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Self-Climbing / -Clinging Plants

Self-Clinging Plants ("Stem Root Climbers" and "Stickers") such as Ivy or Virginia Creeper don't need growth supports, however, some guiding support can be helpful during the establishment period. Usually, the clinging aerial rootlets are formed only once during the growth of a young shoots; with increasing girth growth they tear off so that the plant is connected to the wall only ever by their young shoots. It is therefore important to install a few horizontal wire ropes, especially for old, large plants, to prevent them from collapsing.

Wall greening with self-climbers, here: English Ivy


Self-climbers usually climb with adhesive roots or adhesive feet / pads, the adhesion may be very different depending on the species and surface. The most well-known self-climber is ivy, it is even evergreen. Closely followed by wild wine, then Virginia creeper and Climbing Hydrangea, all three with nice autumn colouring. Less known in Central Germany are the trumpet vine, the rather weak Winter creeper and the annual cobaea scandens. In the starting phase, wild wine is the best.

Façade design with Self-Climbers

Self-climbers initially develop an irrational line. For environmentalists, this can be soothing, but disturbing for planners, especially since the wall vegetation usually inevitably ends in a full greening with "green fur". Depending on the plant species, the size of the façade and the planting density, this condition will be reached after 5 to 20 years. Roof surfaces and drainage are to be kept free, otherwise structural damage is imminent.

However, it is possible to intervene creatively in terms of growth limitation and work towards a partial greening. This creates a real façade design with exciting contrasts! The non-green areas can be clearly and geometrically separated or in their boundary also look amorphous and random. The best growth brake is regular cut, but also cornices and vertical wall offsets can act as a limit.

Pressing On, Interweaving and Fall Protection

Self-climbers usually don't need "trellises" in the build-up phase, a pressing or interweaving aid, however, can be useful. Fixing points made of beeswax plasticine (e.g. company "Stockmar") can function as a first starting aid. The adhesive organs are usually formed only once during the growth of a young shoot and tear off once the plant grows thicker. So the whole plant is then only connected to the wall through the young shoots. Even storms can later lead to mat-like detachment of the wall vegetation. Here too ropes can prevent... Each plant portrait, which you can click on above, has an overview, in which the more or less suitable cable systems are marked in colour.

"Suitable" Wire Rope Systems

Wire rope systems with medium to large "meshes", i.e. approx. 1 m x 1 m, are suitable for the starting phase, as a pressing aid. As a fall protection in turn, individual transverse or vertical ropes suffice. These are often attached later. Optimal are wire rope systems of the 8000 series and 9000 series, which cover both functions. Often a "Easy" design suffices, for larger fields "Medium" or even "Heavy" are better.

"Conditionally suitable" Wire Rope Systems

Only "conditionally suitable" are cable systems that are more "densely-meshed" and thus expensive. But they are sometimes used as interweaving aids, e.g., at carports or when self-climbers do not want to stick to the wall. Also not optimal are systems that are too low or too high, which then do not harmonize with the growth height of the climbing plant.

"Not suitable" Wire Rope Systems

"Not suitable" are often arrangements with only short wire rope lengths. They then do not do justice to growth behaviour, except perhaps with potted plants. Too tight, "dense" cable systems are not necessary because too expensive.

Winter Appearance and Traces of Removal

When choosing suitable plants, the appearance in winter also plays a role. "Winter" - this is 5 - 6 months and therefore almost half of the year! After the leaf fall the branches and adhesive organs of the climbing plants are visible, but unlike in the trellis led plants, this picture is not always an asset to the façade. Furthermore, the adhesive organs leave marks on the wall when the vegetation is trimmed or removed. Details can be found by clicking on the climbing plants described above.

Adhesive feet (Virginia creeper) and adhesive rootlets (English Ivy)
Adhesive feet and adhesive rootlets
Wild vines P. tricuspidata
A  courtyard greened with wild vines in Stralsund / Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania
A wire rope system (medium construction style) as a interweaving assistance for ivy
Ivy doesn't climb
Bad planning: These ropes are not needed as a "growth" aid. In turn, they are too tightly arranged as a protection against collapsing and therefore too expensive. The wild wine grows in a planter and is also a poor design solution. A twiner / creeper would have been better.
Badly planned support elements on Façades
Remains of the rootlets of a wild vine after trimming and partial removal
Remains of the rootlets of a wild vine
Large Winter creeper Euonymus fortunei
Large winter creeper on a wall
Trumpet creeper Campsis radicans
Mighty trumpet creeper, old post office in Jena / Thuringia
Thicket creeper P. quinqefolia as a self climber
Thicket creeper as a self climbing plant in Halle / Saxony-Anhalt
Climbing Hydrangea
Climbing Hydrangea
Annual bell vine Cobaea
Cathedral bell vine Cobaea
Wild vine P. tricuspidata. On the right, a important detail of the façade is kept free of greenery.
Façade greening with wild vines, city museum Erfurt / Thuringia
This ivy mat was torn off the wall by its own weight
Torn off Ivy
Contrasting and "random" looking façade design with vines P. tricuspidata
Façade design with Parthenocissus tricuspidata
Guided and formed climbing hydrangea as wall vegetation, with full autumn colouration.
Self climbing Hydrangea petiolaris as greenery with autumn colouring, Naumburg / Saxony-Anhalt
Geometrically confined growth fields for wild vine P. tricuspidata, vertical wall offsets
Growing aids for wild wine, shopping market in Leipzig-Liebertwolkwitz / Saxony
Strictly trimmed wall greening with wild wine Parthenocissus tricuspidata
Wall greening with Parthenocissus tricuspidata in Potsdam / Brandenburg