How to Train a Vine to Climb a Fence

Lush vines with vibrant green leaves growing on the black metal fence of homes
Vines are an easy way to make your garden feel new again. Whether you have a large backyard you’re looking to spruce up for the spring, a small garden that needs another plant, or a bit of fence that needs something extra added to it, vines are for you!
And while they can liven up any space they’re put in, they can require some extra help to reach the heights of their potential. So what do you need to know to get a vine to grow on your home’s fence?

Types of Vines

Before we get into how to train your vine, let’s talk about the different types of vines there are. Different vines grow and cling to things differently, so knowing what you’ll be planting is key to having a beautifully vine-covered fence.

Tendril Vines

Tendril vines like cucumber, sweetpeas, and passionflowers use tendrils to cling to surfaces and climb them. Tendrils are thin threadlike strands that come from the stem of the vine. They grow and move until they brush against something, then, like a hand on the rung of a ladder, will coil around it and climb. Because of this ladder-like climbing, it’s difficult for tendril vines to move up a flat vertical surface.
Tendril vines are easiest to grow on structures that have grips for them. So for a fence, they would grow best if it had small slats (such as in chain link or lattice fences), or horizontal elements that the tendrils can twine around. As long as tendril vines have something to twine around, and there’s usually no need for support.

Twining Vines

Twining vines, such as jasmine, wisteria, or honeysuckle, are similar to tendril vines in that they wrap around structure to climb, but instead of tendrils they use their leaves or stem to secure themselves. Vines that twine with their leaves are a little weaker than those that twine with their stem. Because the petioles (the stalk of the leaf) are not very long, the supports need to be thin enough for them to wrap around.
Stem twining vines on the other hand can handle larger structures like poles and picket fences, as they wrap their stem around the support they come in contact with. Like tendril vines, it can be hard for twining vines to grow on flat vertical surfaces, so you may need support structures when growing them unless you have, or plan to build, a fence that has horizontal elements.

Clinging Vines

Clinging vines like English ivy, climbing hydrangeas, or creeping figs, cling to surfaces by developing aerial roots along their stems and digging into the surface it is trying to scale. Clinging vines usually require no support except for in the beginning to make sure they start growing into your fence. Some clinging vines, like the climbing rose, will use thorns instead of roots to grab onto surfaces and climb. These hooking vines will require a wooden or softer surface, or some training to climb your fence properly.

Choosing a Vine that is Right for You

Now that you know the different sorts of vines that are out there, how do you go about choosing one that is right for you?
First and most importantly, choose your vine based on your fence. As I mentioned above, the different vines like to grow on different surfaces and will require different levels of support and tending depending on the surface they need to climb. If you have a chain link or latticework fence, look for a tendril or twining vines. If you have a flatter fence with nowhere for a vine to grip, look to the clinging vines or be prepared to purchase a trellis to use a tendril or twining vine.
Secondly, consider choosing a native, noninvasive, vine. Do some research about your area and find a vine that is native to the region. If you have a garden, finding a vine that attracts your local pollinators can help it thrive. Choosing noninvasive plants also helps with how often you need to prune and do upkeep on your vines since they don’t spread as quickly.
Lastly, find the one that fits your garden! Are you wanting something like an English ivy that has lots of leaves? Or maybe you want something that flowers like a morning glory or honeysuckle? Find the vine that suits not only your fence and location, but makes your outdoor space feel and look as beautiful to you as possible.

How to Train Your Vines

Now that you have an idea of the type of vine you’re looking for, let’s talk about how to “train” your vine. Getting your vines to grow on your fence in the way you want is called training. This process involves time, patience, and consistent check-ins on your vine to make sure it’s growing the way you want it to.
Once your vine is planted and has started to reach, all you have to do is help it attach to your fence. If you choose a vine that needs supports, the easiest way to get it to grow against a flat surface is to use a trellis (a frame that helps support vines) and secure the vines to it using wire, garden tape, string, or really anything that’s gentle and won’t cut into the plant. Just tie the vine to the trellis and tie off the shoots as the vine grows.
Alternatively, when planting a vine against a flat wall, you can use a weather-resistant training wire and eye hooks in an even grid that fully covers your fence. Adding wire and hooks can also benefit leaf twining vines that need a thinner support to attach themselves to. The pattern of the eye hooks is up to you! Arrange them in any way that best fits your space and end goal. Make sure to space the wires at least an inch from the wall using the eye hooks. You can find the wire and hooks at your local nursery or hardware store.
Now that you are now armed and equipped with all the information you need, go forth and plant! Make your outdoor space a special place, and enjoy your new vines and freshly decorated fence.
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