If one has been into the woods and seen gigantic trees twined around by equally enormous climbers, so much so that one fails to differentiate between the foliages of both, one needs no introduction to what large climbers look like. At least part of the loveliness they accord to forests can be brought home if one plans for them in one's backyard.
Large climbers are usually thick and heavy in foliage, and to be grown in home garden they need a strong support structure. The stems could be woody most often and the main stem itself may look like a small tree trunk. Large climbers like Bougainvillea, if trained over big trees, will cover them totally as they grow old, not allowing sunlight to reach the tree, thereby even killing it sometimes.
Plants like Antigonon leptopus, Beaumontia grandiflora, Pyrostegia venusta (Bignonia), Stictocardia tiliifolia (Ipomoea Candy King), Ipomoea palmata (Morning Glory) and Ipomoea tuberosa (Wood Rose) are a few large climbers. Planted in ground, they can be trained over porticos, or even up to higher floors of a building very easily. They can do well over a metal frame, or even the structure of the building if it allows the plant to be trained over it. Climbers, if large, cannot be trained from pots and certainly require good ground. Ropes and other supports do not last longer for them. In fact a single plant of large climbers, if grown in a corner, can cover entire parapet wall from end to end.
There are climbers for shade as well, which are mostly non-flowering. Plants like Scindapsus aureus (Money Plant – Pothos – Many Var.), Philodendron (Many Var.), Syngonium (Many Var.), Hoya australis, Hoya carnosa, Cissus rhombifolia, Hedera helix Var.(Actual Ivy) are a few important shade-loving climbers, hence they can be trained over stems of large shady trees or under porticos or even in atriums.
All these plants are very hardy and love humidity. It is very easy to propagate them and grow them through cuttings. They can be trained over a moss stick or with a pot trainer.
One has to be very careful while growing them on cement structures such as walls, in which case they should not be facing West or South Sun, as it can cause sunburn to these plants during summer. One can sprinkle water over these plants to remove dust and allow better respiration. Nodal roots produced in support of climbing are also equipped to take in moisture. Among all the aforementioned climbers, only Hoya carnosa is grown for flowers. The others may produce flowers but they are insignificant, as they are all grown for their foliage.
All these climbers including the smaller and the medium ones will do well when grown in ground. Only in case of lack of ground or structures, that too only in case of medium and small climbers, should one go for large pots or inbuilt planters.
Be it pot or ground pit, the soil media for climbers has to be with a combination of soft red soil at 60 per cent and good manure at 40 percent, well-mixed. The soil can be loosened once in 15 days to maintain moisture retention. One can also use Coco Peat as mulch in the top.
Fertilizers such as N.P.K (19:19:19) can be fed once in 15 days in small doses but regularly. All the climbers need pruning and dressing once a year, which encourages new growth, and keeps a check on unwanted growth. New foliage will also produce more and better flowering. Further, removal of unwanted or dried branches makes the plant light and it becomes easy to train it as required.
Usually climbers are not prone to many diseases or infections. If the plant is not pruned or dressed for a long time, then there is possibility of disease due to accumulation of dried leaves and branches. Mostly these plants can be found infested with sucking pest or powdery mildew. A spray of any good insecticide, whether contact or systemic, from a reputed company can be preferred during the initial stage itself. If the infection is wide-spread, one has to go for proper pruning and about three sprays each with an interval of one week.
(The author is a well-known nurseryman in Hyderabad, and available at email@example.com)M.M.HUSSAIN