We recently built a step-based garden beside our path. There are only a few wide levels, and the slope is not very steep.

I know of many plants that will work well there, including annuals; ground covers; perennials; and some trailing plants, like certain varieties of nasturtium. I'm also looking forward to making a rock garden, as I don't have one, and I have many ideas of what I can use for that.

Since I don't have a trellis or fence for climbing plants, I'm wondering if I can plant what's usually a climbing plant in that spot and let it trail down. My first choices are morning glory and wisteria, but I'm open to suggestions.

I can understand that the roots may be less supported if the weight of the plant pulls down rather than stands up. However, perhaps there's a way to set them into the dirt to avoid that type of strain. That may not even be an issue, it just came to mind. It may also be that those types of flowers won't tolerate lying down, but I'm hoping to be wrong about that.

Is there any reason why I can't use those, or other, climbing plants as trailing plants?

As you look at the pictures, please note:

  • The pansy is something I put there this year. It's happy but easy to move if necessary. All the other things are coming up on their own and will probably be left alone, except for the specific areas I'll clean out to plant something else.
  • The top step is always shaded by the house, and the rest are in full sun. Since I believe the specific plants I'm asking about are sun plants, they'd start on the second level.
  • Even though I do want some part of it to be a rock garden, the existing stones can be moved or rearranged if it would increase my options.

Click on the pictures for a larger view.

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1 Answer 1


You can allow 'climbers' to trail by not providing support, but Wisteria is a poor choice - the flowers are formed as dangling racemes, so they wouldn't look great flat on the ground in contact with the soil. Wisteria is also very vigorous and would smother the whole area you've shown in the photos, reaching 35 feet by around 12 feet when mature, with a very solid, treelike trunk. Clematis varieties, smaller ones, would work, morning glory should be okay, but bear in mind, morning glory twines, so will twine round itself and anything else it can grab onto, and clematis will use their modified petioles to wrap around any branch or stem or growth that's thin enough, so you may end up with what looks like a tangled mess by the end of the growing season.

It's not clear just how big these planting areas actually are, so pick your plants carefully so they don't ramble well outside the areas you want them in. Clematis vary in height and spread from around 6 feet up to 35 feet, so checking the height and spread is important.

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