Climbing plants for north facing wall

Climbing plants for north facing wall

The builders are nearly finished! Hopefully they’ll be done by the end of next week, although there will still be a long way for us to go after that (finishing electrics, plumbing and plastering, windows to front of house, fitting kitchen, painting and decorating). But on a lovely sunny afternoon like this, it means it’s no longer premature of me to be thinking about planting things in the front garden. Planting is something I want to get started asap, because obviously plants take a while to get going, and I’m impatient for results. I really think that plants at the front of the house are the best way to create curb appeal.


The roses really make it special, don't they!

The roses really make it special, don’t they! Want the same effect but for shade…

Photo source unknown

My front garden is soon to be my front drive, as we’re making it possible to park the car there so we can reclaim some of the back garden. This means that it will have even less space for plants, but my plan is to put them in the following places:

  • Window boxes
  • A climber going up the corner of the house (softening the corner and hiding some new pipes from the boiler), eventually running above the kitchen window too
  • Something tall in a feature pot on the left of the front door (outside a little window in the hallway)
  • Hopefully a hedge (instead of the wall) separating the parking space from the pavement
  • There’s a space which could be a planting bed on the right of the front gate. I’m guessing it’s about 60cm wide by 1.5m long (2 feet by 5 feet). The added bonus is that planting something there will screen the bins.

The flowers show where I plan to plant things.

In addition to lack of space, the other challenge is that the area is north facing and mostly in full shade. Some parts of it receive partial shade. These are tricky conditions because I want to see flowers! And flowers generally like full sun, not shady north-facing places.

So my ideal wishlist is:

  • Evergreen plants
  • Plants which have attractive flowers
  • Plants which smell strongly (and nice!) – wouldn’t that make such a lovely welcome?
  • Low maintenance plants. I can’t be doing with labour-intensive pruning / things which easily fall prey to diseases and pests / things which always require loads of watering etc etc.

And what I need is:

  • Plants which won’t outgrow/take over the space
  • Nothing which has invasive roots (they might be closer to our neighbours’ house than my house)
  • Things which will do fine in shade
  • Things which don’t need too much shelter

As always, not asking for much then!

When researching plants, I find the RHS plant selector quite useful, although sometimes it does include some apparently unsuitable results eg: you ask it for things which are interesting in winter, and it includes things which flower in summer. So the other thing I do is Google (eg: “climbing plant north facing”) and then also check what the RHS site says about it.

I’m going to start with climbing plants, and probably cover the others in future posts. Here’s what I’ve found (they are all evergreen and can take full shade apart from a couple which are “partial shade”, which I’ve pointed out):

Lapageria rosea (Chilean bellflower)

Lapageria rosea - Chilean bellflower



  • Pink flowers (my favourite). They also have a tropical look – even better!
  • Flowers in summer and autumn
  • Generally disease free


Less than perfect:

  • Can get certain pests
  • Prefers sheltered spot (the driveway it will be planted near can be a bit of a wind tunnel sometimes)
  • Hardiness rating H3 – Hardy in coastal and mild areas of UK (which I am, although I’d prefer a more hardy H4 in an ideal world)


Hydrangea “seemannii”

Hydrangea seemannii


  • Generally pest and disease free
  • Evening fragrance

Less than perfect:

  • Really doesn’t like being exposed – not sure how it would fare in my garden then
  • Needs to be kept moist – will it die if I go on holiday during a hot spell?
  • Will apparently need frost protection while establishing
  • Slow growing to start (like I said, I’m impatient!)

Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle) – var. “repens” or “halliana”

Lonicera japonica var.repens

Lonicera japonica var. repens


Lonicera halliana

Lonicera japonica var. halliana



  • Hardiness H5 – hardy even in severe UK winters (-10 to -15)
  • Has an RHS Award of Garden Merit
  • Doesn’t mind exposed location

Less than perfect:

  • Tolerates partial shade – but my front garden is more like full shade
  • Can get certain pests, and powdery mildew
  • I’ve been put off by this article, where the garden expert advises:

    “personally I would not wish on anyone the so-called evergreen honeysuckles such as Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’ (which can flower from June until the frosts), unless they have a large garden and can let them perform unchecked. Many a small-garden owner is seduced by the idea of scented evergreen honeysuckle – only to find the reality is that they have to sit under a cascade of falling leaves all summer. The drastic pruning that is needed to keep some sort of control means that they have to look at an ugly tangle of brown stems for part of the year, and the honeysuckle then does not flower until October – by which time the evenings are so cool that it barely smells.”


Pileostegia viburnoides (Climbing hydrangea)

Pileostegia viburnoides



  • H5 hardiness
  • Doesn’t sound picky about soil type and moisture
  • Generally pest and disease free


My favourites are the 1st one (Lapageria rosea) because of its pink, tropical looking flowers, and the last one (Pileostegia viburnoides) because it sounds really low maintenance and easy to grow. Maybe I’ll start with the 1st one, and if the location turns out to be too exposed, move on to the last one. In future I’d also like to try mixing in something like a clematis, which I can then afford to be deciduous (removing the “evergreen” requirement opens up the options a lot) and will flower when the “main” climber is not flowering. I’ll let you know how I get on!

Until next time x


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