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Self-Climbing / -Clinging Plants

Self-Clinging / Self-Climbing Plants ("Stem Root Climbers" and "Stickers") such as ivy or Virginia creeper are plants that are capable of climbing walls without the use of growth/climbing supports (see growth type), though some guiding support can be helpful during the establishment period. These plants are used, for example, as an inexpensive way to hide or prevent graffiti. Usually, the clinging aerial rootlets (tendrils) are formed only once during the growth of 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 then ideal to install a few horizontal wire ropes, especially for old, large plants, to prevent them from collapsing (securing the main scaffold). Climbing aids are also often indispensable for bringing them 'into shape.'

Wall greening with self-climbers, here: English Ivy
Wall greening with self-climbers, here: English Ivy


Self-climbers usually climb with adhesive roots or adhesive feet / pads. The adhesive capability can be very different depending on the plant species and the climbing surface. The most well-known self-climbers are ivy-- an evergreen... wild vine (Boston ivy/Japanese creeper), then Virginia creeper and climbing hydrangea-- all three with beautiful autumn colouring. Less known in Central Germany are: the trumpet vine, the rather slow growing winter creeper and the annual 'long-bloomers' in the family cobaea scandent (cup and saucer vines). In the starting phase, wild vine adheres the best.

Façade Design with Self-Climbers

Self-climbers initially develop an irrational line. For environmentalists this can be delightful, but for planners, perhaps disturbing, especially since the wall vegetation usually inevitably leads to a full greening with "green fur." Depending on the plant species, size of the façade, and the plant density, this condition will be reached after 5 to 20 years. Roof surfaces and drainage should be kept clear; otherwise, structural damage may occur. By limiting growth, however, it is possible to intervene in the design, 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 their boundaries can remain amorphous and unintentional. The best growth inhibitor is regular cutting, but cornices and vertical wall offsets can also act as natural boundaries.

Pressing On, Braiding, and Fall Protection

Self-climbers usually don't need any climbing aids in the initial establishment phase, but a pressing or braiding (interweaving) aid can be useful. Fixing points made of beeswax modeling clay (e.g. company "Stockmar") can function as a starting aid. The adhesive organs of the plants 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 this. Each plant portrait gives you an overview and diagram, 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. Single transverse or vertical ropes, which are often attached later, are sufficient as fall protection. Optimal wire rope systems are the 8000 and 9000 series, which cover both functions. Often an easy construction design suffices; for larger fields, medium, or even heavy, are better.

"Conditionally Suitable" Wire Rope Systems

Wire rope systems that are rather "densely-meshed" and therefore more expensive, are only "conditionally suitable." They are, however, sometimes used as a braiding aid, e.g., on carports or when self-climbers do not want to stick to the wall. Systems that are too low or too high, which then do not harmonise with the growth height of the climbing plant, are also not optimal.

"Unsuitable" Wire Rope Systems

Wire rope arrangements with only short wire rope lengths are usually not suitable. With cables that are too short, the plant will not be able to cope with the plant's growth, except perhaps with potted plants. Tightly arranged "dense" (closely arranged) cable systems are not necessary and are too expensive.

Winter Appearance and the Traces of Removal

When choosing suitable plants, their appearance in winter also plays a role. "Winter" in a Central European climate lasts 5 - 6 months and is therefore almost half of the year! After the leaves fall, the branches, twigs, and the adhesive organs of the climbing plants become visible. But, unlike trellis-led plants, this sight is not always an asset to the façade. The adhesive organs leave traces (marks) on the wall when the facade vegetation is trimmed or removed. Details can be found by clicking on the climbing plants profiles.

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 climbing/interweaving assistance for ivy
Ivy won't climb
Poor planning: these ropes are not needed as a "growth/climbing" aid. They are too tightly arranged as a protection against collapsing (unnecessary material, therefore too expensive). The wild vine grows in a planter and is also a poor design solution. A twiner/creeper would have been better here.
Poorly 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 cathedral bell vine: Cobaea
Cathedral bell vine: Cobaea
Wild vine P. tricuspidata. On the right, an 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-climber (Hydrangea petiolaris) as wall vegetation with autumn colouring, Naumburg / Saxony-Anhalt
Geometrically confined growth/climbing fields for wild vine P. tricuspidata, vertical wall offsets
Climbing aids for wild vine, shopping market in Leipzig-Liebertwolkwitz / Saxony
Strictly trimmed wall greening with wild vine Parthenocissus tricuspidata
Wall greening with Parthenocissus tricuspidata in Potsdam / Brandenburg