Climbers out of control

Page last updated: Thursday, 11 December 2014 - 8:05am

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Many climbing plants enhance vertical space in the garden, but some can become a serious nuisance for you and your neighbours. The traits that initially make these plants an attractive proposition are the same traits that later turn them into a source of annoyance.

Typically, people want a climber to hide an ugly fence, create shade, form a privacy screen or soften the appearance of a wall, and they want that plant to perform rapidly. However, plants which grow fast and vigorously are often hard to control unless regularly pruned.

When invasive climbers are established they may be extremely difficult to remove, particularly if they have invaded buildings and boundaries or escaped into a neighbouring property or the bushland beyond.

How plants climb

Some plants are routinely called “climbers” while others are usually termed “creepers” because, primarily, they creep across the ground. Many creepers, however, grow upwards if they find a suitable support, and effectively become climbers. For the purposes of this article, any plant that can grow up over other plants or manmade objects will be called a climber.

Plants climb by various methods. Some produce long, strong stems that arch over any supporting structure and then form a large, bushy crown. Some have tips that twist clockwise or anti-clockwise, threading their way through wire, trellis or shrubs and trees. Some use tendrils or hook-like thorns to gain a foothold every few centimeters as they rise. Others produce aerial roots that adhere to firm surfaces.

Why some climbers cause problems

Once a climber is well established, it can develop great mass and cause considerable damage as well as nuisance value.

The spread and volume of growth may smother shrubs and trees, robbing them of light and eventually killing them. The weight can force fences to lean and collapse. Dense tangles of plants are the perfect hiding place for rats and paper wasps. Thick growths of evergreen climbers near windows or on pergolas prevent light and warmth entering rooms or courtyards in winter. Shoots can invade roofs and block gutters, creating fire hazards in dry weather or pools where mosquitoes breed during wet periods. Aerial roots exude a substance that etches brickwork and weakens mortar.


Contact information

Pest and Disease Information Service (PaDIS)
+61 (0)8 9368 3080