En EspaÑol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
1 rating

Thursday - February 10, 2011

From: Portland, OR
Region: Northwest
Topic: Vines
Title: Plants to tumble over a retaining wall in OR
Answered by: Anne Bossart


Please recommend plants that I could use to plant on the ground space above a 4 foot high, 150 foot long unattractive concrete wall that would grow over and down to cover the wall. The area is very shady. Can't use climbing plants because the wall is very close to the property line. Thanks


I'm not sure there is an easy answer to this question because most plants that will grow over and tumble down a retaining wall are just climbing plants without a structure to climb. 

You don't indicate whether the property line is close to the top or bottom of the wall or if you wish to have any real plant mass along the top of the wall. These factors will influence what kind of plant you choose.

If you chose a shrub with long, arching branches that will cover a significant part of your wall, you will have to deal with the fact that it will be that size and shape all the way around and you will have to prune the back side of it so that it doesn't encroach on the neighbouring property.  It will likely be lopsided and bare looking from "the back".

If you choose a vine, there will be very little plant mass to deal with at the top of the wall but all the vines can be trained to grow down your side of the wall.

Our Native Plant Database can generate lists of plants for you to choose from. If you do a Combination Search for Oregon and select the plant type (shrub and then vine) and your conditions (shade) it will generate lists of ten vines and sixty-eight shrubs to choose from. 

There area few shrubs on the list that generally have an arching form (but would likely all be too big):

Ribes laxiflorum (Trailing black currant)

Rubus parviflorus (Thimbleberry)

Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa (Red elderberry)

You will likely have better luck with one of these vines:

Clematis ligusticifolia (Western white clematis)

Lonicera ciliosa (Orange honeysuckle)

Lonicera hispidula (Pink honeysuckle)


From the Image Gallery

Trailing black currant
Ribes laxiflorum

Rubus parviflorus

Red elderberry
Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa

Western white clematis
Clematis ligusticifolia

Orange honeysuckle
Lonicera ciliosa

Pink honeysuckle
Lonicera hispidula

More Vines Questions

How to graft muscadines?
June 07, 2013 - I have tried for the last two years, grafting my perfect muscadines to the native non-bearing vines. I have tried every method available to no avail. I usually get two or three leaves, then wilt and...
view the full question and answer

Flowering vine for summer sun in Southern California
November 26, 2013 - Hi and thanks for this great site. 1)Southern CA -- South facing wall(lattice on top)total height 7ft with mature Boston Ivy-- Viburnum tinus and Euonymus at base. THE PROBLEM: East 25% (25ft) has b...
view the full question and answer

Vine for a trellis in Illinois
June 21, 2008 - I live in Nortrhern Illinois and am trying to keep my garden as native as possible. I would like to grow something on a trellis in part sun. It looks like a regional clematis is a possibility, but d...
view the full question and answer

Identification of thorny vine in Michigan
May 21, 2013 - We have a species growing around our rural SW Michigan property that I'm trying to identify: I either see stalks up to 3 ft tall, or much longer vines if they find anchor. The most notable characte...
view the full question and answer

Non-invasive, native vines for flood wall in San Jose CA
April 12, 2010 - I was hoping you could help me with some information on vine selection. I am interested in selecting three vines for a flood wall application. Non-native species are acceptable, so long as they’re no...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center