Natives are highly popular in gardens, but there is one group that’s often overlooked – native climbing plants. Most cover vertical surfaces such as walls, fences and pergolas, but many also grow as trailing and groundcover plants.

Benefits of native climbing plants for gardens include that they are evergreen, fast-growing, attractive to pollinators especially when they are in flower, and have few pest or disease problems. As many have long been grown as garden plants, there is also a good range of cultivars to choose for their interesting flower colour.


Top five native climbers for Sydney gardens

Bower of beauty (Pandorea jasminoides)

This romantically named climber has clusters of large, trumpet-shaped, pink or white flowers in spring and summer, with spot flowering at other times. It is fast-growing with dark, glossy green leaves. Plants climb to around 3-4m high and wide and will quickly cover a wall or fence. Plants climb by twining, so are best managed trained on a trellis or wires, but can also be used as a groundcover plant. Suited to full sun but tolerant of afternoon shade. Plants are frost-hardy and drought-tolerant once established. Varieties include ‘Lady Di’ (white flowers) and ‘Funky Bellz’ (bright pink).


Wonga wonga vine (Pandorea pandorana)

A relative of bower of beauty (above), this species shares many of its features including shiny evergreen leaves and rapid growth, but has clusters of smaller, tubular flowers in cream, white, yellow or purple. Wonga wonga vine flowers from late winter to spring, with spot flowering at other times. It is very attractive to butterflies and other pollinators. As this is a large, vigorous climber, give it space and a support to climb on and prune after flowering to control size. Plants can reach 2-20m high and 1-9m wide. Plants are frost-hardy and drought-tolerant once established. Varieties include ‘Golden Showers’ (yellow flowers), ‘Snowbells’ (white), ‘Ruby Belle’ (red) and ‘Lemon Bells’ (lemon yellow).


Hardenbergia, native sarsaparilla, happy wanderer (Hardenbergia violacea)

One of the most popular native climbing plants that also doubles as a groundcover, the appeal of Hardenbergia is that it flowers with clusters of rich purple flowers in winter, bringing colour and interest to the garden when little else is in bloom. It grows freely on roadsides and bushland where it clambers across embankments, often in harsh, gravelly soils. Given a support such as a trellis or arbour, hardenbergia climbs well. Although the purple-flowered form is best known, there are also white and pink forms. Hardenbergia will grow in sun to around 3m high and wide and is frost-tolerant. It is very attractive to native pollinators and honeybees, so is a good choice for a pollinator plant in winter. Varieties include ‘Free N Easy’ (pale mauve to white flowers), ‘Happy Wanderer’ (purple), ‘Sweetheart’ (vibrant purple) and ‘Mini Haha’ (shrubby form, purple flowers).


Golden guinea flower (Hibbertia scandens)

This versatile plant can be used as a dense groundcover or a gentle, twining climber if trained over a support such as a low fence. It is tolerant of harsh conditions including seaside plantings and can be found growing naturally on sand dunes and in coastal bushland areas. It has handsome, dark green leaves and large yellow flowers, which give rise to its common name of golden guinea. Flowers are seen throughout the year, but mainly from spring to summer, and are followed by red berries (inedible). Select a spot in sun or shade. Will tolerate light frost. Highly drought-tolerant once established. Potential growth range 50cm-3m high and 1-5m wide.


Native clematis, old man’s beard (Clematis aristata)

A vigorous evergreen climber for sun or shade, with white, star-shaped flowers in spring followed by fluffy seed heads which persist into winter. This is a native form of the popular cool climate clematis. It tolerates warm temperate climates and is found along Australia’s east coast. It is well-suited to shade or part shade with a cool, well-mulched root run. In the bush, this plant is seen clambering over other plants and up trees. It also spreads by suckering (new growth from the base of the plant). Manage growth in the garden to avoid it invading other plants and to make room for new growth. Varieties include ‘Southern Star’ (mounding habit suited to small areas, white flowers).