7 of the Best Climbing Plants to Grow over your Pergola

Best Climbing Plants to Grow over your Pergola Clematis

Adding climbing plants is a fantastic way to spruce up your pergola. A well-chosen plant can provide shade, bring in lovely natural elements, and even give you pleasant scents or fruits to enjoy. When picking the perfect plant for your pergola, think about how fast it grows, how big it gets, and how much care it needs to make sure it fits well in your space.

In this post, we’ll share some of the best climbing plants to grow over your pergola.

You might also be interested in: Building Your Own Budget Pergola: A Complete Guide

1. Wisteria

wisteria plants for pergolas

A show-stopping choice for climbing over pergolas is the beautiful wisteria. When this gorgeous woody vine is in bloom, cascades of flowers in shades of blue, purple, pink and white create a spectacle sure to impress. The abundant clusters add striking colours in spring to any garden.

Wisteria is one of the most ornate options for covering horizontal or overhead structures. The vines twist clockwise as they climb, adding intriguing shapes and patterns to pergolas. Their fast growth combined with the spring flowers gives wisteria a reputation for being vigorous and demanding some maintenance to keep their growth under control. But the beauty they add is worth the effort for many gardeners.

  • Hardy and resilient once established
  • Produces abundant flowers in spring
  • Provides dappled shade underneath
  • Grows quickly, needs pruning

Top Tip: Fast-growing and heavy plants might provide quick coverage, but they can also become a challenge to manage and may strain your pergola structure. So, always consider your plant’s potential growth, weight, and maintenance needs to ensure a healthy, thriving, and beautiful addition to your garden that you can enjoy for years to come!

2. Honeysuckle

honeysuckle plants for pergolas

For months of scent as well as charm, honeysuckle should be high on any pergola plant list. In summer, deliciously sweet perfume drifts from the tubular blooms, enhancing time spent relaxing underneath. The flexible stems also generously adorn structures with the pretty flowers and lush foliage.

Offering versatile growing habits, easy-care qualities and a long flowering season, honeysuckles like Lonicera are perfect pergola plants. They decorate overhead structures with beauty and fragrance from early summer into autumn. Regular pruning keeps their enthusiastic growth in check and encourages abundant blooms.

  • Provides fragrance for months from summer onward
  • Adds charm with flexible climbing stems and pretty flowers
  • Suitable for various site conditions
  • Requires occasional pruning

3. Clematis

Best Climbing Plants to Grow over your Pergola Clematis

With its diversity and profusion of blooms, clematis transforms basic pergolas into floral works of art. Its versatility spans compact herbaceous types under a metre to vigorous large-flowered hybrids easily reaching three metres. This lets you tailor clematis as pergola plants to suit exactly your site and space.

While some pruning is needed, clematis rewards gardeners with unparalleled flower power. The pointed buds unfold into singles, doubles, large or dangling blooms. Their shapes, sizes and colours create interest on pergolas from summer through early autumn. Place them appropriately and care for them well to maximize their prolifically-flowering talents.

  • Incredible diversity suits various garden conditions
  • Flowers prolifically in summer and autumn
  • Adds unique character to pergolas
  • Requires annual pruning to keep flowering

Pruning requirements depend on the clematis group to ensure optimum performance:

Group 1 clematis: Early flowering in winter and spring on previous year’s growth; no pruning required.

Group 2 clematis: Large flowers bloom in spring and summer on previous year’s growth; prune in February.

Group 3 clematis: Late flowering on the current season’s growth; cut back to approximately 2 feet in February or March.

4. Jasmine

The Best Climbing Plants to Grow over your Pergola - Jasmine

Transport your pergola to the Mediterranean with the sweet smell of jasmine on summers evenings. Beyond its heady fragrance, jasmine’s culinary and medicinal uses add versatility exceeding simply being wonderful pergola plants. Cultivated through history, they’ve earned their reputation as garden favourites.

While some jasmine varieties climb enthusiastically, others remain compact so need little support. Summer-flowering types like Jasminum Officinale unfurl white blooms with mind-blowing perfumes. The winter-blooming Jasminum nudiflorum brightens gloomy months with its vibrant yellow blossoms and shiny leaves, earning it the common name winter jasmine.

  • Provides powerful floral fragrance
  • Adds exotic Mediterranean feel
  • Some have culinary and medicinal uses
  • Most suit growing against warm walls

5. Passion Flower

The Best Climbing Plants to Grow over your Pergola - Passion Flower

Looking perfectly at home trellised up a sunny wall or pergola is the exotic passion flower. Its vibrant, intricate blooms with prominent stamens and styles resemble an alien creation more than a flowering vine. Beyond beauty, many passion flower varieties offer the added value of edible fruit passionfruit behind the showy displays.

While cooler regions suit growing them against protected walls, modern hybrids better tolerate UK winter cold for wider garden planting. Through summer until fall, the unique and vivid flowers grab attention wherever passionflower climbs. For low maintenance and wildlife-friendly plants on pergolas or fences, passionflower checks many boxes.

  • Exotic, intricate and vivid flowers
  • Fruit is edible on some varieties
  • Modern hybrids are quite hardy
  • Perfect for wildlife gardens

6. Grapevines

The Best Climbing Plants to Grow over your Pergola - Grapevines

For Mediterranean ambience, productive potential and bold foliage, grapevines make ideal pergola plant candidates. As they scramble generously across supports, grape leaves filter sunlight underneath to give cooling dappled shade. Add bonus harvests of sweet fruit or wine depending on the varieties selected by keen gardeners.

Beyond fruit, grapevines simply look superb clambering over pergolas and archways during the growing season. Their leaves turn golden yellow or fiery red for mouth-watering autumn displays around gardens. While grapevines need annual pruning to maximize production, their versatility and dual-purpose possibilities make them perfect for covering overhead structures.

  • Creates a Mediterranean atmosphere
  • Selected varieties offer edible fruit
  • Useful for shading pergolas
  • Spectacular autumn leaf colour on varieties like ‘Brant’

7. Climbing Roses

The Best Climbing Plants to Grow over your Pergola - roses

The queen of flowers, a climbing rose draped artfully over an archway or pergola channels true romantic grace into any garden. Varieties range from once-blooming old roses with intoxicating perfume to repeat-flowering modern breeds pumping out summer-long flower displays. With diverse growth habits and bloom potential, climbing roses allow unique expressions over pergolas.

While roses demand attentive care with nutrients, water and pest management, their beauty offers rich rewards. Fragrant heirloom varieties like ‘Zéphirine Drouhin’ and ‘Compassion’ give intensely-scented, timeless grace to pergolas. Modern shrub roses bred as climbers multiply floral colours and extend flowering seasons over pergola structures with carefree vibes.

  • Diverse styles from modern to heritage varieties
  • Repeating-bloomers prolong flowering
  • Potent, romantic fragrance on some types
  • Generally need attentive care and feeding

Key Considerations for Growing Plants Over Your Pergola

Always factor in the weight of the plants to ensure your pergola remains stable and safe. Vigorous growth and dense foliage can add substantial weight, especially when wet. Choose plants suitable for your pergola’s size. For smaller pergolas, consider lighter or less vigorous plants. Larger, stronger structures should withstand heavier plants. Regular pruning and training can help control plant size and shape.


Consider the required maintenance for your climbing plants. Many popular climbers, such as ivy, wisteria, and grapevines, grow fast and require regular pruning. Consider whether you can feasibly undertake this annual task.

Competition for light

A dense plant canopy can impact light levels for other garden plants, affecting their growth, health, and the overall garden appearance. Regular pruning is crucial to control the size of your climbing plant, ensuring it doesn’t outgrow your structure or cast unwanted shade.

Remember, planning ahead can save you considerable time, money, and effort. Be sure your pergola is robust enough for the added weight and that you can manage the required maintenance for your chosen plants.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right climbing plants for your pergola can truly transform your garden into an enchanting outdoor haven. From the cascading blooms of Wisteria to the stunning fruits of Grapevines, each plant offers unique beauty and character. However, it’s vital to keep in mind the key considerations like the potential weight of the plant, maintenance requirements, and how the plant will affect the light levels in your garden.

Remember, our list is not exhaustive. There are numerous other plants for pergolas. So, use this guide as a stepping stone in your journey to create the garden of your dreams. Always take into account your local climate, soil conditions, and the specific position of your pergola when making your decision.

A pergola adorned with climbing plants not only offers shade and a distinct area in your garden but also becomes a sanctuary for various wildlife, enhancing the biodiversity of your outdoor space. So, plant wisely, nurture attentively, and sit back to enjoy the captivating charm your pergola brings to your garden.

FAQs – the Best Climbing Plants to Grow over your Pergola

Q. How do I choose the right climbing plant for my pergola?
Consider growth rate, sunlight needs in your garden’s unique conditions, required maintenance and the look you wish to achieve. Matching these up front ensures your plants suit your pergola’s functionality and aesthetics.

Q. How do I plant and care for climbing plants on a pergola?
Individual planting, pruning and care needs vary by plants. But in general, use quality potting mix, plant them securely at the pergola base and train stems carefully onto supports. Provide sufficient watering and feeding, especially while establishing.

Q. How do I prevent climbing plants from damaging my pergola? Properly train them up supports, prune to restrict size, choose appropriate varieties and install plants so stems don’t overwhelm or unbalance pergola structures as they grow.

Q. What are some of the best climbing plants for UK pergolas? Great choices include hardy natives like honeysuckle, clematis and climbing roses. For temperamental plants like jasmine or passionflower, select sheltered, sunny garden spots against walls for best results on pergolas.

Q. How can I use climbing plants to create a specific atmosphere on my pergola? Consider the visual impact, scents and colours you desire. Fragrant white jasmine and repeat-blooming roses give a romantic feel, for example. Productive grapevines lend a Mediterranean vibe, while tropical passion flowers bring exotic aromas.


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