Tips on How To Teach Plants To Climb

Golden pothos and vining philodendrons are famous climbing plants. In their natural habitat, they climb on bigger trees using their aerial roots. But grown as indoor plants, they can be trained to trail or climb provided the kind of support they cling onto. 

Stay tuned as Plantly will provide you tips on how to train your vining plants to climb indoors and outdoors. But, first, you must understand how plants climb in the wild to replicate these conditions.

Different Ways Your Plants Can Climb

Before you can provide your plants like the golden pothos with a structure or any other plant, it helps to know how these trailing plants climb.

Trailing Plant Using Tendrils

climbing passion flower

You find two types of vining plants that rise with either stems or leaves. Some good examples are your grapes and passionflowers that trail with stem tendrils. While your sweet peas and the Chilean Glory flower has leaf tendrils.

The stem tendril grows out of the stem, while leaf tendrils are modified leaves emerging from a leaf node. The tendrils look skinny, extending along the stem and reaching out to the air to make contact with a surface.

When the tendrils reach a surface, it coils around the structure, growing along the support. Hence, these plants need horizontal support like branches, netting, or horizontal strings attached to the post or a pole.

When using poles, ensure that you attach the string about four inches apart for the newer tendrils to reach the string. The reason is that the tendrils wrap around thin support like wire not more than 1/4 inch in diameter.

The Twiner

honeysuckle vine

Good examples of twiners are your pole beans, morning glory, and honeysuckle. Yet, there are differences in the way these plants climb. One will have twinning leaves while others will have twinning leaves.

Your plant with twinning leaves also uses its foliage-like tendrils to twist around a string or wire. So, you must provide added support for the leaf stem to wrap around. Plants with twinning stem twist around things they touch.

The stems can twist clockwise or even counterclockwise. A famous twiner is the Wisteria species which can grow heavy. Thus it needs strong support as it grows large something like a trellis is perfect for this plant.



These plants have long stems looking like vines. Still, climbing by themselves is impossible, and they need help. Good examples are your bougainvillea or rambling roses.

As you know, these plants have thorns helping them to grip, but if you want to train them, you need to tack the stems in place or tie them up with string.

Adhesive Pad Stems

ivy plant climbing in a tree trunk

The plant grows touch-sensitive adhesive pads on the stem tendrils allowing them to stick to any surface like your Virginia creeper or Boston Ivy. You see Ivy growing up in trunks, trees, and walls. These vining plants need vertical support, or they start crawling sideways.

Plants With Aerial Roots

ivy vining plant

The last group also uses their stems to attach to surfaces—a cluster of aerial roots forms on the stems.

These clinging stem roots also adhere to any surface. Some familiar ones are English ivy and hydrangea, and pothos.

But a note of warning is that these plants can damage the paintwork when you remove them from structures.

Steps on Teaching Plants How to Climb:

Any climbing plant first needs an anchoring system like a trellis, moss pole, or bamboo canes. Yet, you can find a few plants climbing, latching to walls.

The plant uses clinging stem roots to achieve this and placing some grow lights above your plant gives them a great reason to trail and climb. The reason is that the stem roots grow to light.

Hence, you need to give those leaf tendrils a reason to climb if you have them indoors on a bookcase or shelf.

First Step: Choose a Few Plants

pothos plant

To train pothos or any other climbing plants, it helps to choose a healthy plant with enough growth that you can wrap around a moss pole. Once you wrap it around a pole or a framework, the training starts allowing them to climb, trail, or vine. You may find that for some species you need to stake using a pole with wire to attach the trailing stems.

Second Step: Plants Climb With an Anchoring System

The aerial roots serve two purposes when you look at the climbing plants. First, those clinging stem roots provide the plant with nutrients from the air while also acting as anchors to latch to surfaces.

These roots make your plant grow, and they are very delicate. So, as these roots cannot penetrate walls, you can easily create a living wall inside for your Boston ivy, morning glory, to Philodendron brasil.

Hence, you can train them to climb a wall, spread it across a shelf, or drape it down from a ceiling in a hanging basket. So, depending on the plant’s vines, you can grow them up a wall or use an anchor system away from the wall.

Materials to Help Train Climbing Plants

You can use numerous materials to train your houseplants to climb. Some excellent choices are bamboo canes, metal poles to form a structure, totem poles, moss poles, and trellises.

wooden trellis

The structures come in handy if you are concerned your plant will damage the paintwork on the walls.

For anchoring pothos, you can use 3M command hooks or even brass picture hooks to anchor the vines to walls.

Moss Pole to Train Those Stem Tendrils

monstera adansonii in a pole

A moss pole is ideal for displaying the leaf tendrils of your houseplants. The fantastic thing about using this climbing structure is that it allows your plants to climb, showing those huge leaves while providing added humidity to thrive.

Plants that grow well with moss poles are:

  •  Philodendron

  • Monstera

  • Pothos

  • Hoya

  • English Ivy and Boston Ivy

  • Jasmine

With the pole, your plants get an anchoring place to help the aerial roots attach to grow. To train the plant’s stem, you must bring it up to the moistened pole and secure it with a soft plant tie, cotton string, or yarn.

Using this method works great to train pothos and other plants. We recommend securing the stems at different places on the totem if the stems are long.

Other Training Methods

flowering vining plants in a trellis

Consider the important differences of each climbing plant when training your plants to climb, looking at the way the trail.

Once you have your plant decide if it is an indoor plant or an outdoor plant you want to grow, for landscaping plants, you can use the following steps.

  1. For the landscape, support your vines to climb, placing wire onto the structure. You can check our best trellis for climbing plants here.

  2. Once everything is in place, you can plant your vining plant about 18 inches from the wall allowing enough space for the roots to develop and enjoy the indirect sunlight with rain.

  3. Keep the stems attached to the cane supports you provided your plant and spread them a bit to train them. You can teach your plant to climb at an angle reaching the wire with three poles. The best is to place the canes under the wires to keep them in place.

  4. Adjust the canes to create the shape of a fan. Then take some wire to tie the stems to the support. We recommend using garden twine as it does not damage delicate leaves.

  5. Another helpful thing is to prune any weak growth as it will not climb on the support well.

Whether you want to buy, sell or simply reach out to other plant enthusiasts, Plantly is the right place to be!

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