Self-Climbing / -Clinging Plants

Self-clingers / self-climbers can, as you might expect, climb up walls and objects by themselves. Plants like ivy or Virginia creeper ~ due to their adhesive pads (suction cup feet) ~ are able to climb walls without the use of trellis elements (see growth type), though some guiding support can be helpful as the plant is getting established. These plants can be a great and 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 indispensable for bringing them into the desired forms. 

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


Self-climbers usually scale a surface with adhesive roots or pads. The adhesive capability can be very different depending on the plant species and the climbing surface. The most well-known self-climber is ivy (an evergreen), followed closely by wild vine (Boston ivy/Japanese creeper), then Virginia creeper (Engelmannii) and climbing hydrangea-- all three with beautiful autumn colouring. Less known are the trumpet vine, the rather slow-growing winter creeper, and annuals in the family cobaea scandent (cup and saucer vines). In the establishment phase, wild vine adheres the best.

Fassade Design with Self-Climbers

Self-climbers initially grow in lines that may seem irrational. For nature lovers~ a delight... for planners and architects~ rather disconcerting, especially since it inevitably leads to a green wall carpet. Depending on the plant species, size of the facade, and the plant density, this full greening will be reached after 5 to 20 years. Roof surfaces and drainage should be kept clear to avoid any possible structural damage. The growth of the plant can be directed and contained to avoid covering the facade completely (see partial greening). This creates a real facade 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.

Support Cables: Pressing, Braiding, and Fall Protection

Self-climbers usually don't need any climbing aids in the initial establishment phase, but a pressing or braiding aid can be useful. With beeswax-based modeling clay/paste (or something similar), you can attach the first shoots. Adhesive organs form only on young shoots; that means they will only form once during the growth of a young shoot and fall off once the plant grows thicker. The whole plant is then only connected to the wall via these young shoots and their suckers. Storms have been known to rip the whole plant-mat off in one swoop. Wire ropes can be a great help here, holding the vegetation in place. 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. 1m x 1m, 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 fulfill both functions. Often an easy construction design suffices; for larger fields, medium, or even heavy systems are better.

Wire Rope Systems with Limited Suitability

Wire rope systems that are finely 'meshed' and therefore more expensive, are only suitable in certain conditions. 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. Finely meshed cable system (those with multiple ropes arranged closely together) are not necessary and are too expensive.

Winter Appearance and Plant Residues

When choosing your plants, their appearance in winter also factors in. Winter in a Central European climate lasts 5-6 months -- almost half of the year! After leaf-fall, the branches, twigs, and adhesive organs of a self-climbing plant become visible. But, unlike trellised plants, this sight is not always an asset to the facade. The adhesive organs (roots and suckers) leave marks on the wall when the vegetation is pruned or permanently removed, and they can be quite tricky to remove. Learn more under our individual plant profiles.