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What climbing plants to grow up a pergola?

CatDouchCatDouch South Devon Posts: 159
I’m looking for some suggestions and ideas please …. we have just built a pergola on our new patio so at the moment it is a blank canvas.  

I would like plants growing up the pergola but they will need to be grown in pots as we don’t want to remove any of the patio slabs, so that will limit my choice I presume.  I love roses, honeysuckle, clematis and jasmine.  I can’t decide if to go for evergreen plants or not?  It’s more important to me to have a good ‘show’ in the spring and summer than in the winter when we won’t be using the patio as much so perhaps evergreen isn’t a determining factor.

I’ve attached a photo of the pergola which will be moved forward away from the wall when we can get some more manpower.  Our back garden faces north but this area gets sun for most of the day and evening.  Any suggestions or ideas of specific plants that will do well in pots will be most welcome. 


  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,907
    Forget honeysuckle- the vast majority are far too big to be pot grown, unless you make a purpose built, very large container. 
    Evergreen is also tricky, but you have room to grow various types of clematis, and roses, which will give you colour and foliage for most of the year. 
    I know nothing about roses, but others will be able to advise on those. Jasmine isn't reliably hardy everywhere.
    There are loads of clematis which will grow from late winter through to autumn, and there are some winter flowering ones if you're in the right location. Check out Taylor's, Thorncroft and Hawthorne's for varieties. There are hundreds..... :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • CatDouchCatDouch South Devon Posts: 159
    Thanks @Fairygirl at least that’s a start and I can narrow the list down, I’ll knock jasmine, honeysuckle and evergreens off my list and perhaps focus on roses and clematis.  I’ve only ever grown clematis in the ground but I’ll do some research on clematis in pots.  Big pots are going to be expensive 🙈
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,907
    Could you get someone to make some containers? 
    A decent joiner would be able to make some with sleepers, which would match your pergola well. Lined, and with a base with holes above patio level to ensure good drainage, and they'd act as extra seating too.  You'd only need a couple probably  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • CatDouchCatDouch South Devon Posts: 159
    Yes that’s a possibility @Fairygirl, as well as plants growing up the pergola posts I want pots/troughs around the edge of the patio which I’ll plant up according to the season so your idea would be great for that 👌
  • NollieNollie Girona, Catalunya, Northen Spain.Posts: 6,526
    I agree with FG stick to roses and clematis and forget the honeysuckle/Jasmine and the evergreen. Both still need a deep root run and decent, soil-based medium mixed with a generous dollop of manure and some compost, plus really big pots! You wouldn’t necessarily be able to grow a huge, vigorous rambling rose or big montana clematis to cover the entire pergola in a pot but there are plenty of climbing roses that would frame the front nicely. If you planted one either side they could be trained up and along the front and join up in the middle to create an attractive rose arbour effect.

    Anything you plant in pots would need regular feeding and deep watering to reach the roots plus the soil levels topping up annually. With roses, they do tend to exhaust the potting medium after a few years, the maximum I’ve managed to get out of a short climbing rose in a big 60cm pot is 5 years, others have managed 8.. 
  • CatDouchCatDouch South Devon Posts: 159
    Thanks @Nollie I absolutely love roses so having one growing either side sounds a great idea.  I’ve got 3 climbing roses trained against a long wall in another part of the garden but have never grown a climbing rose in a pot, do you have any particular recommendations?  

    I always tend to go for David Austin roses although none have been that spectacular so far.  My best rose was bought at a local garden centre, a shrub rose in a plain pot called ‘ a pink rose’ 😂 I bought it on a whim the day after my dog died as a memorial to her.  I’ve moved it 3 times, at the wrong time of year, and probably look after it less than my David Austin ones, yet it is glossy leaved and still has flowers and buds on it today.  
  • Morning glory
  • NollieNollie Girona, Catalunya, Northen Spain.Posts: 6,526
    Well there is a huge wide world of roses beyond Austin, but it depends on what you fancy in terms of colour, form, scent, repeat flowering.. Also what does well in your location, for example, if you get heavy rainfall you don’t want a rose that balls/turns into a sodden mess of clinging petals. If the front of your pergola is in all-day sun, you don’t want a rose that prefers some afternoon shade and vice-versa.

    I don’t actually grow that many climbers and most of those are on obelisks, so perhaps repost your photo on and ask for recommendations of what climbers will cope with pot life in your particular situation? You will get lots of contributions and suggestions there 😊 
  • CatDouchCatDouch South Devon Posts: 159
    Thanks @Nollie I’ll post it again on the roses thread 👍
  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 20,360
    I've grown climbing roses in pots, 60 cm deep. They need a lot of watering and feeding. Malvern Hills did well but it didn't grow as big as it does when planted in the ground.

    I've also grown Star Jasmine in a big pot but it needs a warm sheltered place. I think you would be OK with it in Devon. Evergreen and very scented.

    I had less succes with clematis, maybe I didn't feed them enough. Nelly Moser was lovely for a few years then the leaves went very pale. Some clematis are better than others for pots. The Taylors Clematis site should tell you which.
    Dordogne and Norfolk
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