What Are Tendrils For – Should Tendrils Be Removed From Vines

Climbing plants save space in the garden by growing vertically. Most gardeners have had one or more climbing plants in the garden that have tendrils. What are tendrils for? Tendrils on vine plants help the plant ascend much like a rock climber who needs hand and foot holds to scale up a mountain.

While climbing is the main purpose of tendrils, they may also have some negative consequences as well. Given that there are downsides to tendrils on vine plants, should tendrils be removed?

What are Tendrils for?

There are two types of tendril, stem tendrils like those found on passionflowers or grapes and leaf tendrils such as those found on peas. Stem tendrils grow out of the stem and leaf tendrils are modified leaves that emerge from a leaf node.

As mentioned, the purpose of tendrils on vines is to assist the plant in climbing but they can also photosynthesize, making them doubly valuable to the vine.

The tendrils of plants such as the sweet pea act as fingertips and “feel” around until they encounter a solid object. When they “touch” the object the tendrils contract and coil. This process is called thigmotropism. Once the tendril coils and grabs onto the object, it can adjust the amount of tension on the support.

Should Tendrils be Removed?

The purpose of tendrils is all well and good for the vine, but what about other plants? Turns out it’s a jungle out there and vines have a well-deserved reputation for invasion. The harmless looking tendrils grow rapidly and can quickly wrap around their competitors, strangling them.

Tendrils of other plants, such as ivy, can wreak havoc on your house. They use their tendrils to climb but as they do so, these tendrils get wedged in cracks and crannies along the foundation and up the exterior walls of the home. This can cause damage to the exterior, but then again, so can removing tendrils from plants that have adhered to the home.

So, should tendrils be removed? Ideally, if you have a climber next to the home, you have provided a support for it to clamber up rather then up your exterior. If this isn’t the case, then carefully removing tendrils from plants that have adhered might be the only option. Certain sidings, such as stucco, are more susceptible to damage from the tendrils of plants.

To remove the tendrils, first snip the roots of the vine from the ground or wherever the connection is. Next, cut 12 x 12 inch (30 x 30 cm.) sections of the vine that is growing up the house. Cut through both vertically and horizontally in this manner until you have a grid comprised of square foot sections.

Let the grid of cut vines dry for two to four weeks and, once dry, gently pry it from the wall. If you meet with resistance, the vine is probably still green. Allow it dry further. The whole process of killing the vine may take a month or longer. As the vine dries, continue to remove sections by hand.


In botany, a tendril is a specialized stem, leaf or petiole with a threadlike shape that is used by climbing plants for support, attachment and cellular invasion by parasitic plants, generally by twining around suitable hosts found by touch. They do not have a lamina or blade, but they can photosynthesize. They can be formed from modified shoots, modified leaves, or auxiliary branches and are sensitive to chemicals, often determining the direction of growth, as in species of Cuscuta. [1]

A-Z List of Climbers

The method of climbing is outlined for every climbing plant in the list, together with basic information about flowers preferred planting positions evergreen or deciduous and any other basic information pertinent to individual plants.

Most of the climbers in the list are hardy perennial plants which are also true climbers, though annuals or short lived plants are also included to make this a useful memory-jogger when assessing whether or not to include a climbing plant in your plan.


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Tendril, in botany, plant organ specialized to anchor and support vining stems. Tendrils may be modified leaves, leaflets, leaf tips, or leaf stipules they may, however, be derived as modified stem branches (e.g., grapes). Other special plant structures fulfill a similar function, but the tendril is distinctive in being a specialized lateral organ strongly possessing a twining tendency causing it to encircle any object encountered.

A tendril is a slender whiplike or threadlike strand, produced usually from the node of a stem, by which a vine or other plant may climb. Its anatomy may be of stem tissue or of leafstalk tissue. Common examples of tendril-producing plants are the grape, members of the squash or melon family (Cucurbitaceae), the sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus), and the passionflowers ( Passiflora species).

Tendrils are prehensile and sensitive to contact. When stroked lightly on its lower side, the tendril will, in a minute or two, curve toward that side. As it brushes against an object, it turns toward it and—the shape of the object permitting—wraps about it, clinging for as long as the stimulation persists. Later, strong mechanical tissue ( sclerenchyma) develops in the tendrils, thus rendering them strong enough to support the weight of the plant. In addition to their twining character, some tendrils produce terminal enlargements that, on contact with a firm surface, flatten and secrete an adhesive, firmly cementing the tendril to the substrate.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.

It Takes Thoughtful Timing to Prune Your Pea Vines

Long before pea vines became fashionable food in chic restaurants, a woodchuck taught a gardener that it's possible to prune severely and still get a crop of peas.

In fact, since pruning forces the vines to branch, you might get more peas than ever. But there is some risk, because pruning sets back growth and delays flowering. If the weather turns hot before the vines reach full size, you could end up with a smaller crop or no crop at all.

Start by deciding what kind of vine you want. Trendy American chefs favor what might be called pea scribbles. These tangles of tightly curled tendrils come from plants known as afila peas. Marketed under such variety names as 'Godiva' and 'Novella,' afilas make tendrils instead of leaflets.

Asian chefs prefer the vine tops of snow peas such as 'Oregon Sugar Pod' and 'Snowflake.' Though less dramatic-looking than afila tendrils, snow pea vines are tastier and more tender. (The vines of regular garden peas are edible, but tend to be fibrous and bland.)

Sow seeds as soon as possible, following the directions on the packet. When the plants are about 14 inches tall, cut off the top 6 inches -- 4 inches for afila types -- making the cut right above a leaf node. The plants will branch where you made the cut and resume growing to the normal height for the variety. Depending on weather, flowering will be about a week to 10 days later than on unpruned plants.

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