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Growth Type: Petiole Climbers (Leaf Tendril Climbers)

The voluble petiole climbers, also known as 'leaf tendril climbers,' have a very particular growth strategy that is found most commonly among clematis. They wind their leaf stalks ~ petioles (actually thread-like modified leaves!) ~ around thin objects and thus stabilise the plants in their upward growth. Note: petiole climbers won't cause building damage! A much more well known group of tendril climbers ~ the stem tendril climbers ~ is described separately.

Climbing Supports

Apart from a few exceptions (Clematis vitalba and Clematis montana), petiole climbers don't develop a strong stem structure. For this reason, they require light and delicate support systems with rather fine mesh (small grid spacing). Wire ropes are optimal, but thin rods, as used for bamboo espaliers, are very suitable as well. Thicker rods or staffs, such as those used in wooden espaliers, require the use of plant ties. The finest meshes --  trellis nettings (made of synthetic materials like plastic or nylon) or wire mesh (like chicken wire) -- are suitable, but the disadvantage is that bits of lignified tendrils and shoots accumulate every year and tend to get stuck in the meshes, making removal quite a bit more tedious.

Suitable Wire Rope Systems

Wire rope systems with mesh sizes of approx. 25 – 30 cm, like wire rope systems 5040 or 5050, are most suitable. It's fine for the vertical ropes dominate, so that the meshes form upright rectangles rather than squares. Usually medium wire rope systems, or even easy and light systems, suffice.

Wire Rope Systems with Limited Suitability

Single vertical wire ropes are not very suitable, as they don't give the plant enough grip. Likewise, arrangements with only one horizontal wire at the top, where the flowers should be able to take up all the space they need without limitation, are not very fitting. Also of limited suitability are: systems with predominantly horizontal wires and mesh sizes which are too wide; with the latter it becomes impossible to cover an area in its entirety. However, if you want to achieve a particular growth effect, for example overhanging/cascading growth, then you can do so with these types of cable systems.


Systems with very small mesh sizes or tightly arranged wires are not optimal either, as they are not only expensive, but they don't offer the plant any additional advantage. The maintenance required (removing tendrils) would be an additional downside.

Unsuitable Wire Rope Systems

Rope systems which are not big/tall enough to accommodate the expected growth height of the respective plant species are obviously also not a good fit.

Petiole Climber - clematis
Clematis montana
clematis on steel rope