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This may be a bit of a disappointing article for some because if I’m being brutally honest, all of the ‘proper’ climbing plants are toxic.
In fact, if you’re looking for something that will get all big and aerially rooty (if you’re after real jungle vibes) there are not many options if you have pets that are likely to chomp on your plants.
There are many options for dangling plants, but true climbers are few and far between. An argument could be made for Thanksgiving cactus being a climbing plant because they’re epiphytes, but also…they kind of just hang there.
I could only come up with three genera of plants that could really be trained to climb which doesn’t sound like many BUT considering there are over 530 species of Maranta, 520 species of Hoya, and well over 1000 species of peperomia, there are plenty to be going on with.
Not all of these will climb by themselves, but they can all be trained to grow upwards and create that rainforest-y vibe.
If I come across any non-toxic climbers in the future I’ll be sure to keep this updated, but for now, you’re stuck with these:
Maranta are in the same family as Calathea, but they have a more vine-y growth pattern. They are one of those plants that people have wildly different experiences of, so if someone tells you they’re easy to care for, bear in mind that there are plenty of people out there that HATE them.
Now they don’t climb in the wild – they crawl along the ground BUT they can be trained to grow up a trellis or moss pole.
In my opinion, Maranta are best suited to people that like to spend a lot of time with their plants. They’re not particularly fussy, especially in comparison to Calathea, but they won’t appreciate drying out for too long too often, and if they get pests, they will need to be treated otherwise they’ll quickly succumb.
They’re great for medium light (their colours will fade in bright light), medium humidity, but they do like to be kept quite warm.
As I said, there are 530 species of Maranta, but the ones that usually crop up in shops are various forms of Maranta leuconeura.
When I had a look online, there were a lot of Maranta cristata for sale that were either Maranta Silver Band (which are very pretty, but are still Maranta leuconeura) or Ctenathe Burle-marxii which don’t really climb, but they do grow very tall, so you could probably train it up something.
This is a traditional Maranta, and usually looks something like this:
Maranta leuconeura lemon lime
There’s also the lemon lime version, which used to be VERY pricey, but is now pretty cheap (I got one in 2021 for £8.99).
Though they’re part of the Marantaeae family, they can be propagated from nodes, so you can either grow them long and vine-y, or cheap chopping and propping to get a really bushy plant. Or both!
There are TONNES of other versions – variegated ones, ones with really prominent veining, this more muted one…
Another one that doesn’t really climb, but can be trained to grow up a trellis.
Peperomia are better suited to people that are likely to occasionally forget to water. They have quite thick succulent leaves, so appreciate being left alone until the soil dries out completely.
Do you know, I don’t actually think that that’s a picture of a Rotundifolia – the leaves look a bit bigger, but it’s still a peperomia. I would use a thin wire trellis to encourage it to climb, and it would be beneficial to keep chopping it back to keep from looking straggly – you can propagate the bits you cut off and put them back in the pot.
Also called string of turtles, and the only tiny weeny-leaved plant I ever recommend because it doesn’t seem to attract pests like other tiny-leaved plants do.
Again, you would need a very delicate framework for this to grow up BUT they look INCREDIBLE when they’re grown really long and full.
This one just looks cool:
If you’re after an anthurium but you don’t want toxic plants in your house, this is a great dupe.
If you’re after a true climbing plant, Hoya are really your only option if you want something non-toxic. Luckily, there are hundreds of options, and there are dozens of commonly available (and budget-friendly) species out there.
They’re super easy to grow, and though they’re known for being slow growers, if you give them a lot of light and humidity, they’re not significantly slower than other plants.
They also bloom! Stunning flowers AND they smell incredible.
This is the OG. There are various colourways, but they’re all the same species. So Hoya carnosa Krimson Princess and Krimson Queen are the same plant bred to produce a different pattern of variegation.
Hoya will wind around whatever they grow up, so they’ll be more secure on something thin, like wire. You can also buy hoya already trellised.
Hoya Kerrii is the slowest growing out of the bunch but they’re so pretty I don’t care. THe leaves are heart-shaped and they also come in a couple of different forms. Try to avoid the single-leaf cuttings, because they’re often zombie leaves that won’t produce any more leaves.
Hoya bella is my favourite because my blooms all summer long despite requiring barely anything in terms of care. I love her. You can also get one with variegated leaves, but it will be slower growing than an all-green one.
Most Hoya that are marked things like ‘silver spot’ with no other identifying name are Hoya Pubicalyx (in my experience anyway). They’re pretty cheap and easy to care for, and they have big leaves and decent turn of speed when it comes to growing, so a great option for impatient people.