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

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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

QUESTION:

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

ANSWER:

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

Western thimbleberry
Rubus parviflorus

Red elderberry
Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa

Western white clematis
Clematis ligusticifolia

Orange honeysuckle
Lonicera ciliosa

Pink honeysuckle
Lonicera hispidula

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