Three ways to train your climbing houseplant
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash/Photo by Jade Stephens on Unsplash
Climbing or vining houseplants have pliable stems that can be trained into shape for a sculptural effect. These houseplants include philodendron, monstera, pothos, satin pothos, Ficus sagittate, ivy, hoya, and winter jasmine. Many hail from the undergrowth of tropical rainforests where the ability to cling to and climb taller objects allows them to compete with bigger plants for sunlight.
Because these plants tend to be vigorous growers, training makes keeps the stems tidy. Deciding which stems to prune will become easier since training gives an underlying shape you can cut back to.
This is a simple training technique that is ideal for beginners. It simply gives climbing plants a central support structure which can prevent some taller plants from leaning as they grow. It is ideal for monstera, creeping fig, philodendron, ficus elastica, and golden pothos.
A monstera adansonii around a moss pole Annie Spratt unsplash.com/photos/u7n32yAWIGo
You may have seen monstera and other tropical houseplants growing around a moss pole inserted into the soil. The moss replicates the damp, vegetative trunks and branches that these plants climb in their rainforest habitats. Monstera and other species have aerial roots above the ground that allow them to do this. Even if you don’t train these plants, their aerial roots will grow anyway, just waiting for the opportunity to climb.
To train the plant, all you need to do is stake the pole in the center of the soil and tie the plant to the pole at a few points on the stem using gardening wire or twine. If your plant has supple stems, you can wind it loosely around the pole as it grows, fixing the stems in place using wire or twine. Leave the plant to do the rest. If your plant is a very vigorous grower, make sure the pole is a lot taller than your plant.
Making a moss pole is very easy. Here's what you'll need:
- Wooden pole (bamboo, plywood, anything sturdy and upright)
- Sphagnum moss – a cheap gardening staple that most garden centers stock. You can also order online.
- Twine or gardening wire
Once complete, you will be inserting the moss pole into the pot’s soil to the bottom. Measure your plant pot’s depth and mark it on the pole. Leave this length of the pole bare
After you have marked the depth of your pot on your pole, tie the twine securely where the mark is.
Take a handful of moss and cover the pole with it, just above where your twine is tied. Wrap the twine around the moss to secure it around the pole. Cover the rest of the pole in the same way, wrapping the twine as you go. Make sure the pole does not have any bare patches.
Your moss stake is complete.
If your plant is already established, you may need to take your plant out of the pot before inserting the pole. Remove your plant from the soil and insert the stake into the center of the pot. Repot the plant so that it is snug next to the pole and replace the soil. To encourage your plant to use the pole, use gardening wire or twine to tie it to the pole at a few points along the stem.
Hoop (or balloon) training
Winter jasmine and hoya work well twined around a hoop trellis that encircles your pot. These hoops are also known as balloon trellises. You can buy hoop trellises that you simply insert into the soil. These trellises vary in shape, from semi-circular to U-shaped.
A hoop-trained hoya kerii
To train your hoya or jasmine, wind the longest stems around the hoop first, fixing it to the hoop with gardening wire or twine. Then, wind the next longest stem around the hoop and so on, until all the stems are fixed to the stem.
If your plant is too small to cover the hoop completely, wind the plant around the hoop over a period of months as it grows.
A word of caution: once the plant is fully trained onto a structure, it can be difficult to repot the plant. This is particularly the case with sturdy wooden trellises. However, you can buy or make your own wire hoop. Once you need to repot, you can snip the wire at the top of the hoop and unravel all the stems again.
Indoor wall training
Training vining plants to creep over your walls can transform your living space.
All you need are strings (fishing string or twine) and nails or adhesive hooks.
Arrange the nails or hooks on your wall in the desired pattern and connect them with lengths of string. There is a lot of scope for creativity here. You could frame a window with your plant, arrange multiple lengths of string across a wall for a fanning effect, or construct geometric patterns for your plant to cling to.
Train your vining plant stems around the string, starting with the longest and working your way to the shortest. Make sure you leave enough string for the plant to grow onto.