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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 stems --petioles-- around thin objects and thus stabilise the plants in their upward growth. Note: petiole climbers don't cause building damage! A much more well known group of 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 small grid (lattice) widths. Wire ropes are optimal, but thin rods, as used in bamboo espaliers, are very suitable as well. Thicker rods or staffs, such as those used in wooden espaliers, require the use of plant ties. Narrow-meshed grid structures, such as trellis nettings (made of synthetic materials such as plastic or nylon) or wire mesh (like chicken wire), are suitable, but their disadvantage is that every year many lignified tendrils remain on the climbing support and may then need to be removed, which is somewhat 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. The vertical ropes may be dominant, which means that the meshes form upright rectangles rather than squares. Usually medium wire rope systems, or even easy and light systems, suffice.

Wire Rope Systems of “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 splendor of the flowers is to unfold, 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 achieve an entire covering of the area. However, should one tolerate or even wish to have a different growth form from the usual one, for example overhanging growth, then all these trellises may very well be suitable.


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 advantages. 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 obviously also won't work.

Petiole Climber - clematis
Clematis montana
clematis on steel rope