Top 10 Climbing Plants for a Small Trellis

Climbing plants are great for creating screens and smothering ugly garden features or bare walls.

Flowering climbers make a really attractive feature in any garden, and here among my own personal favorites are the top 10 best climbers for a small garden trellis, the type you would build yourself, or buy ready-made from a garden center.

Flowering climbers make wonderful features in gardens. Easy to care for, they can fill your yard with scent and color all summer long, and create the perfect backdrop for your more showier plants.

Colorful flowers attract butterflies, bees and other pollinating insects into your garden, which ensures a more productive vegetable or fruit garden.

There are such a wide array of climbing plants available, that it can sometimes be difficult to choose the perfect climbers for your garden, so hopefully you will some find some ideas here.

These climbers are best grown over a small trellis, as none of them will grow out of control and cover an area higher than 6′ – 8′ high.

1. Clematis ‘Josephine’

I am especially fond of all types of clematis, and the beautiful pink/lilac hues of ‘Josephine’ is breathtaking.

Perfect for the small garden, ‘Josephine’ is a compact plant which will not grow huge and rambling.

Developed in 1998, you can grow this clematis in a container.

It is deciduous and will lose its leaves in the winter, but will return year after year.


Position in a sheltered area that is exposed to the sun for at least part of the day.


In late winter/early spring, cut out all deadwood and damaged branches back to the first strongly-growing set of leaf buds.

Mid-spring is when you can expect to see the strong growth of the new season, and this is a good time to cut out excess stems so that you have evenly spaced stems. this will encourage all-over flowers, many of which carry double flower-heads.

Abutilon 'Kentish Belle'

2. Abutilon ‘Kentish Belle’

Also called the Flowering Maple or Chinese Lantern, Abutilon plants are very vigorous growers and easy to grow. The smaller-flowered varieties can flower all year round even in winter.

This makes the Kentish Belle cultivar especially attractive as it is a member of the Abutilon megapotamicum branch of the family which have the smallest flowers.

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With attractive red and yellow flowers, the Abutilon cannot decide if it is a climber or a stand-alone shrub, but is very easy to train up a trellis by tying the stems to the support, which makes for a tidier plant.

Great companion plants for Abutilons are pale blue flowering shrubs like Ceanothusor Plumbago auriculata.

Planting Positions

Abutilons are greedy, and so thrive better when planted directly into a border or very large pot, situated in a place where it can receive regular watering and feed easily, especially if grown in a container.

They can withstand light frost but will become dormant if temperatures fall below 20οF.

They can be planted anywhere in the garden that offers sunshine or light shade, but do best protected from the strongest winds.

Winter flowering is only possible is daytime temperatures do not fall below 60οF.


Abutilon ‘Kentish Belle’ can be ruthlessly pruned to keep it under control. You can chop it all off right down to ground level, and it will come bouncing back with loads of new growth.

Nasturtium 'Flame Thrower'

3. Nasturtium ‘Flame Thrower’

I’m a great fan of nasturtiums, and the cultivar, ‘Flame Thrower’, looks like a winner.

As anyone who has ever grown nasturtiums knows, they readily set seed, and can even become a garden nuisance with their seedlings sprouting up everywhere.

Not so with Flame Thrower, as the seeds are sterile.

Half-hardy annuals, this nasturtium can climb, trail or otherwise spread, and are covered with the most delicious yellow, cream, scarlet and orange split-petal flowers that give it an attractive ragged look, and its leaves are ivy-shaped.

They are fragrant which is unusual for nasturtiums, and of course their leaves are edible.

Planting Positions

Nasturtiums can be grown in full sun or partial shade, and will flower all summer long.

Thunbergia Alata 'Superstar'

4. Thunbergia alata ‘Superstar’

More commonly known as Black Eyed Susan, Thunbergias are very vigorous, fast-growing annual climbers that will quickly scramble over a garden obelisk or trellis, brightening even the gloomiest days up with their profusion of bright orange-colored flowers.

Many Black Eyed Susans are yellow in color, but Superstar is orange with bigger, and more eye-catching flowers.

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How to Grow Thunbergia alata ‘Superstar’ from Seed

Grown from seed in the year it is to flower, Thunbergia alata ‘Superstar’ is a real superstar is anyone’s garden.

The seeds are best sown under glass in February or March, and transplanted into individual pots when they are big enough to handle.

Then comes a period of gradual hardening off, before they are planted out into their final growing positions in early summer after the last frost.

cobaea scandens

5. Cobaea Scandens

Commonly known as the ‘cup and saucer’ plant, the flowers of cobaea scandens do indeed resemble something you might drink your tea from, with their bell-shaped purple or cream flowers set on a backdrop of pale green leaves that look like saucers.

This half-hardy annual will become perennial if grown in a subtropical climate, or if taken indoors during the winter in cooler climates.

Grown from seed, these fast-growing plants will quickly scramble over a garden feature or up a trellis during the course of just one summer.

Very easy to grow, cobaea scandens produces lush foliage and highly scented flowers, making them a must for gardeners everywhere.

Ipomoea 'Heavenly Blue'

6. Ipomoea ‘Heavenly Blue’

Commonly known as Morning Glory, Ipomoea is a fast growing vine with large heart-shaped leaves that is covered in trumpet shaped flowers all summer long.

The variety Heavenly Blue is an annual, although some types of Ipomoea are perennial.

Grown from seed in spring, Morning glory quickly shoots away onwards and upwards, making it an ideal plant for a small garden trellis.

The flowers of Morning Glory always open in the morning, in the direction of the rising sun, and die in the evening, only to be replaced by the profusion of budding flowers already growing on the plant.

Planting position

Ipomoeas are best planted against a sunny wall or terrace where they are offered wind protection and heat.

Sweet Pea 'Cupani'

7. Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’

Who could fail to fall in love with sweet peas with their brightly colored and highly-scented flowers that last all summer long?

‘Cupani’ is a variety of sweet pea that is often considered to be the original of the many sweet pea cultivars, and is especially highly scented, with wonderful two-tone hues of purple and violet.

Hardy annuals, sweet peas are grown from seed each year, and is often sold as plug plants in the spring, ready for planting out.

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They are climbers with tendrils to support themselves, and so are best planted against a wire trellis, where they will quickly spread out and cover a wide area.

Sweet pea flowers are especially good for cutting for the house, where their scent pervades and intoxicates for weeks on end.

No summer garden is complete without the most highly-scented sweet pea of all, the Cupani.

Petunia 'Tidal wave'

8. Petunia ‘Tidal Wave’

Tidal wave petunias are simply stunning.

These half-hardy annuals grow into bush like structures that climb or cascade, depending on where they are planted.

Al summer long they are covered in the most beautiful pink, purple and white blooms with each one 4″ across.

This is a must-have plant for any flower garden and would look amazing on a trellis or obelisk as a centre-piece in your yard.

Each single plant can grow to 6 feet high, with a spread of 3 feet.

Decorative Gourds

9. Decorative Gourds

You might think that ornamental gourds are an unusual choice of climber for a garden trellis, but these are fantastic plants for growing quickly to smother an area, and of course you are left with the most wonderfully attractive fruits of all shapes and sizes.

Fast growing annual climbers, gourds are commonly used as ornaments in both the home and garden.

Buy a mixed packet of seeds, and your trellis comes alive with interest as you wait with bated breath to see what shape and color the fruits will take.

Gourd vines wander all over the place, but can be easily pruned into shape as they grow.

Tropaeolum peregrinum

10. Tropaeolum peregrinum

The Canary Creeper is a member of the same family as nasturtiums, and is a wonderful climbing plant to brighten up any dark corner.

Fast growing, it quickly spreads to cover a whole trellis in bright green leaves through which the prettiest yellow flowers peeking through the foliage.

In all but the mildest gardens, it is grown as an annual as it is frost-tender.

Plant in full sun, and allow the Canary Creeper to scramble through other plants you have growing on your trellis.