbing, climbing and climbing plants:

  1. The direction of the plant's growth, its desired abridges and configuration.
  2. The decorative task that vertical landscaping accomplishes - masking, protection from prying eyes, introducing vertical accents, playing up shapes or silhouettes, introducing counterweights, attracting the eye, etc. etc.
  3. Positioning in space in relation to buildings and other big objects - planting by a wall or fence, arbour or object of small architecture, growing as a separate vertical element in the form of a conventional tent, creation of green screens or screens on separate lattice supports, planting near old trees etc.

Stypes of supports for climbing plants

The division of supports into three kinds - small architectural forms, wall structures and solitary plants - is important, but much more practical is a little different classification. After all, the installation of an arch, although it belongs to small architecture, is much closer to an obelisk or pyramid than to a heavyweight pergola.

Depending on the decorative task and functional purpose allocate:

Posts used for landscaping vertical planes

Selecting support for a climbing plant that plans to plant at the fence, arbor, house wall and use in landscaping the facade, it is worth remembering that growing directly on buildings and fences, using the basic structure as a support - not the best option.

It's not just the fact that the natural mechanisms that enable the vines to cling to the support are sometimes so strong that they can destroy the walls and materials themselves, but it's also a matter of sanitary standards. The green mass will increase humidity under the liana, will lead to great corrosion and deterioration of coatings and materials, not to mention the consequences of creating an ideal environment for pests and fungal diseases.

Care for wall coverings, especially when it comes to the facade of the house, will be complicated, and often impossible, as will repair work. Therefore, when landscaping walls, buildings, structures and fences with lianas, it is better to use additional support, which will only be approached, but not closely located on the surface of the landscaping.

Growing climbing plants on mesh or linear supports, wooden and plastic grids, trellises and guide cords rather than directly on the structure will minimize damage and achieve the task without depriving themselves of normal maintenance of the cover.

The type of wall supports is better selected by the type of liana. For example, wild grapes or hydrangeas will easily climb and on guide cords or wire mesh, but ivy prefers trellises, trellises, etc.

Distance to the walls should be minimal, but within reasonable limits. For wooden structures, trellises and other supports next to each other should preferably be 30 cm from the wall. And for metal, stone, artificial coverings, concrete and brick - at least 40 cm.

Rules for selecting and installing supports for climbing plants
Posts for clematis planted along the house wall

Posts for separately growing climbing plants - hipped forms

The hipped form of growing is conditionally called any growing of solitaire vines, involving the location on an independent support - as a separate, beautiful in silhouette vertical element in space. On pyramids, obelisks, spheres, arches climbing plants are placed near recreation areas or over a bench, by the path and over it, creating picturesque passages, and also introduced in the design of flower beds and squares.

Construction and type of materials are chosen according to the massiveness and weight of the liana, and decorative qualities - depending on whether the structure itself will be visible and what its role in creating a complete image.

Supports to create hedges and screens with climbing plants

Creating screens or green walls with climbing plants is possible thanks to wooden or mesh supports - shields, grids, trellises - wide-meshed nets mounted or stretched between reliable "poles".

Synthetic supports are increasingly replacing wooden structures, grids and nets are replaced by cables stretched between reliable poles, but the essence of such support elements does not change. They are not only suitable for lighter, flexible and easily formed vines, but also require reliable attachment to the base supports.

Large and massive architectural supports

Separately we should consider the most massive supports - pergolas, open arbors, inclined supports and green tunnels. Strong and high wooden beams, fastened at the top by horizontal bars, a strong frame of metal supporting tubes, holding shields or a "roof", which is completely covered by lianas, look impressive and always attract attention. Supports for pergola or tunnel need to be securely fixed in the soil, and the connection of individual parts into a single architectural element requires special skills.

Attention to detail and bet on durability

The selection of practical characteristics of supports for garden lianas should begin with the analysis of structures on the resistance to load. If you buy pre-made supports, the manufacturer usually specifies what kind of climbing plants they can be used with and what maximum weight they will withstand. But there are much more universal rules of selection:

  • For climbing plants the thickness of main structural elements must be minimum 3 cm;
  • For climbing plants the shoots of which will be tied up, having suckers or root climbing the thickness of structure is not important, the main thing is stability and the maximum possible load;
  • for massive climbers with woody shoots the minimum thickness of main support in structure is 10 cm.
Rules for selecting and installing supports for climbing plants
Top for climbers as a round arch for directional growth of plants

Materials for supports are so widely available today that the choice is best made on the basis of the garden design style and your own preferences. Plastic and fiberglass, metal structures, wood in a variety of forms, wire mesh should be appropriate for a particular site.

When choosing, do not forget about the finishing materials of the house, small architecture, paths or grounds, used garden furniture: supports should not discord with other elements of garden design.

The quality, reliability, resistance to corrosion of the materials from which the supports are made - an important parameter that cannot be ignored. Wooden beams, forged or cast elements, metal supports, modern synthetic materials and plastics should be durable, resistant to moisture, frost, corrosion, or allow for annual treatment with special agents that prevent them.

Durability and reliability are important both for the main structure and for cables, wires or ropes, rungs and additional elements that decorate it or serve to guide and garter the shoots along the support.

Basic rules of installation of supports for climbing plants

Treatment of structures with protective agents and impregnations should be carried out before the support is installed in the soil.

Posts are always better to install before planting the climbing plant itself. This rule is considered obligatory only for heavy, having considerable weight structures, but even for light lianas digging a support or construction work on its fixing can lead to unexpected consequences. If possible, it is better to install the supports in time and in advance, at the stage of preparing the planting hole.

When installing a support and digging into the soil for wooden structures and materials prone to corrosion, measures for additional protection or creation of a drainage layer preventing direct contact with the soil must be taken. If the erection of the support requires additional reinforcements, it always starts with concrete pads and their counterparts. The installation always moves from the basic supporting elements, supporting pillars and the lower part of the structures upwards and to the decorative details. The minimum digging level for perennial climbing supports is 60 cm. If you dig the support to a lower depth any strong vines will in time simply turn it out of the soil.

For the heaviest climbers whose supports are made of logs or metal pipes it is advisable to bury the supports in the ground to a level of about 1 m or to provide additional concrete reinforcements. The depth depends on the height of the support itself: if it exceeds 2 m, the depth of immersion should be at least 30%.

Rules for selecting and installing supports for climbing plants
Pergola for climbing roses planted near the terrace

Carrying out works, you should always control the quality of installation and level the position of the structure. Even an inconspicuous slope over time will cause great problems, under the weight of the liana it can lead to serious displacement and distortion, and even the destruction of structures. Supports should be installed evenly from the very beginning, not afraid to double-check all indicators.

Start directing climbing plants to the supports immediately after planting. Creating a quality basis for the plant, the correct location and distribution of the main shoots will enable to competently distribute the load on the support, to control the growth and development of the plant, will simplify the process of direction and formation in the future. The basis created in the first years is a guarantee that there will be no problems when growing on a support in the future.

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