A trellis is a structure designed to support climbing plants or fruit trees. You may immediately think of simple white wooden bars along the side of a wall, but a trellis can mean a lot of things. The basic idea is that it’s a way to display plants that need a bit of extra support, such as ivy and bougainvillia.
Some common building materials are wood and metal, though you can also get creative with bamboo or wires. If you want–or need–a trellis for your climbing garden, but aren’t sure where to start, here are some ideas. I’ve gathered several ideas for your next climbing garden that are easy to DIY and look great.
1. Green Paint
You can use paint to make a trellis stand out or blend in.
If you aren’t sure yet whether or not you want to have a trellis as a center point in your garden, you can start with a simple green trellis. By using green paint, your trellis will blend into the climbing garden, since the stems and leaves will mask the green wood.
For this look, you can easily make your own by nailing together thin strips of wood and painting them dark or light green, depending on what plant will accompany it. This is a great choice for flowering plants, since the green will form a backdrop for the brightly colored petals.
2. Classic Rose Trellis
White paint and red roses are a perfect combo for a climbing garden.
If you aren’t sure what kind of trellis look you want to create, you can start with this classic option. Paint your wooden trellis white or cream and adorn it with a variety of roses. The look is romantic and simple, and a great starting point for bringing a trellis into your garden.
Roses don’t need a trellis to grow, but with a bit of motivation and special care, they can climb up trellises, even forming arches or walls of roses. The result is often stunning and seems to come straight from a fairy tale.
3. Ladder Trellis
Why not use the play on words and let your climbing garden climb a ladder?
If you aren’t sure about building your own trellis, you may have a premade option already on hand. An old ladder can make an instant trellis for a Secret Garden inspired look.
Ladders are an excellent choice of trellis for plants like morning glory, pothos, and virginia creeper. The best part is, they require very little work on your part. Just lean the ladder against a wall in your yard and watch the plants do their thing.
4. Arch Pathway
Don’t stop at a few climbing vines, create an enchanted pathway of arches.
An incredible way to use trellises is to form them into arches. There are a few ways to do this using wood, wire, or even bamboo. First, you’ll need to build the frame and secure it in place. Next, you can plant your climbing plant of choice and let them grow along the arch.
You will need to check on your plants as they grow, since some plants may need encouragement to grow around an arch. You can secure branches to the arch or gently wrap branches around to make sure it clings to the frame while it grows.
5. Overgrown Exterior
A trellis can be tidy and structured… or it can celebrate wildness and growth.
Often, trellises are used as a way to contain unwieldy plants. Climbing plants are encouraged to climb on the trellis rather than on nearby trees or poles or walls. However, a trellis can also be a way to give plants space to grow.
By placing trellises along the walls of your home, you can encourage upward growth without restricting the plant’s movement. Instead, let the vines make their way up the wall naturally. Don’t trim them more than you need to and let your wall be a nod to nature.
6. Indoor Trellis
Luckily, a climbing garden does not need to be relegated to the outdoors.
If you don’t have the right kind of backyard for a climbing garden, consider bringing one indoors. For an indoor climbing garden, I suggest use rebar or other metal poles rather than wood. This gives the space an industrial, modern, and clean look.
For an indoor climbing garden, you’ll want your trellis to have shelving options so you can stagger potted plants and fill more of the trellis. Rather than one large vine, consider several potted plants. Have some climb from the bottom shelves while some climb down from the top shelves.
7. Vegetable Garden
A trellis can be mostly for decoration, or it can be a useful tool.
Trellises aren’t just for decoration. Although many trellis options look beautiful, they can also be quite useful. Many edible plants, such as grapes, tomatillos, and tomatoes, benefit from a trellis.
Since you don’t need an especially aesthetic trellis for a vegetable garden, you can use simple materials to build your trellis, or you can even let your vegetables lean against lines of wire or string, as shown in the picture above.
8. Potted Plant Trellis
Not having much luck with a climbing garden? Stationary plants are fine, too.
A trellis does not only exist for climbing plants. You can also use a trellis to display potted plants and flowers that won’t climb. While the effect is different, it’s still a great way to bring some color to your wall and provide more space for plants.
A trellis filled with potted plants is basically a work of art. Include your favorite flowers, succulents, or leafy plants to give your wall a burst of personality.
9. Covered Walkway
A row of arch trellises can create a magical walkway your guests will love.
If you’re really looking for a way to elevate your garden and impress anyone who comes by, consider a trellis walkway. This picture above is quite elaborate, but this can be done more simply as well. As long as you have multiple trellis archways along a path, you can create this effect.
Consider thick, leafy plants for this idea, since they’ll also provide shade for the garden walkways. You can also make a pathway feel more private by including trellises between the arches that act as walls to line the path. Labyrinth, anyone?
10. Trellis Shapes
Bring even more enchantment into the garden with the introduction of shapes.
If you really want to think outside the box, you can design a trellis that has blank spaces in fun shapes. By cutting the desired shape out of the trellis and using wire to outline it, you can encourage plants to grow everywhere but in the specified shape. This creates an effect like the one shown above.
In order to make this design work, you’ll need a fair amount of patience and a dense plant. You need the surrounding plant to grow thick leaves that will hide most of the trellis, leaving the shape visible. You may also have to trim back branches and leaves that block the shape.
11. Horizontal Trellis
Though most climbing gardens are vertical, they don’t have to be. A trellis can also work horizontally.
I love the look of this horizontal trellis. There are a few ways to accomplish this. You can tie a branch of your desired plant against the wall to create an effect like this. As the branch grows, it will spread in every direction.
Another option is to hang the plant from above. As the vines grow down, you can wind them around a wooden or metal trellis attached to the wall, so they grow sideways instead of down.
If your garden is inspired by mythology and ancient times, consider using columns as trellises.
One way to create atmosphere in a garden is to bring in columns, and then surround them with plants. In the above picture, the columns are topped with a plant-covered roof. You could also have plants growing from the ground up around the columns.
If you do grow plants from the ground up, you may need to encourage upward growth by wrapping chicken wire around the columns so the vines have more surface to cling to.
13. Bamboo Trellis
Bamboo can be a powerful tool for DIY enthusiasts, and that’s no different when it comes to building trellises.
Bamboo is a strong material that is also lightweight, making it a fantastic choice of material for building a trellis. You can use bamboo to create arches or trellis roofs, since the material is light enough that it won’t wear down the structure, but strong enough that it can support plants.
Bamboo is also a good choice for a trellis because of its natural look. If you want your trellis to blend into the garden, bamboo is a much better choice than rebar or brightly painted wood.
14. Trellis Structures
A trellis can be a single vertical wall, or it can be an entire structure, as shown here.
When it comes to building a trellis, let your creativity take over. If you think that a trellis has to be a single vertical design, think again!
Build trellises into your gazebos or use them to line the walkways in your garden. You can create a shade structure, a palapa, or even a treehouse with well-placed trellises. By using climbing gardens to build your structures, you can have a living garden on all sides.
15. Roof Trellis
Need to combine shade and beauty? Let plants become the roof.
One of the best ways to use a trellis in my opinion is to use it to cover a roof. If you have a shaded patio or a gazebo in your garden, consider creating a trellis roof. Though not as resistant to the elements, it will look stunning and still provide some shade.
Building a rooftop trellis will take time, since you’ll need to let your chosen plant grow enough that it covers the roof before you can actually enjoy the effect. Consider faster-growing and dense plants for this use.
16. Rebar Trellis
Durable and resistant to the elements, rebar is a good choice for a trellis.
Another great material for building a trellis is rebar. These metal poles are lightweight but extremely durable. This trellis idea can give your garden an industrial look or it can just be a subtle way to support your climbing garden.
You can use unpainted rebar, though there will be some risk of rusting as time goes by. Another option is to use epoxy spray paint to give your rebar a layer of protection before you start filling it with plants.
17. Living Gazebo
Elevate your outdoor seating by surrounding it with plants.
I already mentioned some of the ways that you can use trellises to build structures in your garden, but I wanted to look a little more specifically at gazebos and seating areas. You can use a trellis to form the walls and/or ceiling.
One thing to note when building a climbing garden gazebo is that you will need to spend some extra time trimming your vines to keep them looking neat. It’s important that your seating isn’t overrun by plants and that guests can sit in the gazebo comfortably without being impeded by the climbing garden.
18. Rustic Wood
Thick logs can function as the building materials for some climbing plants.
Logs won’t work as the building material for every kind of trellis. I don’t suggest them for large structures, as they may not hold up to the weather as well as other materials. However, a wooden fence can be transformed into a trellis with some work.
Plant thick, leafy vines below your rustic wooden trellis. I don’t suggest flowering plants, as they are less likely to be able to find a grip around the logs and may not cover enough area to create the impression you’re looking for.
19. Full Plant Wall
A plant wall is a little different than a trellis, but I thought it warranted mention in this article!
Plant walls may not be the same as a traditional trellis, but they are still a way to create the impact of a climbing garden. Vertical gardens usually need to be started horizontally in a container that can later be attached to the wall.
Conduct some more research before starting this, as some plants work better than others. Succulents and air plants are a great choice for a plant wall, while many flowers won’t work well with the change of gravity.
20. Top to Bottom
Be creative with the placement and growth of your climbing garden.
Though most of the trellis ideas I’ve covered include plants that grow from the ground up, I want to end by saying that there are so many ways to fill a trellis with plants. While you can plant your climbing plant in the ground and let it climb up, you can also hang a pot from the top of the trellis and let the branches grow toward the ground.
I hope these twenty trellis ideas have inspired you to add some vertical growth to your garden. No matter which idea you choose, know that your garden can be transformed by walls of vegetation or living structures. Be creative and find ways to incorporate your favorite climbing plants in whatever space you have.
Cailey Johanna Thiessen lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Though born in Colorado, she spent most of her formative years in Morelos and Oaxaca, Mexico. She attended college in Vermont, where she received her Bachelor of Science in Professional Writing and a minor in Foreign Languages from Champlain College. She writes about pest control, travel, gardening, and more. Though currently living in an apartment, she loves caring for her large selection of houseplants and is looking forward to owning her own garden. She’s an avid cook and interested in finding easy and enjoyable ways to be healthier and happier. She’s passionate about writing and creating and seeing finished projects come to life.