15 Climbing Plants You Can Grow in the Shade (For Real!)

Climbing plants are beautiful, no doubt about that. Most species are known to flourish in full sun, however, so growing them in shady landscapes or homes can lead to more dead plants than I’d like to admit. The good news? You still have plenty of shade-tolerant options!

The 15 best climbing plants that can tolerate shade are:

  1. American groundnut
  2. American honeysuckle
  3. Creeping fig
  4. Crossvine
  5. Dutchman’s pipe
  6. English ivy
  7. Hydrangea barbara
  8. Japanese hydrangea
  9. Kangaroo vine
  10. Philodendron
  11. Pothos
  12. Saw greenbrier
  13. Sevenleaf creeper
  14. Virgin’s bower
  15. Virginia creeper

Very few things that are more satisfying than cultivating climbing and vining plants and watching them entwine with something. Thankfully, there are plants for almost any kind of setting, including low-light ones. Read further to decide which one to grow!

1. American Groundnut (Apios americana)

The American groundnut is a shade-tolerant perennial frequently used as a climbing plant. Grow it in damp soils and trim it regularly to prevent it from becoming weedy.

Length: 8–16 feet (2–4 m)

Light Requirements: Partial shade

Water Requirements: High

You might not have heard of this peculiar plant. However, it is often grown as an ornamental vining plant that does not need much light.

American Groundnut Vines
John Murtaugh (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Apios Americana Leaves

Since American groundnuts are commonly found in damp forests and marshes, they do best in moist soil.

They can quickly become aggressive and will need regular pruning, but their red summer flowers are worth the trouble.

2. American Honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis)

American honeysuckles will quickly climb and grow multiple stems even in low-light. This honeysuckle species is non-invasive and is not a threat to the ecosystem.

Length: 10–20 feet (3–6 m)

Light Requirements: Partial shade

Water Requirements: Moderate

Honeysuckles are one of the prettiest vining plants in my opinion, especially in the summer. Plus, they’re fast-growing. It doesn’t take long for it to develop a lush and thick growth.

American Honeysuckle Vines
Dayton Ulrich (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Lonicera Canadensis Leaves

Unlike other honeysuckles, such as the Japanese or Morrow honeysuckle, this species is not invasive and can safely be grown without the worry of disturbing natural ecosystems.

Learn How to Effectively Remove Invasive Honeysuckle (Full Guide)! 

3. Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila)

Creeping figs are vigorous plants that grow in moist conditions. This climbing plant grows best with less than 6 hours of sun and can live in the shade.

Length: 8–15 feet (2–4 m)

Light Requirements: Partial shade

Water Requirements: Moderate

This gorgeous plant is also known as the climbing fig, thanks to its ability to cling and rapidly grow on surfaces.

Its variegated cultivars look especially beautiful inside a house or on a pergola.

Creeping Fig Vines
J Jr (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Ficus Pumila Leaves

I’ve also seen this inside closed terrariums, many of which are damp and shady microhabitats.

Learn more in The 12 Best Plants for Closed Terrariums (Plus the Worst!) 

4. Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata)

Crossvine is a perennial climbing plant commonly cultivated for its dense tropical growth even in shade, using tendrils to support itself. It is drought-tolerant when mature and will bloom flowers in the spring.

Length: 30–50 feet (9–15 m)

Light Requirements: Partial to heavy shade

Water Requirements: Moderate

Crossvine, or Bignonia capreolata, is probably one of the most versatile plants on this list.

Not only can crossvine plants withstand various conditions, but it is also a perennial that can be grown from zones 5a and 5b, all the way to 9b.

Louise Dias (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Bignonia Capreolata Flowers

Their pink and orange flowers make them even more delightful to grow, especially in the shade where it can feel gloomy.

5. Dutchman’s Pipe (Aristolochia macrophylla)

The Dutchman’s pipe has prolific twining vines that wrap themselves around objects, much like a climbing plant. It is a shade-tolerant woody plant that requires constantly damp soil.

Length: 15–40 feet (4–12 m)

Light Requirements: Partial shade

Water Requirements: High

This list wouldn’t be complete without the Dutchman’s pipe. Its attractive heart-shaped leaves can grow up to 12 inches wide, making it ideal to use as a privacy screen.

It also has curious-looking flowers that remind me of nepenthes, which is perfect for adding a wild and tropical flair.

Dutchman's Pipe Vines
Kathrin Judith (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Aristolochia Macrophylla Flowers

Preferably, the soil for this plant must always be moist. Otherwise, the vines will quickly wilt.

6. English Ivy (Hedera helix)

English ivy plants are attractive yet aggressive shade-tolerant climbing plants. Their rapid growth and powerful aerial roots make them difficult to control. Therefore, this plant is not suitable for outdoor landscaping and is safer to grow indoors.

Length: 20–80 feet (6–24 m)

Light Requirements: Partial to deep shade

Water Requirements: Moderate

Thanks to its aerial roots, the beautiful Hedera helix will cling to various objects with an iron grip while it grows upwards in search of more light.

English Ivy Vines
Rojo Jorge (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Hedera Helix Leaves

Because of this, it is extremely challenging to remove. So it’s best kept away from any walls. The English ivy is also incredibly aggressive and is best grown indoors on trellises.

7. Hydrangea Barbara (Decumaria barbara)

Hydrangea barbaras have fragrant blooms that can survive heavy shade. It can also tolerate floods and is suitable for rain gardens.

Length: 12–36 feet (3–10 m)

Light Requirements: Partial to deep shade

Water Requirements: High

If you struggle with frequent rain or have boggy soils, this plant is for you!

Since hydrangea barbara is frequently found in wetlands, it has no issue growing in waterlogged or flooded soils.

Hydrangea Barbara Vines
Tory Garland (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Decumaria Barbara Leaves

This plant flourishes in the shade—so much so that it will even grow creamy flowers in the spring.

8. Japanese Hydrangea (Hydrangea hydrangeoides)

Japanese hydrangeas have attractive foliage that can handle low-light settings. However, this climbing plant can take years to flower due to its slow growth rates.

Length: 15–30 feet (4–9 m)

Light Requirements: Partial to heavy shade

Water Requirements: Moderate

Another climbing hydrangea would be the Japanese hydrangea, although it is not as commonly grown as the last plant.

Personally, I find that such a shame because it has beautifully textured leaves with toothed edges.

Japanese Hydrangea Vines
Lyanna Droulin (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Schizophragma Hydrangeoides Leaves

The only downside is that it can be slow to grow and you’ll have to wait at least 7 years for it to bloom.

9. Kangaroo Vine (Cissus antarctica)

Kangaroo vines can live with little to no direct sunlight and are suitable for shady gardens. Additionally, they can adapt to various soils and watering regimes, making them easy to cultivate.

Length: 5–15 feet (1–4 m)

Light Requirements: Partial to deep shade

Water Requirements: Moderate

For an easy-growing plant, I highly suggest kangaroo vines—an ornamental vine from Australia with glossy foliage.

These plants can handle being grown in either moist or dry soils.

Kangaroo Vines
Noworyta jaro (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Cissus Antarctica Leaves

Kangaroo vines won’t grow as tall or long as other climbing plants. However, this makes it easier to manage, especially if you’re planning to grow climbing plants indoors.

10. Philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum var. hederaceum)

Philodendrons, or parlor ivy, are known to develop new growth constantly despite receiving zero direct sunlight. Their vigorous growing vines can also be trained and used as climbing plants.

Length: 5–20 feet (1–6 m)

Light Requirements: Partial to heavy shade

Water Requirements: Low

Philodendrons grow surprisingly long vines and can even be found growing on the side of a 22-story building in Singapore.

This tropical vine can adapt to a wide range of conditions and grow new leaves and vines rapidly, even in low-light areas. Because of this, it’s perfect to use indoors!

Philodendron Vines
Daniel Barthelemy (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Philodendron Leaves

With around 200 varieties of philodendron, you’re sure to find the right plant for your needs!

11. Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

Although pothos is commonly cultivated as a houseplant, it can rapidly stretch upwards like most climbing plants. It grows well even in shaded or low-light areas.

Length: 6–40 feet (1–12 m)

Light Requirements: Partial to heavy shade

Water Requirements: Low

I can personally vouch for this plant, as I have a wonderful marble queen pothos in a shady backyard that is still happily climbing its moss pole.

An example of a Pothos or Philodendron growing successfully in low light.
YouTube Video – Pothos Growing in Low Light

When it comes to plant care, good drainage is a must to ensure their roots do not stay wet and deteriorate.

Aside from that, it is overall a low-maintenance and fast-growing plant that can easily satisfy your need for a vining plant.

12. Saw Greenbrier (Smilax bona-Nox)

Saw greenbrier plants have a high tolerance for shade and a fast growth rate. Give them support to train them into climbing plants and beware of their weedy growth.

Length: 5–20 feet (1–6 m)

Light Requirements: Partial to deep shade

Water Requirements: Moderate

These plants have rhizomes—underground stems—that allow them to store the nutrients they need to grow and spread rapidly. Simply give them a stake or a fence to climb on and they’ll quickly take off!

Saw Greenbrier Vines
Jeff Williams (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Smilax Bona-Nox Leaves

Because of this, it’s easy for it to become weedy. In short, they’re best grown indoors or in pots. Luckily, the saw greenbrier is native to the US and is not considered invasive.

13. Sevenleaf Creeper (Parthenocissus heptaphylla)

Sevenleaf creepers are shade-tolerant climbing plants that can grow in a wide range of conditions, including sandy soil. This plant is bird-friendly and will lure birds in with its shiny black berries.

Length: 5–10 feet (1–3 m)

Light Requirements: Partial to heavy shade

Water Requirements: Moderate

Aptly named due to its unusual growth habit of producing seven leaflets, sevenleaf creepers thrive in the shade and do not need much sunlight.

Once this plant is established, it will start to produce black fruit that birds find highly attractive. They can also be grown in sandy soils, which adds to their versatility!

For more, see the 17 Plants That Grow Well in Sand (Plus How They Do It!) 

14. Virgin’s Bower (Clematis virginiana)

The virgin’s bower plant, also called the woodbine, uses fast-growing stems to climb up. This shade-tolerant perennial vine is easy to cultivate and requires little effort.

Length: 15–20 feet (4–6 m)

Light Requirements: Partial to heavy shade

Water Requirements: Moderate to high

The Clematis virginiana will quickly weave through lattices or fences without any issue. This is because it is a twining plant, meaning it uses its thin stems to wrap itself around other objects and grow upwards.

Virgin;s Bower Vines
KAMBRIA Goldstein (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Clematis Virginiana Leaves

I’m especially fond of its ability to produce pretty white flowers, even if it is placed in dark and gloomy areas.

Additionally, it can adapt to various soils and is great if you’re looking for something low-maintenance.

15. Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

Virginia creepers are commonly grown as shade-tolerant ornamental climbing plants. It is a vigorous grower with strong tendrils. However, this makes it a danger to grow outdoors. Therefore, it is best to grow them in containers.

Length: 40–50 feet (12–15 m)

Light Requirements: Partial shade

Water Requirements: Moderate

This member of the grape family can grow tremendously long vines in a short period. They also put on a spectacular show in the autumn, turning a vibrant orange and red.

Virginia Creeper Vines
David Wilson (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Parthenocissus Quinquefolia Leaves

However, there is a disadvantage to growing the Virginia creeper. These plants are incredibly aggressive.

When used as outdoor landscaping, this creeping plant can damage homes by clinging to wires and blocking gutters.

Because of this, I highly suggest keeping these rapid growers in containers or using them in greenhouses.


How do plants climb?

Climbing plants, such as the philodendron, use touch-sensitive aerial roots or tendrils to cling to the nearest surface. However, there are other plants, like clematis, that use their leaves and stems to twist around objects for support. This climbing habit is often done to access more light and pollinators.

Are climbing plants bad for your house?

Many climbing plants are dangerous to grow around homes due to the rapid growth rates that allow them to take over walls, exposed wires, and more. Their tendrils are extremely difficult to remove. Left unchecked, plants like English ivy can damage structures and will require heavy construction to remove.

Summary of 15 Climbing Plants That Can Grow in the Shade

Shade-tolerant climbing plants include the American groundnut, American honeysuckle, creeping fig, crossvine, Dutchman’s pipe, English ivy, hydrangea barbara, Japanese hydrangea, kangaroo vine, philodendron, pothos, saw greenbrier, sevenleaf creeper, virgin’s bower, and the Virginia creeper.

These plants can tolerate partial to heavy shade and often require consistently damp soils. However, despite being grown with little-to-no direct sunlight exposure, many of these plants such as English ivy and the Virginia creeper can become weedy and aggressive.


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