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Growth Type “Twiners”

Here we describe the growth type of twiners, also known as bines, twining vines, and winders, and, if they are perennial and lignify, they are called lianas. Twiners are the climbing plants which wind themselves around ropes and rods etc with their touch-sensitive main shoot, and so grow upwards. It is therefore essential that they are provided with a climbing support of one kind or another. After a few years, the twisted stems have a charm of their own, however they can also cause significant damage to their support, especially the most vigorous climbing twiners such as the wisteria.


There are the annual or herbaceous twiners, which die back completely after autumn, such as the blue morning glory (Ipomoea indica), the fire cracker vine (Ipomea lobata) and the scarlet runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus).

A well-known climbing plant which dies back after autumn but grows back again in spring is the Beer Hop (Humulus lupulus).

Perennial twiners or lianas become woody (ie they lignify) and include Dutchman's Pipe (Aristolochia), Akebia, evergreen and deciduous Honeysuckles (Lonicera sp.) as well as the Kiwi (Actinidia deliciosa). Particular attention in the planning and establishment must be paid to the vigorous climbers such as Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis), Silver Lace Vine (Fallopia baldschuanica) and Bittersweet (Celastrus).

At times twining climbers tend to become quite denuded at the base, however this is often compensated by their vigorous and overhanging upper growth.

Climbing Plant Supports for Twining Lianas

Twiners love ropes and rods around which their main shoot can wind itself ie growing in a helix. For many twiners such as the annual continuous bloomers this is fine. However, in the case of the vigorous lianas mentioned above, it is paramount that future main shoots are unwound and attached parallel to the wire ropes, as described for Wisteria. This prevents damage to the support system. Otherwise massive trellises are required with a distance of 15cm from the wall, which would cost many times more. Each climbing plant description includes an overview at the end, which indicates in different colours the most suitable as well as the lesser suitable wire rope systems suggested for that particular plant.

"Suitable" Wire Rope Systems

The most suitable systems have predominantly one or several parallel vertical ropes, onto which several shoots of one or possibly several plants can be guided. Secondary horizontal ropes can promote the intertwining of the various plant shoots. For annual plants, simple and light rope systems are usually sufficient. But the perennial plants require at least medium and better even heavy duty or massive systems, considering their future height. Initially, “climbing rungs” e.g. in the form of attached clamping rings will prevent the plant from sliding down. Alternatively, tying the plants to the wire ropes with binding material will do the same.

Wire Rope Systems “of Limited Suitability”

Wire rope systems with a significant number of horizontal wire ropes have a limited usefulness for twiners. The lianas don't like these systems, as their shoots need to be forced into a horizontal position and attached to the horizontal wire ropes. Which means a much higher maintenance regime! In small private gardens this is usually not a problem, because once the horizontal shoots have been established, these areas will soon be covered with foliage.

Likewise, systems in which the wire ropes are arranged very closely together are sometimes of limited suitability, see explanation below. And, in some cases, some systems may be simply too high for plants with a less vigorous growth habit.

“Unsuitable” Wire Rope Systems

Systems with very short wire ropes are deemed “unsuitable.” They don't do justice to the plant's growth habit, except maybe for pot plants. Likewise, systems with too tightly arranged wire ropes such as 5050 are often not necessary and too expensive. For some lianas, especially for the above mentioned vigorous ones, multiple closely arranged parallel wire ropes are actually obstructive, as the plants get too entangled, and cutting them back becomes much more time-consuming. It is much better to guide these plants onto separate single wire ropes spaced at least 1m to 1.5m apart.

Twining shoot of a Hop-liana
twining shoot
Dutchman's Pipe
Twining plants
Young, twining silver lace vine on a heavy construction style system
Silver lace vine as wall vegetation
lignified shoots of a honeysuckle vine on a steel cable
Lianas on steel cable