By Sarah Wilson published
The best plants for garden walls will thrive when grown vertically up a garden boundary. These accommodating plants will spread over walls as long as there are gaps and crevices between the stones or bricks they can squeeze into or trellises and wires to scramble over.
Some garden wall plants don’t even need that, like ivy and Virginia creeper, which cling to surfaces naturally via aerial roots. Others love to cascade over the top, softening the hard lines of a wall and creating a lovely green screen.
When space is limited in small, urban spaces or balcony gardens, walls are an essential space saver to cram in more color and interest with plants. They are like a blank canvas (and a warm one at that) and lots of plants love to grow up and over them. Plants are also great for blending away unsightly surfaces.
So whether you want classic climbers like roses and honeysuckle or voguish succulents like sedum and sempervivum there's so much choice that we've rounded up the best plants for garden walls to make the choosing easy. Just make sure you remember to include plenty of evergreens so your retaining wall ideas don’t look bare in winter when everything dies back.
10 of the best plants for garden walls to transform a boring boundary
If you want to give a boring or unsightly garden wall a new look and turn it into a planted paradise, our selection of plants will add stunning foliage and flowers.
Choose from the best plants for garden walls for every situation, plus we answer your most commonly asked questions about how to get the best results when planting them.
Aubretia are one of the best plants for garden walls and the one you are most likely to see when you’re looking at other gardens for inspiration. Adaptable and easy to grow, they are a great option for your garden wall ideas.
Try a variety like ‘Argenteo variegata’, which ideally should be planted in fall. It's a fabulous compact, evergreen perennial with trailing variegated leaves and masses of rich violet-purple blooms that burst into bloom in spring, covering the entire plant.
This one is drought tolerant and looks great cascading over walls to add spring color to the garden.
Maintenance is easy too. Just cut back any trailing stems by half in summer to keep the show going. Height: 2 in (5cm) and spread: 6in (15cm).
2. Sempervivum 'cobweb houseleek'
All houseleeks make good wall plants but sempervivum arachnoideum is particularly lovely as it spins a web of fine gossamer-like threads between its leaves. That's where the name 'cobweb houseleek' comes from.
It’s an evergreen mat-forming perennial with masses of rosette-like leaves that's best planted in spring. In summer gently tease out any faded rosettes to give the young plants that cluster around it space to grow. The stunning pink flowers are a real highlight.
Sempervivums like well-drained soil types in a sunny spot and they don't like to get excessively wet in winter so it's best to choose a spot that's naturally free draining. Height: 2-5in (5-12cm). Spread: indefinite.
3. Climbing rose
What's a garden wall without one of the best climbing roses scrambling over it in a riot of color and fragrance? Climbing roses are excellent for draping themselves over a wall and covering it with beautiful blooms.
This group of roses is huge and there are lots of options in all the usual rose categories with everything from English roses and thornless varieties to double flowered blooms and scented ones on offer. Our top tips for climbing roses for garden walls are The Pilgrim, Prince's Trust, James Galway and Iceberg.
There's a large variance in their winter hardiness, so be sure to check the recommended growing/hardiness zones for your area before you buy different types of roses.
A huge plus point worth mentioning is that most climbing roses offer more than one flush of flowers each year so you get double for your money.
You can't have a mass of summer roses covering your garden wall without gorgeous honeysuckle blossoms weaving through. The lovely sweet fragrance will delicately scent the air too.
The honeysuckle family is a large one with over 180 different varieties to choose from. Some are deciduous and some, in warmer regions, are evergreen. But caring for them is super easy with our how to grow honeysuckle guide.
While honeysuckle prefers full sun, they will tolerate some shade. They do best with some type of support to cling to on the wall, such as some practical trellis ideas.
Try 'Graham Thomas', an easy-to-grow and fast establishing honeysuckle with pale creamy yellow flowers and fabulous evening scent, or compact and highly fragranced 'Chic et Choc', with flowers tinged with slashes of dramatic purple.
5. Sedum 'Cape Blanco'
An evergreen with silver-green waxy looking leaf rosettes and small clusters of tiny yellow flowers in summer, this is a year round feature of garden walls that will spread slowly to create an attractive mat of foliage.
It's easy to look after too. All you need do is remove any faded flowers and leaves in summer.
A great choice for clothing the wall in winter as it’s evergreen, sedums like this one propagate freely and will spread quickly making covering walls a cinch. They typically have shallow root systems and grow best when crowded in groups, so wall crevices and cracks are ideal. Height: 2 in (5cm). Spread: indefinite.
Sedum are also great for green roofs if you want to cover a garden cabin or other building with plants.
6. Mexican fleabane
If your garden wall gets full sun Mexican fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus) is a great choice for one of the best plants for garden walls. They thrive wherever you plant them but look particularly eye catching spilling over walls. Another benefit of positioning this plant high up is that you'll see the butterflies that swarm over the flowers.
This charming wall plant flowers over a long period from June to October and is a trouble free and dependable choice. The flowers start white then gradually turn blush pink then eventually a deeper shade of pink. They will cram into the narrowest of crevices and spread around eagerly to fill a wall.
They should be planted in spring, when any existing Mexican fleabane plants should also be sheared short to encourage new growth. Height: 4-6 in (10-15cm). Spread: indefinite.
7. Campanula fairy thimbles
Also known as campanula cochleariifolia and dwarf bellflower, this is a spreading perennial bearing clusters of nodding white, lavender or pale blue bell-shaped flowers in summer.
Fairy thimbles is a good choice for front garden walls as it flowers for months and will add to your home's curb appeal.
This pretty variety spreads easily but is small so won't smother other plants. It will cascade over garden walls and quickly fill crevices. It should be planted in spring then old foliage sheared off in fall to clear away any dead flowers and regenerate for the following season. Height: 3 in (8cm). Spread: indefinite.
Also known as Armeria maritima, sea thrift and sea pinks this pretty flower loves full sun and good drainage to reach its full potential as one of the best plants for garden walls.
The plant is salt- and drought-tolerant, but if the soil is kept too moist the plant will die. This means a free-draining wall is ideal for it.
This plant makes little hummocks with its needle-like leaves then gets long lasting pink flowers in summer. The best time of year to plant it is in spring. It's a low maintenance plant and all you need to do is remove any faded flowers in summer. Height: 4-6 in (10-15cm). Spread: 8 in (20cm).
Clematis are among the most popular garden wall plants, so it's worth taking the time to learn how to grow clematis so you can make boring boundaries a thing of the past.
They include a choice of woody, deciduous vines as well as herbaceous and evergreen varieties. They also vary greatly among species, with different flowering forms, colors and blooming seasons, although most flower sometime between early spring and fall.
All clematis vines need some type of support system but most varieties do well growing along a trellis on a wall.
There are over 65 varieties of clematis to choose from so it's easy to find one to suit if you live in zones 4 to 9.
10. Trumpet vine
Trumpet vine (botanical name Campsis radicans) is a fast-growing perennial. The beautiful, tubular flowers come in sunset colors such as yellow, orange and red, and their tropical-like blooms will add a touch of beauty to your planting.
Blooming on the trumpet vine plant takes place throughout summer and into fall, though it may be more limited if you plant it in a shady spot.
Trumpet vine plant is hardy in hardiness zones 4-9. It can reach 30 to 40 feet (9-12 m) in just one season, so it's important to keep it under control with frequent pruning if it starts to go rampant.
It requires a sturdy support structure so a garden wall is the perfect base for it. It will quickly cover a bare wall if you want speedy coverage to hide an unattractive feature.
What can I plant in my garden wall?
You can either plant in the cracks and crevices of the wall or alternatively train plants to grow against the wall using a trellis.
To plant in the wall, choose young plants that will fit into smaller gaps and get established more easily than larger plants. Campanula, aubretia, sedum and thrift all work well for this type of planting. They will then creep over the wall and spread over edges into large and natural looking clumps.
To plant against the wall, make sure you have a sturdy trellis or ties in place to train the plants. Choose climbing roses, honeysuckle, clematis and vines for this style of garden wall planting.
What plants are good for green walls?
Plants that don't mind hanging from a wall are the best choice. By this we mean they will grow as vertical garden ideas quite happily.
With so many beautiful plants to choose from, make sure you think about the look you want to achieve as well as the location of the wall (is it in sun or shade for example, as that will help you decide which plants will work) and how easy it will be to maintain it going forward.
Ferns, succulents, alpines, vines and climbers are all good choices but as long as you choose an interesting mix really it's up to you.
Will clematis grow up a wall?
Clematis are one of the best plants for garden walls if you want to make the most of any vertical spaces in your garden. They will climb up trellises and walls with ease, quickly helping to disguise any less than beautiful features with a mass of flowers and foliage.
- To help train your clematis to go up the wall, start by placing sticks in the ground directly behind the stem, at least 15in (40cm) away from the wall to help support the vines when they are young.
- Once that is done, attach the vines loosely to the sticks with garden twine or plant clips. You want to allow the clematis some movement so that it can grow within the tie itself.
- You will need to add sturdier climbing plant support ideas such as trellis, horizontal wires or netting as soon as your clematis gets going and begins to scramble up the wall to support it properly.
Sarah Wilson has been a lifestyle journalist for many years, writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, as well as Country Homes & Interiors and Modern Gardens magazines.
Her own (small urban) garden is a work in progress - so many ideas, not enough space to cram them in. Hero plants include her ever growing collection of ornamental grasses, black bamboo and ferns, and the perennials like salvias and penstemons that come back reliably year after year. All very restrained though when in fact she'd love to pack her garden with gaudy dahlias and giant cannas, so these are top of her wish list for what to grow next.
This flatback backyard office can be assembled in one day - and it looks amazing
Garden Buildings A mini-architectural masterpiece, this DIY backyard office promises to be the ultimate building block project for adults
By Rebecca Knight • Published
Gravel driveway ideas: 10 practical and stylish looks for your front yard
Ideas Gravel driveway ideas are budget-friendly, good for drainage, and suit all sorts of plots – here are our favorite looks
By Holly Crossley • Published