Growth Type: Stem Tendril Climbers

Stem tendril climbers are a very effective growth type within the group of climbing plants. They form mobile and touch-sensitive tendrils (extensions which are actually modified stems) that wind themselves around objects, stabilising the upward-growing plant. These tendrils can also be used like little grips, latching themselves into small irregularities like holes, cracks, and crevices -- but structural damage is not to be feared with these climbers! A similar growth type, the petiole climber, is described separately.


The best known stem tendril climbers are the common grapevine (Vitis vinifera subsp. vinifera) and its relatives: the fruitless 'wild' grapevine, also called fox/frost/winter grape (Vitis riparia/vulpina) and the grape woodbine (Parthenocissus inserta). The Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia 'Engelmannii') also develops tendrils, as do the annual climbers like the 'Chilean glory-flower' (Eccremocarpus scaber), sweet pea, and passion flower (passiflora). 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), lignify.


Stem tendril climbers need supports which are not too thick so that the plants can twine around them easily. Wooden trellises cut to 25mm x 25mm are sufficient for the species Parthenocissus (Virgina creeper, Boston ivy..). With perennials like the grapevine, it is recommended that when pruning them back, the lignified tendrils (woody parts) are removed from the trellis for aesthetic reasons. Naturally, this requires more 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 sometimes vertically, arranged ropes; depending on the plant species, the mesh size will have to be rather fine (small to medium). If the plants are perennial, the actual main stems have to be attached to the lowest steel rope (support rope). Medium wire rope systems are usually sufficient; at times heavy or massive systems are recommended to provide a greater distance from the wall, especially for the more sensitive grapevine varieties which are mildew-prone.

Wire Rope Systems of “Limited Suitability”

Sometimes support systems with small mesh sizes may be too small for the natural growth of the climbing plant... for this reason we consider them of 'limited suitability.' However, if that particular plant is grown in a pot, its growth is limited, allowing a smaller support (smaller mesh size) to be used. Depending on the plant, 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 required.

Unsuitable Wire Rope Systems

Stem tendril climbers are generally very flexible plants; there are hardly any rope systems (arrangements) that are not compatible. Very high systems with large-scale rope systems are an exception-- they are not suitable for the annual tendril climbers and their growth height.