Parthenocissus (Ornamental Vines)

Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)

A group of fast-growing, self-clinging climbers. Grown for its bright autumn foliage colour. A popular climber for covering vertical surfaces or steep banks. The more vigorous varieties can quickly spread above and beyond their allotted area, so will required regular pruning to keep in check.

Family: Vitaceae
Botanical Name: Parthenocissus
Common Names: Virginia Creeper, American Ivy, Boston Ivy, Japanese Creeper

Foliage: Deciduous, lobed or palmate leaves. Green in summer, turning bright red or orange in autumn.
Flowers: Insignificant tiny greenish/yellow flowers from May to August.
Berries: Blue or black berries from August onwards.
Soil: Moist but well-drained. Chalk, clay, sand or loam. Acid, alkaline or neutral pH.
: Full sun or partial shade, any aspect, sheltered or exposed (Note: Autumn leaves can be lost early if the site is too exposed).
Origin: the Himalayas, Japan and North America.
Habit: Vigorous, spreading, self-clinging climber.
Type: Hardy shrub.
Hardiness: Fully hardy in UK.

Planting and Growing Parthenocissus

Plant in any ordinary fertile garden soil that is moist but well drained. They can be slow to get going at first and will need some initial climbing support.

Ideal coverage plants for vertical surfaces, pergolas and trees. However, ornamental vines are not just good for growing upwards but can also be very useful as ground cover on slopes and banks, where they can quickly spread to cover large areas.

You will often see this plant growing up walls and across the front of old houses with spectacular effect. However, certain vigorous varieties can cause damage to walls and property, particularly unsound or rendered walls. Therefore it is best to seek expert advice before planting any form of Parthenocissus against or near a wall.

Taking Care of Parthenocissus

These rampant, self-clinging, climbers require very little maintenance once established.

Pruning Parthenocissus

Generally prune back in the autumn or early winter to keep the plant within its allotted bounds. Particularly, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, which is one of the most vigorous varieties and can quickly grow out of control if not pruned regularly.

Cut any thick shoots back hard before they become too woody. Immediately remove any stems and shoots that are growing into wall crevices, roof tiles, drains, gutters etc. as these can cause blockages and other problems.

Pests and Diseases

Young growth can be susceptible to attack by aphids. Can be affected by scale insects that make the leaves sooty.

Propagating Ornamental Vines

Propagate by taking hardwood cuttings in March or softwood cuttings in July. Can also be propagated by layering stems in autumn.

Popular Varieties of Parthenocissus

Most species have brilliantly coloured autumn leaves.

Parthenocissus tricuspidata (Boston ivy) good variety for vertical surfaces, as it clings more efficiently requiring little or no support. Glossy maple-shaped leaves provide a very good Autumn show. Height and spread 50 ft (15 m).

Parthenocissus henryana (Chinese virginia creeper) a variegated, less vigorous, variety that is one of the most colourful of all the ornamental vines. The young leaves are dark green with silvery veins that become more pronounced when the leaves turn red in autumn. Height and spread 30 ft (9 m).

Parthenocissus himalayana (Himalayan Virginia creeper) good self-clinging climber, particularly vigorous. Height and spread 30 ft (9 m).

Note: Several species of Parthenocissus are so invasive they are listed on the 'Wildlife and Countryside Act', Section 9, which makes it illegal to plant or allow the spread of these Parthenocissus species into the wild in the UK. These include:

Parthenocissus inserta (syn. P. vitacea) (False Virginia Creeper) climbs with twining tendrils (not suckers). Bright red Autumn foliage. Height and spread 40 ft (12 m).

Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper) a fast-growing, deciduous, self-supporting type with large palmate leaves. Bright red Autumn foliage. Height and spread 70ft (21m), 33ft (10m).