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Growth Type “Stem Tendril Climbers”

Stem tendril climbers are a very efficient growth type within the group of climbing plants. They grow mobile and touch-sensitive tendrils, which wind themselves around objects and thus stabilise the upward growing plant. In addition, these tendrils can also be used like “claws,” which can hook themselves into holes, cracks and gaps, without causing building damages. A similar growth type, the petiole climber, is described separately.


The best known stem tendril climbers are the genuine or noble grapevine (Vitis vinifera subsp. vinifera) and its relatives: the foxgrapes (Vitis vinifera sp.) and the grape woodbines (Parthenocissus inserta). The Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia 'Engelmannii') also develops tendrils, as do the annual climbers such as the Chilean Glower Flower (Eccremocarpus scaber), sweet peas and passionflowers. All these plants climb by means of specialised mobile and touch-sensitive tendrils, which twine around shoots or climbing supports. Once firmly established, they stop growing and, in perennial climbers, they lignify.

Climbing Supports

Stem tendril climbers require climbing supports which are not too thick, so that the plants can twine around them easily. Wooden trellises with a diameter of approximately 25mm x 25mm are suitable for the woodbines (Parthenocissus sp.). In perennials such as the grapevine, it is recommended that when pruning them back, the lignified tendrils are removed from the trellis for aesthetic reasons. Obviously this increases the maintenance.


“Suitable” Wire Rope Systems

The ideal climbing supports for stem tendril climbers are parallel wire ropes, where the plants can climb up step by step, like on a climbing frame or ladder. This includes horizontally or diagonally and occasionally vertically arranged wire ropes, and depending on the plant species, small to medium mesh sizes are recommended. If the plants are perennial, the  actual main stems have to be attached to the lowest steel cable (“fastening cable”).  Medium wire rope systems are usually sufficient, at times heavy duty or massive systems are recommended to provide a greater distance from the wall especially for the more sensitive grapevine varieties (mildew).

Wire Rope Systems of “Limited Suitability”

Sometimes support systems with small mesh sizes may not do justice to the plant's growth type, ie they are of limited suitability. However, if that particular plant is grown in a pot, small mesh sizes are quite suitable, as they tend to weaken the growth. Depending on the plant species, very small mesh sizes are not optimal because despite the higher price, they don't actually offer the plant any advantages and, as mentioned above, only increase the maintenance regime.


“Unsuitable” Wire Rope Systems

Stem tendril climbers are generally very flexible plants, therefore there aren't many wire rope systems that are totally unsuitable. One exception are the very tall systems with large mesh sizes, which are not suitable for the annual tendril climbers.


Grapevine tendril on steel cable
Grapevine tendril on steel cable
Bamboo rod with grape woodbine (Parthenocissus inserta)
Bamboo rod with grape woodbine (Parthenocissus inserta)
Sweet pea, a tendril climber
Sweet pea, a tendril climber
Genuine grapevine is a typical tendril climber
Genuine grapevine is a typical tendril climber
Climbing grapevines on a wall, the lignified tendrils from the previous year are visible on the wire ropes
Grapevine as a "stem tendril climber"
Entangled tendrils on a cross bracket WM12XX8
Trellis plant with lingified tendrils
Grapevine shoot with lignified tendrils on a wooden trellis, in winter
Tendril climbers on a trellis