Pergolas are a great way to dress up your garden. They can add shade and decoration to your eating and dining space in your garden – especially with garden furniture beneath. Adding a climbing plant to a pergola gives it even more of a luxurious feel.
Pergolas with climbers surrounding them are hugely trending, Rooftop bars adorn their outdoor space with pergolas and climbers, and the recent smash sensation Bridgerton was laced with wisteria and outdoor arches.
There’s a huge range of climbing plants out there, including those ideal for shade, scented climbers, fast growing climbers and show stopping, award of garden merit winners. Even if you’re lacking in space there are climbers that can be grown in containers.
So get the look and the best climber for your garden with our advice on the best climbers for pergolas below:
Honeysuckle comes in a variety of sunny shades including yellow, cream, white, pink orange and raspberry red. They’re most fragrant during the evening as even though they attract a variety of pollinators, they are normally pollinated by moths!
Ideal if you enjoy an evening stroll around your garden. And aren’t afraid of moths.
As well as being a favourite of pollinators like bees, they also produce red berries which are enjoyed by birds. Poisonous for people though, so don’t eat them yourself.
There are evergreen varieties available such as ‘Lonicera periclymenum Belgica’ and ‘Delavay Honeysuckle’, which are ideal if you want year round interest. They’re also great if you’re using the climber to assist in covering up something unsightly.
Some varieties even love the shade. These are ideal if you have a north facing garden but still want to enjoy the beauty of a climber.
How to Care for Honeysuckle
During dry spells of the summer, be sure to water regularly. You can feed with a general purpose fertiliser. Mulch with good quality compost or manure to help retain moisture.
Plant in a location where the plant itself is in the sun but the roots are in the shade. Honeysuckle can be prone to attack from aphids so will need protection from them to bloom fully. A little soapy water spray will do the trick.
Lonicera ‘Gold Flame’ is a deciduous, or semi-evergreen climber with richly-fragrant flowers.
Native to China and Japan, wisteria is probably the most aesthetically pleasing climber. It comes in either purple or white blooms and does well in the shade – perfect for a pergola attached to a house.
A fast growing and a vigorous climber, Japanese wisteria is said to be the best for pergolas due to its long spray of flowers. Whilst it’s easier to grow wisteria on a wall, they can still be trained to grow on a sturdy pergola with training. Wisteria is beautifully scented, iconic and instantly recognizable.
Grow wisteria in well-drained and fertile soil. Wisteria will be at its best in full sun but can still do well in dappled light.
Wisteria Sinensis is an award of garden merit winner. A deciduous climber with lilac flowers, a vigorous chinese wisteria.
It’s a great one for pergolas as it can be pruned back to avoid getting too heavy or unruly. Wisteria sinensis is repeat flowering meaning it’ll flower all through the season, making a pretty addition to your pergola.
Best planted in well drained soil and a position in full sun, although dappled shade will be tolerated. A very strong and beautifully scented climber.
Clematis, known as the ‘Queen of Climbers’ for its large show-stopping blooms, is an ideal plant for a pergola. It can be found in such a wide array of varieties it can be a tough choice just choosing which one is best.
The best types of clematis are both evergreen and scented such as Clematis Armandii ‘Apple Blossom’. Most varieties are scented so finding one that’s both scented and evergreen is uncommon.
The other important thing to know about clematis is they come in different pruning groups, which depend largely on when the clematis flowers.
Pruning Group 1 is for early-flowering and requires minimal pruning of just removing spent flowers. If the climber looks like it’s struggling then it can be cut back to 15cm above the base for a refresh.
Pruning Group 2 consists of those that flower in May and June and might repeat flower. Again they require only the flowers to be cut back
Pruning Group 3 is for the late bloomers that flower in mid to late summer. This one does require more consistent pruning or else it will result in a complete mess come next growing season.
Clematis Armandii ‘Apple Blossom’ is a rare type of clematis as it’s both scented and evergreen, providing year round interest to your garden and also being scented when the majority of clematis are not scented.
Apple Blossom Clematis carries a sweet, slightly nutty, almond scent. Flowering abundantly between March and April.
Planted in a sheltered and west-facing location for best growth, the plant can reach heights of up to 5m tall so can grow and grow! A vigorous climber that’s also an award of garden merit winner. Additionally, this plant is great as it requires no additional pruning except if the plant is getting a bit too big or unruly for you.
Jasmine has a heavy floral scent that’s well known for use in perfumes. There are both summer and winter blooming varieties and also varieties of jasmine that are ideal for growing in the shade.
Be sure to check out our jasmine plant care guide for information on how to care and grow jasmine.
Winter Jasmine or Jasminium Nudiflorum is a brightly coloured climber. Named winter jasmine as it flowers even in winter to provide year round colour. It’s a great climber as it can also be grown in a pot or container if you’re limited on space.
Winter jasmine is also great at supporting pollinators within your garden. Low maintenance, long arching branches and repeat flowering – Winter jasmine is the best.
Jasminum Officinale ‘Clotted Cream’ also has a lovely sweet floral scent. In order to bring this out more, plant in a warm sunny position, sheltered from the elements in well drained soil.
This variety has larger flowers which have an even stronger fragrance. The star-shaped blooms are creamy-coloured. It’s a spreading plant that will quickly flow in all directions so will need training and careful pruning to encourage it into the right direction onto your pergola.
It’s also a plants for pollinators winner, so ideal in helping out our fuzzy little friends, the bees!
Ivy is a great generalist climber that can suit many gardening schemes. It can look fabulous when paired with gothic architecture, or as part of a cottage gardening scheme.
A deciduous perennial with three-lobed leaves that are great for making leaf mould, Ivy is a fast grower that’s great for hiding ugly features. However, these fast growing properties mean that pruning is very necessary.
Ivy can be problematic damaging gutters, roofing and wood siding if left unmaintained. It can cling to almost anything, so plant this climber with caution.
Despite being exotic in appearance, passion flowers are easy for beginner gardeners. They produce freely during their flowering period of summer, but also bloom all the way until autumn giving them a long flowering period.
How to Care for Passion Flower
Hardy passion flowers can be grown outdoors in a sunny spot, which is sheltered from the elements. As they are a bit more tender than other climbers, they are best planted once frosts have passed in the spring. They need annual pruning and enjoy a well-drained soil.
A grapevine might not be the most interesting climber, lacking any statement flowers – although it does have it perks. It’s great for those with vineyard aspirations and, unless the grapes are left too long where they split and fall off, its not going to attract too many pesky wasps.
Great for a pergola attached to a house in a south facing garden as the grapes love a sunny, sheltered spot. Grape vines are large, vigorous climbers.
With large egg-shaped leaves, the Crimson glory vine is a great addition for a pergola. A Japanese original and an award of garden merit winner, its 3-5 lobed leaves can reach sizes of up to 30cm big.
Whilst the grapes on this plant will produce a red wine, it’s actually named after the gorgeous burgundy red leaves it produces come autumn, providing year round interest and autumnal warmth to your garden.
The red leaves in the autumn will look really pretty against brickwork if your pergola is attached to your house. A vigorous, deciduous climber, plant your crimson glory vine in well-drained soil that receives either full sun or partial shade.
How to Care for Grape Vines
Water deeply in spring, especially if the weather is dry, to ensure nice plump grapes come summer. Continue to water regularly during summer as erratic watering can encourage the grapes to split. The major pruning season for grape vines is in the early winter.
Great for a cottage garden aesthetic, climbing roses bring height and abundance to your garden. A wonderfully romantic plant, despite their thorny stems.
Water regularly during the summer and generously apply mulch to avoid drying out and increase the chances of late-season flowering. Visit our comprehensive guide on climbing roses for full details on how to grow the best roses around.
The Madame Alfred Carrière Climbing rose is a gorgeous white rose, winner of the award of garden merit (which aims to assist in making informed choices and the best plants for your garden).
A popular climber all the way back to Victorian times, possibly due to its thornless properties. It’s double flowering and repeat flowering, making it perfect for a pergola. Your pergola will be adorned beautifully, with fragranced blooms continuously flowering in summer and autumn.
Madame Gregoire Staechelin is another award of garden merit winner in a gorgeous pink shade with masses of fragrant, frilly petals. This rose blooms large flowers between June to July and is fully hardy.
A large vigorous climber that will add romantic beauty to any pergola.
Nasturtiums are not the first plants you might consider when thinking of climbers, as they are an annual, meaning they will only last a year. A great option if you’re unsure about keeping your pergola and climber and want to get a trial for how a flowering plant might look draped over your structure. Nasturtiums produce masses of vividly coloured blooms, but to bloom well they need at least half a day of sunshine.
Interestingly, the flowers and leaves are both edible. Time for a curious salad perhaps?
How do you attach climbing plants to a pergola?
When planting, position the climber at an angle towards the support, using small canes to cover any gaps. Then you can use wire mesh up the pergola support and gently bend in shoots as they grow. To cover the pergola quickly, train the shoots to climb straight up the posts. Otherwise, if you feel less time-restrained you can train them to wind around the posts of your pergola.
One of the other things to consider when trying to decide the best climber for your pergola is to think about if your pergola is structurally sound enough. A whole tree will be bearing most of its weight on your structure, so make sure it can carry a bit of force.