Plants can serve all sorts of purposes on a patio. Climbing plants are especially functional, since they can be used to disguise walls, act as a windbreaks and shade cover, and even form an attractive, sheltering, living roof. The right plants, once established can be relatively low maintenance apart from some annual pruning, and will transform a patio into a pleasing green space.
Patio climbers can be grown in the ground or in pots and wooden planters, depending on the size and habit. Planting in the ground will generally be a lower maintenance solution, and is essential for varieties with larger root systems. You will need to identify exactly what you want to use climbing plants for, to ensure they are fit for purpose. Too big, too small or too vigorous can lead to problems.
A key decision when deciding on your pergola or trellis plant is whether you want one that will be evergreen or deciduous. Greenery all year round may sound like the best idea, but plants that lose their leaves in winter can allow much needed light in. You will of course have to sweep up the fallen leaves. Check your hardiness zone and remember that some plants that are evergreen in warmer climates may be deciduous in colder areas.
Climbers can provide beautiful foliage, fabulous color in the form of blossoms and even edible fruit (grape vines, for example). To cover ugly walls, evergreen ivies and creepers with insignificant flowers may be your best bet. If you go the fruit route, consider that it may attract birds and other feeders. Also, falling grapes or other fruits on your patio floor can not only be messy and annoying but may permanently stain some kinds of flooring.
For beautiful blooms, you can’t go wrong with a climbing rose. You can train it on a wall trellis or even over a pergola, since some varieties can grow to ten or twenty feed in time. Other showy climbers for patios include camellias and clematis. Don’t forget the power of fragrance that plants like roses, jasmine and honeysuckle can offer. A leafy patio that smells like a dream is an irresistible place to chill out.
If you want a plant that doesn’t have to be trained, true vines that attach themselves is a good choice. You will need to do little more than provide a suitable support. One of the most beautiful is the deciduous American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens), with its huge lilac-blue flowers. It’s a fast grower of truly exceptional beauty with its graceful blooms hanging from a pergola. For an easy to grow vine with striker flowers consider a passion fruit (Passiflora) variety, bearing in mind that the fruit is not edible.
Your nursery will stock numerous varieties of creeper and climber and you should be able to get advice on the perfect plant, or help you make a mixed selection for foliage and flowers most of the year. For a few dollars, plants plus patio accessories, including plant stands and baskets in natural materials, will help make your patio a very special place.