Having plants winding their way up your outside walls can look very pretty but the actual DAMAGE some plant life does to your wall will make you think twice in allowing the plant to grow in the first place.
By no means are ALL climbing plants bad for your house, some can genuinely provide benefits which we look at in a minute, but be warned; some climbing plants are very aggressive in the way they anchor themselves to your walls and, if left unchecked, can cause serious structural problems.
It’s worth noting that it’s not all doom and gloom if you have, or you would like, plants trailing up the outside walls of your house, so what plants are usually best, and what ones are best avoided?
What climbing plants to avoid
Ivy is a prime example. The sort of plants to avoid having trailing up your wall are often the ones that have “suckers” or little mini branches like spikes, that burrow under the paint or pebbledash, into the render of the wall for a foothold.
Millions of these penetrations into the wall can mass to one big incursion into the exterior wall surface and it doesn’t take Alan Titchmarsh to tell you that plants entering the fabric of the building will suck natural moisture in walls and undermine adhesion of the parts of the wall that make up bricks and blocks etc, basically weakening the wall.
These destructive plants are often known as “self clingers”.
There are many different species but as I don’t run a gardening website (!), A FEW TO MENTION IN THEIR FANCY-PANTS LATIN NAME, WOULD BE:
- campsis, also called trumpet vine.
- Hydrangea petiolaris, which is a climbing version of this plant.
- Pileostegia viburnoides
What other damage can a climbing plant do?
If it is a large plant with a very thick “trunk” or base, and it is very close to the wall, the roots can dig deep down, very close to the house and in some cases, can cause settlement or undermine the foundations, meaning shockingly expensive repairs.
Wall damage by climbing or trailing plants
Roofs are also vulnerable and plants should NEVER be allowed to grow to the height of the eaves as they can start to enter the roofspace and dislodge tiles, crack timbers, and the holes the plant makes can encourage vermin, bats, insects and all sorts of creatures to make their home in your roof!
How to enjoy climbing plants without ruining the house.
The basic function of a climbing plant is the fact that it locks itself to the wall as it climbs, so to avoid that damage, it is necessary to provide some sort of frame for the plant to climb, and lock on to, instead of the wall, so Trellis is ideal for this, however take note that if your house is covered in plant life, how are you going to get someone to paint the house walls for example?
Another way of encouraging climbing plants in an non-invasive way is to affix mesh such as “chicken wire” to the exterior walls and let the plants gain purchase by wrapping their leaves or roots around the mesh and not burrowing into the wall itself.
What Ivy would we recommend?
Well, I have to say, from my own experience, I would suggest a Japanese creeper, also known as Boston Ivy, like in the photo below.
Boston Ivy is fast growing and although the suckers do not penetrate into the wall, they must be kept away from growing up to the roof level as they can dislodge gutters and roof tiles. The photo above shows the creeper in Autumn, and dropping leaves.
It will eventually have no leaves and that is when it should be pruned.
During the summer the creeper grows very quickly and the leaves are a rich green colour, but come the Autumn, they turn a lovely red, as you see in the photos! These creepers are safe as long as you control them, and they are very popular in Germany and Austria for some reason!
Something to note: Many creepers, the above included, attract swarms of bees in the late summer! The wife and I thought there was a bees nest or something, but no. They don’t bother you, they concentrate on the plants and harvesting the pollen, which you will find the detritus of that, on the floor after a few weeks.
Painting after ivy removal
When ivy is removed from a wall it often leaves behind the suckers which are horrendously difficult to remove and often if it is a rendered wall, anyone trying to paint it with normal paint, will NOT get rid of the “shadow” left on the wall by the suckers.
However a textured wall coating from NEVER PAINT AGAIN is is thick and durable it easily hides situations like this, and as it is waterproof and very tough, climbing plants cannot get a foothold back on the wall.
What climbing plants would enhance rather than harm my home?
Your local garden centre would actually be your first port of call, you would be surprised at some of the advice and help a good garden centre will give.
After all, you could even obtain plants from there that will enhance your home but NOT cause any damage, so it is in the shops interest to be very knowledgeable about the most suited plants for you.
Although we are not gardeners (!) from asking around some of the more green-fingered members of my family (LOL!) I would suggest the following plants would be a positive addition to the exterior walls of your home.
- Parthenocissus quinquefolia – Virginia Creeper
- Climbing rose plants (preferably helped by a trellis)
- Sunflowers. Seriously! Ideal for a bungalow or single story home.
How to have wall damage cured.
The best thing to do is to call in an expert such as NEVER PAINT AGAIN who can professionally repair plant-damaged exterior walls, to British standards, and then apply a weatherproof external wall coating which will damp proof the house, restore any damage and make the exterior walls maintenance free.
The teams can also work with you to save any plants removed from the wall, for you to fix trellis to the wall once the exterior wall coating has fully dried, and you will not get any more problems with intrusive and destructive plant life on the outside walls of your house.
Updated Sep 2015: I now have a 2 month old grand daughter called “Ivy” (!), I only hope she doesn’t damage my house when she’s older LOL!