Monday, February 1, 2010

List: Houseplants Which Trail But (Mostly) Don't Climb

The line here is a bit arbitrary, but sometimes you want a plant that's going to just lay there, and sometimes you want a plant that's going to climb up things. This list is for the plants that are just going to lay there. A lot of these are used as hanging-basket plants.

A few of these plants will climb to some degree if they're being grown outside (some, like Ficus pumila, are downright obnoxious about it), but indoors, you generally have to provide them something to climb and then anchor the stems with some kind of plant tie at regular intervals, or make them some kind of constantly-moist support, or some other impractical thing like that. Most of the plants in this list won't climb particularly well even with assistance, and can be relied on not to get any crazy ideas about running themselves up your curtains. Your mileage may vary, of course.

This is an even less comprehensive list than usual, because the number of plants with this basic growth habit is practically never-ending. I'll add suggestions as people are moved to leave them in comments.

Note: this list was done by request for Joseph Tychonievitch of Greensparrow Gardens, who asked. I don't promise to take all list requests (some lists just can't be done as easily as others), and anybody who wants one is going to have to take a number and wait anyway, because Joseph asked for FOUR of them, but I'm more or less open to doing posts by request, in theory. Just so you're aware.

Aechynanthus speciosus, (goldfish plant) and other Aeschynanthus spp. (lipstick plant)

Cyanotis kewensis (teddy bear vine)

Dischidia ruscifolia (million hearts)

Epipremnum aureum 'Neon,' and other Epipremnum aureum cvv. (pothos)

Gynura aurantiaca (purple passion plant, purple passion vine)

Hedera canariensis 'Gloire de Marengo' (Algerian ivy)

Maranta leuconeura 'Marisela,' and other Maranta leuconeura cvv. (prayer plant)

Pellionia pulchra

Pilea depressa (baby toes)

Senecio rowleyanus (string of beads, string of pearls)

EDIT: Whoops. I published this without adding any commentary on the pictured plants.

I guess my three favorites from the above list are probably Aeschynanthus spp., Gynura aurantiaca, and Pellionia pulchra, with Cyanotis kewensis serving as first alternate.

This is partially process of elimination, because I've had moderately bad experiences with a lot of the other plants on the list, either from bugs (Maranta, Hedera), rot (Epipremnum), or decline from unknown causes (Pilea, Senecio). And I've never actually owned a Dischidia.

Not pictured:

Callisia fragrans (basket plant)
Ceropegia woodii (string of hearts)
Chlorophytum comosum (spider plant, airplane plant, mala madre)
Cissus rhombifolia (grape ivy; oakleaf ivy) (will climb a little)
Cissus rotundifolia (Peruvian grape ivy) (will climb a little)
Codonanthe spp.
Columnea cvv.
Crassula muscosa (= C. lycopodioides) (watch-chain crassula)
Davallia spp. (rabbit's-foot ferns)
Dischidia nummularia ("button orchid," says, though it's not an orchid)
Episcia cvv. (flame violet)
Ficus pumila (climbing fig) (will climb a little)
Fittonia albivenis (nerve plant)
Hedera helix (English ivy) (will climb a little)
Hoya carnosa (will climb a little)
Hoya lacunosa (will climb a little)
Hoya kentiana (will climb a little)
Hoya kerrii (sweetheart hoya) (will climb a little)
Hoya pubicalyx (will climb a little)
Ludisia discolor (jewel orchid) (Also other "jewel orchids" like Goodyera, Anoectochilus, Macodes, etc., though those are a lot harder to find.)
Monstera adansonii (swiss cheese philodendron) (will climb a little)
Monstera deliciosa (split-leaf philodendron, swiss cheese philodendron) (will climb a little)
Nematanthus gregarius (guppy plant)
Neoregelia 'Fireball'
Philodendron gloriosum
Philodendron bipennifolium (horse-head philodendron) (will climb a little)
Philodendron erubescens 'Red Emerald' (will climb a little)
Philodendron hastatum (will climb a little)
Philodendron hederaceum (heart-leaf philodendron) (will climb a little)
Phlebodium aureum 'Mandianum' (bear's paw fern)
Pilea nummulariifolia (creeping charlie)
Plectranthus ciliatus
Plectranthus verticillatus (Swedish ivy)
Plectranthus oertendahlii
Polypodium formosanum 'Cristatum' (E.T. fern)
Pseudorhipsalis ramulosa
Rhipsalis spp. (mistletoe cactus)
Saxifraga stolonifera (strawberry begonia)
Schlumbergera truncata cvv. (holiday cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, Christmas cactus)
Scindapsus pictus (satin pothos) (will climb a little)
Scyphularia pycnocarpa (possum tail fern)
Sedum burrito (burro's tail)
Sedum morganianum (also burro's tail)
Senecio jacobsenii (trailing jade)
Senecio radicans (string of bananas)
Soleirolia soleirolii (baby tears)
A few cvv. of Solenostemon scutellarioides (coleus)
Stapelia spp. (carrion flower)
Stephanotis floribunda (Madagascar jasmine) (will climb a little)
Streptocarpus saxorum cvv. (streptocarpella)
Syngonium podophyllum (arrowhead vine) (will climb a little)
Syngonium wendlandii
Tolmiea menziesii (piggyback plant)
Tradescantia fluminensis
Tradescantia pallida (purple heart, purple queen)
Tradescantia sillamontana (kitten ears)
Tradescantia zebrina (wandering Jew)


Andrew said...

I'd include Spider Plants in that list as well.

Codonanthe spp. is another Gesneriad trailer which I don't think will climb.

Rabbit said...

I think the Gotu Kola is a creeping plant as well. I got one because I believe it propagates by itself.

Joseph said...

Yay! Thank you very much. My house shall now become much more trail-y.

Rhizowen said...

Ah - Senecio rowleyanus - a key plant in my early years as I struggled to smuggle more plants into the house without my parents knowing.

Nature Assassin said...

Does dischidia ever do anything... different? Flowers, and the like? I keep seeing them in Home Depot and nearly buying them.

Nature Assassin said...

Not that it needs to do anything, mind you-it just doesn't seem to have the chutzpah of, say, pothos. Case in point... your neon pothos is saying, "Look out, world!"

mr_subjunctive said...


How did that work out? And why did you have to do it without them knowing?

Nature Assassin:

Well, I've seen a Dischidia flower before, but not D. ruscifolia. says ruscifolia is similar.

Andrea said...

This Senecio looks palatable for humans. It looks like a seaweed which can be eaten.

Paul said...

Senecio rowleyanus -- IME is generally quite easy to grow. A quick draining media works well. Overwatering is a greater danger otherwise.

Andrea said...
This Senecio looks palatable for humans. It looks like a seaweed which can be eaten.

Alas, but it is not so Andrea. While I have never heard of any ill effects from nibbling on one, neither are they "tasty"

How about the Stapelia family? Many do cascade. My Huernia zebrina is definitely a cascader. And it has grown rapidly for me -- enough so that I have a number of cuttings rooting to sell or trade of come spring/summer.

Paul said...

Forgot to add, there are a number of orchids that cascade.

Anonymous said...

All true ivies (Hedera) climb by means of aerial rootlets, why would you claim that Hedera canariensis does not climb? Epipremnum aureum also climbs by way of aerial rootlets. Why are you listing Epipremnum aureum?

Anonymous said...

Hedera canariensis and Epipremnum aureum are both excellent climbers.

mr_subjunctive said...


Under natural conditions, outdoors, yes, both Hedera and Epipremnum will climb things on their own without assistance. Indoors, my experience is that they crawl unless someone makes a point of looping them around a support of some kind.