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Care and Maintenance of Climbing Plants

It goes without saying that climbing plants require maintenance and trimming! After the initial development phase the plant will eventually cover the desired area, which requires ongoing maintenance to sustain the plant and its appearance. The level of care and maintenance can vary significantly in both phases depending on the plant species. This section shows how skilful plant selection and a clear delineation of the area to be greened will optimise your maintenance work. The photos of the climbing plants in this section are also available as posters (click on Poster for enlarged view).

Pruning and maintaining climbing plants

Plant Selection and Maintenance (refer to Diagram)

The English Ivy (Hedera) and other self-clinging plants such as Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) and Virginia Creeper (P. quinquefolia) have the advantage that they hardly require any growth supports and minimal maintenance during the establishment period. Watering is rarely required. After approx. 5-10 years, it is time for the first trim.  During the following years, once the entire greening area is covered - usually up to the eaves - considerable yearly pruning work is required in order to keep eaves and windows free, at least in theory... However, in practice this maintenance is often neglected and problems on the roof are overlooked, until the roofer discovers them...


Hops and annual climbing plants: maintenance focuses predominantly on the soil (watering, fertilising) and on removing the withered shoots in autumn. Maintenance remains rather low during all years. Similar with the Clematis hybrids, which are usually  purchased for one season with the knowledge that these plants will die off and new ones will have to replace them the following year.


Honeysuckles and other twining plants such as Akebia or even the Climbing Hydrangea require often a lot of initial care to grow on. Being stingy with the maintenance at this stage does not pay, because the plants will not thrive and the greening project will not survive the first development phase. Well cultivated plants will develop strong shoot growth, which is beneficial in the next establishment phase, however, they may also become a bit of a nuisance during the sustainable phase. Without regular pruning, large amounts of dead shoots will result, which can accumulate into metre-thick masses of dead wood. Watering is often required or at least helpful, and some hard pruning is required every 3-5 years to allow more light into the plant and generally rejuvenate it.


Silver Lace Vine (or Russian Vine): Initial maintenance is minimal, but already in the next development phase considerable pruning measures are required to control the extremely vigorous growth. Watering is barely necessary. Bittersweet behaves similarly, but will require a little more water.

Blooming climbing plant (Clematis)
Grapevine: Greening only parts of a trellis reduces the level of maintenance
Climbing plant on a trellis
Climbing Roses
Wall greening with roses
Grapevine: Low espaliers are easily accessed
Trellis on house
Honeysuckle: Pot cultivation needs additional water
Greening of pillars and supports
Trumpet Vine
Self-clinging (Trumpet vine Campsis)

Dutchman's Pipes (Aristolochia macrophylla and A. tomentosa): These species require a lot of initial care in order to grow on, but after that, apart from their relatively high water needs, they are almost maintenance free, because they develop rather sparse shoot growth requiring little trimming. The biomass is consists mostly of the large leaves, which drop off in autumn.  


The Thicket Creeper (or Woodbine) (Parthenocissus inserta) and eg Clematis montana have rather low maintenance requirements during all phases, need usually little water and are therefore a favourite for greening projects. From time to time some pruning is required to allow more light into the plant and for its rejuvenation.


Grapevine  (Vitis vinifera) as well as Espaliered Fruit Trees, Climbing Roses (Rosa), Trumpet Vines (Campsis) and Wisteria (Wisteria) can develop their vigorous growth on a façade only if they are trained very strictly into shape and maintained thus through regular pruning. This high maintenance regime will continue throughout the lifespan of these plants. Except for the Wisteria, their water needs are also rather high. For grapevines, roses and espaliered trees, an additional and very important aspect of plant care is the plant protection (spraying and / or best species selection).

Size of Greening Area

It is undisputed that a larger greening area also attracts more work, eg more watering and more pruning. The costs rise in proportion to the size of the greening area, however they escalate with the increasing height of a wall due to accessibility issues. 

Up to 2m high: Small espaliers, detail greenings, as well as greenings along the base up to 2m high can always be reached without aid and managed by one person.

Up to 5m high: Up to this height, greenings can be reached easily with a leaning ladder, whereby the ladder should always be secured by a second person, doubling of course already the number of workers.

Over  5m high: High façade greenings can often only be reached via a cherry-picker, which is very expensive. Within the public space, an application usually has to be made to have the street cordoned off, signs put in place, and during the work the area has to be secured against falling debris. The cherry-picker has to be collected, set up, then disassembled and driv workers can easily cost 1000 Euros, which can add up to multiples of the original establishment costs! en back. A single such operation with a cherry-picker and 3 

Grapevine: Summer pruning and tying may be required, as in this case, where the canes are sagging with the weight of the grapes
Tips on how to trim or prune climbing plants
Grapevine: Higher espaliers are more difficult to reach
Here Clematis viticella