Our 7 Favorite Climbing Plants to “Wow” Your Outdoor Space

Installing a pergola, gazebo, archway or trellis is a wonderful way to beautify your outdoor space and create a cozy area to gather and visit. Take things to the next level by adding the right climbing plants, and bring life, color, soothing scents, and shade to your space.
Read on to learn about 7 show-stopping climbing plants for different styles and climates, and find the one that’s perfect for you!
1. Camellia
Camellias (Camellia japonica) are evergreen shrubs that grow up to 10 to 15 feet tall, with a spread of 6 to 10 feet. They are warm-weather plants, perennial in USDA Hardiness Zones 7a (Kentucky ) to 9a (Gainesville, Florida). Camellias boast showy round blooms that can be pink, lavender, orange, white, red, or yellow, and their attractive, glossy evergreen foliage will bring cheer to your pergola in the depths of winter. Camellias also thrive in partial shade, unlike most flowers, which is a big plus if your trellis or pergola is near a tree or other shade source.
2. Morning Glory
Morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea) vines will grow very quickly to a height of 6 to 10 feet. This vine produces copious vividly-colored trumpet-shaped flowers that can be white, purple, red, blue, pink, or also bi- or tri-colored. Morning glories are very hardy and can actually spread out a little too much, so you may need to pull some up if they start to get out of bounds. Because of this, they are considered and invasive weed in some states, such as Arizona and Arkansas, where planting them is now illegal, so check with your local gardening center before ordering morning glory seeds online
3. Bougainvillea
Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spp.) is a strikingly-colored, fragrant climbing shrub that comes in orange, lavender, purple, red or yellow. Bougainvillea’s brightly-colored “flowers” are actually bracts, like what poinsettias have, with tiny white flowers coming out of them. Bougainvillea can grow very large, up to 15 to 25 feet tall with a spread of 25 to 33 feet, so you will need to prune it to keep it the size and shape you want. Bougainvillea is a warm-weather plant originally from Brazil, perennial in USDA Hardiness Zones 9b (Tampa, Los Angeles) to 11a (Puerto Rico).
4. Wisteria
Wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) is a flowering shrub that grows to a height of 15 to 60 feet, with a spread of 40 to 50 feet. Because it can get so large, wisteria is a plant that requires plenty of pruning to keep it under control. The payoff, however, is absolutely amazing. Wisteria produces abundant, long “garlands” of blooms that can be purple, white, blue or lavender, and which produce a heavenly scent. These strands are particularly striking on a structure with a horizontal surface, such as a pergola or arch, from which they can cascade down (see the photo above and the photo at the top of this article). Wisteria is perennial in USDA Hardiness Zones 5a (Madison, WI) to 9b (Orlando, Florida), so this beauty is on the list for gardeners in most of the U.S. Wisteria also thrives in partial shade, unlike most flowers, which is wonderful if your pergola is in a less-sunny part of your property.
5. Laguna Rose
Laguna roses (Rosa Laguna) are climbing roses with large, vibrantly-colored deep-pink blossoms that grow in clusters of 6 to 8. Laguna roses are also disease-resistant and wonderfully fragrant, and they bloom repeatedly. What’s not to love? Laguna roses grow to a height of 8 to 9 feet, and are perennial in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 (New York) through 9 (Coastal California).
6. Moonflower
Moonflowers (Ipomea alba) are vivid-white flowers in the morning glory family. Moonflowers are 5 to 5 ½ inches in diameter and trumpet-shaped like their cousin the morning glory. But unlike the morning glory, moonflowers open up during the late afternoon and stay open at night. They get their name because their lovely white blooms reflect the moon’s glow (see photo above). Moonflowers have fragrant blooms and eye-catching heart-shaped foliage, and they can thrive in partial shade. They make a perfect addition to a moon garden for evening get-togethers or for unwinding on your gazeebo at the end of the day. Moon flowers are perennial in USDA Hardiness Zones 9 (Texas minus the panhandle) through 11 (Puerto Rico), and easily grown from seed as annuals elsewhere. Moonflower vines can reach up to 15 feet tall.
7. Sweet Pea
Sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) are so wonderfully fragrant, their heavenly scent is referenced in both their common name (“sweet”) and their botanical name (“odoratus”). But this annual flowering vine is no slouch in the appearance department, either. Sweet peas sport lovely fan-shaped blooms that can be pink, purple, red, white, lavender, or yellow, and that look a little bit like Phalaenopsis orchids (see photo above). Sweet peas are drought-tolerant annuals that reach a height of 4 to 10 feet tall and have a nice spread. Sweet peas prefer plenty of moisture and sunlight.

Frequently asked questions

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  1 question
  • Marian Marian on Aug 08, 2019

    Thank u for all ur information. I have a small yard that needs a musical to get it together. Its all crab grass and weeds. I just moved to this property and need to start from scratch. I'm 65 and live on limited budget but want to tackle this on my own. Any suggestions on where to start on even getting rid of the weeds with natural or household products?


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  • Mary Coakley Mary Coakley on Jun 13, 2020

    Lots of information thanks I.tried growing wisteria.unfortunately.it died.on me

    • Tat holmgren Tat holmgren on Jun 14, 2020

      I don’t know where you live, but I’m in Kalamazoo, MI, zone 6a. I bought my wisteria at either Lowe’s or Home Depot 3 summers ago. This is it right now.

  • Linda Linda on Jun 14, 2021

    Beware of wisteria. We had vines for many years and 8 years after removing them are still getting runners growing back. You will never get rid of this invasive plant, which is a lot of work to maintain properly with pruning and cleanup

    • Esther Esther on Jun 16, 2021

      Agree! It is very invasive. It climbed up the gutters, around outside light fixtures and on to my porch roof. Although it looked gorgeous with its long 'bunches' of lavender flowers drooping down and made a beautiful backdrop for family photos, we had to remove it completely, since pruning made it more tenacious. But as one of your readers said the runners keep growing back.