Texas Living

Climbing the Walls

By Christine Perez 10.22.13

Ivy and other climbing plants can add character and color to a home. They can also act as a “thermal shield.” According to an Oxford University study, ivy has been shown to warm walls by 15 percent in cold weather and cool them by an average of 36 percent in hot weather.

But there are some pitfalls to avoid. These sprawling climbers can block gutters, downspouts, and drains. Due to moisture retention, they can also cause roofing problems and speed the deterioration of mortar around bricks, wood trim around windows and doors, plus support posts, decks, and stairs. What’s more, ivy’s tiny roots can adhere to brick or siding like glue, making it difficult and messy to remove.

Climbing plants can be an insurance complication, too, as inspectors are challenged to evaluate water and structural damage on vine-covered walls.

So, what’s an ivy-loving homeowner to do? Here are some tips:

• Do your research. Decide where you want to grow the plants and determine which species will work best in the sun/shade and your gardening zone.

• Consider if you want blooming vines or not, and evaluate maintenance issues. The plants will fall into one of five different categories: tendrils, twiners, scramblers, stickers, and stem roots.

• Be sure to provide adequate support for the vine’s weight and size — various species have different ways of climbing. Consider growing on a trellis, arbor, or pergola.

• In Texas, spring is the best season for planting vines. This gives them to time to become established before the summer heat arrives.

• Manage the growth of the plants by pruning them back every spring — at least. Keep an eye on the vines and make sure they don’t sprawl out of control.