Climbing Plant Growth Type: Twiners

Learn here about the twining growth type -- plants also known as bines, twining vines, and winders, (and if they are perennial and lignify, called 'lianas'). Twiners are the climbing plants which wind themselves around supports like ropes and rods with their touch-sensitive main shoots, and grow upwards in this way. It is therefore essential that they are provided with a climbing support of one kind or another; they cannot grow without something to twine around. After a few years, the coiled shoots/stems are quite beautiful, but they can also cause significant damage to their support, especially the most vigorous climbing twiners, like wisteria.


Annual (herbaceous) twiners are those which dry out and die back completely after autumn, like the morning glory (Ipomoea), the fire vine (Ipomea lobata), and the scarlet runner bean (Phaseolus cockiness). A well-known climber which dies back after autumn but grows back again in spring is the beer hops (Humulus lupus). Perennial twiners or lianas become woody (i.e. they lignify) and include Dutchman's pipe (Aristolochia), akebia, evergreen climbers 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 like wisteria (Wisteria sinensis), silver lace vine (Fallopia baldschuanica) and bittersweet (Celastrus). Twining climbers tend to become 'bald' at the base, but this is often compensated by their vigorous upper growth with its overhanging shoots which will hide the bare areas.

Climbing Plant Supports for Twining Lianas

Twiners love ropes and rods around which their main shoot can wind itself, (twist and grow in a helix). For many twiners, such as the annual continuous bloomers, this is fine. However, in the case of the vigorous twiners mentioned above, it is imperative 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 at least 15cm from the wall, which would cost many times more. Each climbing plant profile includes a trellis-compatibility chart at the end, in which the more or less suitable rope systems are marked in colour. 

Suitable Wire Rope Systems

Vertically aligned supports are ideal, particularly systems with several parallel vertical lines (cables) onto which several shoots of one or several plants can be guided. Secondary short horizontal ropes can promote the intertwining of the various plant shoots. For annual plants, easy and light rope systems are usually sufficient, but the perennial plants require at least medium, or even better- heavy duty or massive systems, considering their future height. In the initial phase, “climbing rungs”- e.g. in the form of attached clamping rings, will prevent the plant from slipping, but tying the plants to the wire ropes with binding material will do the same.

Wire Rope Systems with Limited Suitability

Wire rope systems with many horizontal wire ropes have limited usefulness for twining lianas. Twining plants tend to reject these ropes, so individual shoots need to be manually laid into a horizontal position and then attached to the horizontal wire ropes -- in other words, a higher maintenance trellising. 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 closely together ('fine mesh') are only sometimes practical-- see explanation below. Also, certain systems may simply be too high for plants with a less vigorous growth habit.

Unsuitable Wire Rope Systems

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