As the name suggests, trailing plants have long, trailing stems adorned with attractive foliage and oftentimes with beautiful blooms. When they are grown directly in the ground, trailing plants can make for great ground covers. Unlike conventional ground covers, their stems don’t develop multiple roots at nodes on the ground. Trailing plants lack tendrils, suction discs, or other means of attachment, a feature that differentiates them from climber plants.
As mentioned above, the beauty of trailing plants resides in their cascading foliage. Outdoors, these plants can be used to add aesthetic value to walls or fences, but they can also be grown successfully indoors, where they look best planted in attractive containers and hanging baskets.
Indoor houseplants can boost your creativity and improve your mood and they can also improve your space, both at home and at work and trailing plants make no exception.
These ornamentals can improve air quality by filtering out the pollutants from the air. So, it’s safe to say that a space that has a few trailing plants is not just more aesthetically pleasing, but also healthier.
If you are a fan of unique and lush foliage plants, we have made a list of the best trailing plants to grow in containers.
1. Senecio Rowleyanus
Most commonly known as string of pearls, or string of beads, this is an eye-striking succulent. It has hardy stems loaded with bead-shaped leaves. Each leaf has a vertical faded line which helps with the photosynthesis process. Under proper conditions, String of Pearls plants bloom in spring. The flowers are small, white, and fuzzy, and they have a slight cinnamon fragrance. They bloom on short stems and can give the plant a rather unruly appearance, especially if the flowers are scarce. Nonetheless, if the plant has an abundance of blooms, it looks quite lovely.
Senecio Rowleyanus is native to South-Western Africa. It is a fast-growing plant, so make sure it has plenty of space to cascade. An adult plant will reach a top length of 1 meter. It is best suited for hanging baskets, but it can look just as well on a shelf. It prefers bright indirect light, but it can also survive in partial shade.
String of pearls is drought tolerant, so allow the soil to completely dry out between watering sessions. It likes warm temperatures of up to 24°C degrees in the summer. In the winter, try to keep it in a place where the temperature doesn’t drop between 10°C. However, don’t keep it completely away from the cold. A cooler winter temperature of 15°C will encourage blooming in the following year. This plant has mild toxicity, so it is best to keep it away from children and pets.
Companion plants for Senecio Rowleyanus a.k.a. String of Pearls include Crassula Ovata, Crassula Red Pagoda, Sedum, different types of Echeveria such as Echeveria Elegans, Echeveria Liliacina, or Echeveria Topsy Turvy, or other types of Senecio succulents such as Senecio Blue Chalksticks.
To learn more about this fascinating trailing plant, read our complete guide to String of Pearl plants.
2. Ceropegia Woodii
This plant is better known as String of Hearts and it is one the loveliest trailing plants. It is also known as the Sweatheart Vine, the Rosary Plant, Hearts Entangled, String of Hearts, or Chain of Hearts. It is a variegated succulent with heart-shaped leaves. The leaves grow on wire-like stems. They are bright green with purple undersides and light green or silver variegations. The stems can reach a top length of 1 meter. At the beginning of spring, String of Hearts starts sporting some small pinkish flowers that bear a slight resemblance to Chinese lanterns. The odourless flowers have a round base and a narrow top.
Ceropegia Woodii needs bright, indirect light. It can survive in partial shade, but this will result in a lower variegation contrast. It needs a moderate humidity level, so it can thrive in most household settings. It grows best when it is watered sparingly. When you do water it, make sure to allow it to draw as much water as needed and get rid of the excess water. Like all succulents, it will grow best in cactus mix soil. You can make your own medium by combining normal potting mix with sand and perlite. Fertilization is not necessary. Nonetheless, applying balanced fertilizer during the summer months will result in more vigorous growth.
Read our complete guide to String of Hearts to learn more.
3. Trailing Verbena
Many trailing plants are appreciated for their foliage, but there are also plenty of trailing plants that are grown for their blooms. Such is the case of the Training Verbena whose showy profusion of clustered blooms will steal the spotlight in any place. This is an annual that thrives in mild climates. When it is grown outdoors, the brightly coloured blooms of this plant will attract a lot of hummingbirds as well as other pollinators. It is available in a wide range of colours such as white, pink, red, purple, violet, pale lavender, and many others. It can reach a top length of 1,5 meters.
Verbena plants are native to Northern and Southern America, but they have been naturalized in many parts of the world. This plant enjoys direct sunlight, as long as it is not scorching. In hot summers, you might want to provide it with some afternoon shade. High temperatures might result in wilting. They need to be watered at least once a week during the blooming period. Mature plants are more resistant to droughts. Overall, the plant grows better if it is watered at the base. Humidity on the leaves and the blooms can lead to diseases. It requires rich soil with good drainage and ventilation.
Some great companion plants for Trailing Verbena include the popular condiments dill, cilantro, and garlic. These plants can repel spider mites, so they will keep your Trailing Verbena safe from these pests. If you prefer to grow Trailing Verbena alongside other blooming plants, the best options are Shasta Daisies and Chrysanthemums. In containers, you can pair Trailing Verbena with Calibrachoa and Lantana.
4. Thunbergia Alata
More commonly known as Black-Eyed Susan Vine, this is a lovely herbaceous perennial. It is often associated with rustic scenarios, so it’s perfect for cottage gardens. It is used for covering wooden walls or garden arches, but it looks just as stunning when it is overflowing in a container. You can also use it as an accent plant in various combinations.
Thunbergia Alata can reach a top length of 2 meters. This plant is a perennial, but if you grow it outdoors in a cooler or even a temperate climate, it may act as an annual. Unlike most outdoor plants which don’t reach a top size when grown indoors, Black-Eyed Susan thrives as a houseplant. However, not many households can accommodate its size, so keep that in mind when buying this plant.
When it comes to caring for this plant, well-draining soil needs to be your top priority. You should try to keep the soil moderately moist, but never soggy. This plant can be grown as a trailing plant or a climber. To grow it as a trailing plant, you will have to prune its top from time to time if it gets too bushy. To grow it as a climber, you will have to tie it until it gets used to your desired growing structure.
These plants are fast-growers and they can be a bit aggressive, so the ideal companion plants are those that have a similar growth habit such as Purple Hyacinth bean and Morning Glory.
5. Ipomoea batatas
Also known as Sweet Potato Vine, this is an ornamental warm-season annual. It grows best in USDA zone 11. It can reach a top length of 3 meters and a top width of 2 meters. Its foliage comes in a wide range of colours. The eclectic chartreuse shade is the most popular one, as it lends an exotic vibe to any space. Other colour choices include gold, brown, purple, red, and even black. Variegations are also quite common. The leaves of Ipomoea batatas are heart shape and they have deep lobes just like ivy and maple. It looks best when it is combined with other showy plants. It is frequently combined with petunias, ficus plants, and even ferns.
It is a sun-loving plant, and it will grow best if it receives a minimum of 6 hours of sunshine. It needs well-draining soil and a humid environment. Indoors, it might be better accommodated in the kitchen or the bathroom where the humidity is higher than in other rooms. It is a fast grower, so it will need regular trimming and pruning. Depending on local weather, you will need to water it at least once a week. As a general rule, make sure the soil is kept moderately moist. The leaves of this plant are highly toxic so keep them away from pets and kids.
You can grow Sweet Potato Vine alongside a wide range of herbs such as Dill, Oregano, or Thyme. These herbs will deter many pests and diseases including spider mites, aphids, sweet potato weevils, and flea beetles. Some vegetables such as potatoes, parsnips, and beets can also make perfect companion plants for your sweet potato vines. When it comes to flowering plants, you can pair your sweet potato vines with Nasturtiums, Marigolds, and Sweet Alyssum.
Learn more about this plant from our complete guide to Sweet Potato Vine.
This plant is commonly known as Million Bells. As its folkloric name suggests, this plant blooms profusely and its blooms resemble tiny bells. While it is technically a trailing plant, it doesn’t trail a long way down. It can reach a top length of 30 cm and a top width of 50 cm. It usually grows long enough to cover hanging baskets. It is common to have more than one plant in a basket, for a richer look. It comes in a wide variety of flowers, featuring solids, two tones, and various colour patterns. The blooms are no bigger than 3 cm and they bear a striking resemblance to petunias.
Calibrachoa is native to South America, but it is grown as an annual in most parts of the world. It likes rich, well-drained, acidic soil. The soil should be kept relatively moist. As a general rule, water it once the top 3 cm has dried out. In very hot climates, you may have to water it daily or even two times a day. Check it regularly at the beginning of each season. Keep in mind that the plant’s watering needs will change each season. If you care for it properly, it will bloom from spring to fall. It doesn’t need deadheading to keep blooming, but you will need to cut it back towards the end of the summer. It is a sun-loving plant, so make sure it gets at least 6 hours of sunlight each day.
Calibrachoas are cute and small plants that look will look great if you plant them alongside taller plants such as Purple Fountain grass, Coral Bells, Angelonia, Persian shield, Geraniums, Heliopsis, and Salvias. Other great companion plants for Calibrachoas include trailing plants with similar needs such as Bacopa and Sweet Potato vine.
7. Lobelia Erinus
Most people refer to this plant as Trailing Lobelia. Just like Million Bells, it does not trail a long way down, but what it lacks in length it makes up for in blooms. It can reach a top length of 22 cm and a top width of 30 cm. It is available in blue, pink, white, violet, or reddish. Two flowers are two-lipped and tubular. The blooms grow no bigger than 1 cm. They have a unique shape, with fan-like lower lips. It grows as a perennial in USDA zones 10-11, but it can be grown as an annual in most parts of the world.
This plant needs full sun exposure. It can also survive in partial shade, but it won’t bloom profusely. While it enjoys a good amount of sunshine, it is not particularly fond of excessive heat. It prefers cool summers, and it can fade in very hot weather. Just like Million Bells, it needs to be watered as often as possible to keep the soil moist at all times. It doesn’t need deadheading. Cutting it back at the end of the summer will encourage fall blooms.
The best companion plants for Lobelia Erinus are Irises and Astilbes. You can grow Lobelias alongside any plants that love moist, rich soil. Fuchsias, Sweet Alyssum, Impatiens, Petunias, and Hollyhocks make great companions as well.
Read our complete guide to Lobelia Erinus to learn more about this fascinating plant.
8. Vinca vine
It is hard to choose between blooming trailing plants and foliage trailing plants, as both types are gorgeous in their unique ways. Besides, who says you need to make a choice. Vinca vine, commonly known as periwinkle is technically a foliage vine. It also sports some adorable blue, white, lavender, or purple blooms.
The most popular varieties of periwinkle are the variegated ones. Their leaves are heart-shaped with white edges. The vines can reach a top length of 50 cm. It is very adaptable, being capable to thrive in full sun as well as partial shade or even full shade. It can also be used as a ground cover. Many people plant it under large trees where there is too little sun to grow a lawn. Obviously, the richness of its blooms will be affected by the amount of sun it gets. It blooms from spring until early full.
Periwinkle enjoys loamy or sandy soil. This tender perennial is suitable for USDA zones 4-8. It prefers moist soil, but mature plants can also handle the occasional draught. Despite its shade tolerance, this plant has 0 tolerance to frost, so make sure to bring it indoors when winter comes. High humidity will also make this plant more susceptible to diseases. Other than that, it is rather low maintenance. It doesn’t need any pruning or deadheading.
9. Lysimachia nummularia
This plant is known as Creeping Jenny or Moneywort, and it is highly appreciated for its Chartreuse green foliage. It can reach a top length of 60 cm and a top width of 45 cm. It has rounded leaves that grow in an opposite pattern. It doesn’t bloom consistently, but you can expect some lovely yellow flowers throughout summer. It is Native to Europe and Western Asia, but it has been naturalized in many parts of the world. It is suitable for USDA zones 4 to 9. In some places, it can even behave like an invasive plant. Due to its fast-spreading nature, it can smother nearby plants. If you insist on pairing it with other plants, it gets along better with taller plants that it can’t suffocate.
It prefers well-draining, sandy, loamy, or clay soil. It enjoys full sun exposure, but it can also grow well in partial shade. As long as its soil is kept moist, it will grow well, without needing any fertilizer. In very warm climates it will need some protection from the harsh afternoon sun. It needs a good trim before winter hits. It is frost hardy and it will come back fine the following year. You can also cut it back from time to time if its foliage looks lifeless. Creeping Jenny is a plant that recovers very quickly, so don’t get discouraged.
Best companion plants for Creeping Jenny include Hosta, Heuchera, Astilbe, Hakone Grass, Daylilies, bulb plants, and various ornamental grasses. Indoors, you can grow your Lysimachia nummularia alongside taller-growing plants that have similar growth requirements to achieve a nice contrast.
Learn more from our complete Creeping Jenny guide.
10. Red Rhipsalis
Also known as the Red Mistletoe Cactus this red succulent is sure to catch the spotlight, no matter where you place it. It can reach a top length of 70 cm and a top width of 50 cm. It is native to tropical and subtropical America. It produces light-green, pink flowers that turn into white pearl-like berries. It is less likely to bloom when it is grown in containers, but it is not impossible.
This is not a sun-loving plant, but it does need occasional sunlight. It performs best if it gets a good amount of morning sun, followed by plenty of shade in the afternoon. Never keep it near windows. Keep in mind that most windows amplify the sun. The Red Rhipsalis plant is adapted to receive filtered light through the branches of nearby trees. It thrives in standard cacti potting mix.
Red Rhipsalis is not resistant to drought, but it doesn’t need a lot of water. In most indoor environments it will make do with a watering session per week. Watering frequency can differ in each environment so make sure to check and allow the top 2 cm of the soil to dry before watering it. It doesn’t need fertilizing in the first couple of years, while the soil still has nutrients. After that, it will appreciate regular feeding.
As you can see, trailing plants come in all shapes and sizes. They all have different needs, but they all share the need for vertical space to trail down. Some species, such as Japanese Honeysuckle, Wisteria, Kudzu, Winter Creeper, and some types of Ivy can be a tad invasive, so try to keep them away from other plants.
We mentioned that trailing plants have no serious pest and disease problems. This is because these plants thrive in hanging containers. As these containers are somewhat isolated from the rest of the garden, they are less exposed to pests and diseases. The only challenge is to come up with solutions to avoid water dripping from the containers and ruining your flooring.
You will also need to provide shelter for your trailing plants during storms and strong winds, as these phenomena can damage their leaves, branches, and stems. Strong winds can even knock down your hanging containers.
Since the beauty of these plants resides in their trailing nature, they require minimum pruning and trimming. In a nutshell, most trailing plants are easy to care for. They look great in almost any environment and they add texture and versatility to all vertical spaces. They make great additions to vertical gardens, which are becoming more and more popular in the gardening world. So, whether you are a beginner or an experienced gardener, give trailing plants a chance as they will surely reward you with their attractive foliage and colourful blooms.
Are you growing trailing plants? Let us know what your favourites are!