You probably know this plant already, and some of you must have thought it is poisonous, which is not true. Ladies and gents, I present you one of the most affordable plants you can have in your garden: Partenocissus Quinquefolia, a.k.a. Virginia Creeper.
Despite being known as a very intrusive vine, this plant is an unbelievable resource for landscaping if you know how to tame it right. These five tricks will help you turn this vine into an asset that will make your garden wonderful year after year.
There was a time, ten years ago, when Virginia Creeper was the only plant in my garden, so I had plenty of room for experiments on driving growth and trimming. So keep reading to find out my secrets for a lovely Virginia Creeper garden decor!
Virginia Creeper versus Poison Ivy
This is the first thing to address since a lot of people make can’t make the difference, so we need to make it clear. So let’s get it right: Virginia Creeper it’s not poisonous unless you ingest its fruits, which is no the case once you read this article.
Poison Ivy has only three leaves, while Virginia Creeper has five (her Latin name includes this number – Quinquefolia) and looks very much like a paw or a hand. Do you know that Five Fingers is one if its names, in some parts of the world?
Check the picture below and tell me: can you spot the difference now?
Virginia Creeper has its poisonous parts too, but only if you ingest them. Late in the autumn, the plant will develop berries that are poisonous only for humans, but very tasty for birds and wild animals. If you pay enough attention, you’ll see how birds are actually looking for these berries during winter, as one of their favorite food sources. So here’s the rule for staying safe: don’t eat the berries!
This perennial vine grows easily in about any conditions, reaching 90-ft long, and doesn’t require much care unless the following five steps to keep it under control. It grows really fast in full sun to partial shade, in almost any type of soil, even if it’s dry or slightly alkaline. You don’t need to water it much, and it can tolerate short periods of dryness. Actually, keeping the soil too moisty might favor pests.
Now let’s see how to treat your Virginia Creeper for the best results in your garden.
1. Help it Climb
The plant needs a little help for the start, as it doesn’t branch easily. Once it has a support to climb on, it will expand and grow beautiful vines. I use rope for short distances, to help my plants climb on the fence. When they get on top, they grow and turn into a pile of vines and leaves, so the rope is no longer needed.
If you don’t provide help for climbing, the plant might find a way to do it by itself. It will grow small pads that would stick to the surface, which might be affected if it’s a painted brick wall.
On the other hand, if the plants manages to climb by itself a tree, it might grow too much and too long, and suffocate the tree, so beware!
2. Drive its Growth
When helping it climb, look for ways to direct the plant where you’ll need its foliage for a specific decor or for shading. Use trellis or arches to make the plant work for you, and check how it climbs while the vines are young so they would follow your desired path. Use garden wire to attach the plant, and don’t let it sneak through your support, so you would be able to get it down to replace or paint the trellis once in a while.
Here’s how my Virginia Creeper covers the whole fence near the parking lot, and grows around the parking sign, after driving its growth.
3. Allow Some Dangling
This plant grows beautiful vines. I don’t know about you, but I’m totally fascinated by the look of the youngest leaves on the vine. I almost feel sorry for cutting them out when trimming, so I allow them to dangle here in there.
They create a beautiful effect when left to dangle in an empty space, with nothing to climb or stick around, like this one, hanging 10-ft above the ground, from the oldest walnut tree in my backyard. This is what I call safe dangling :))))
4. Don’t Let it Creep
They call it “Creeper” for a reason, right? Despite its name, don’t let it creep or you’ll lose the best part of the show. You can still use it for covering the soil outside the walking areas, but it definitely looks much better on walls and fences.
If you’ll let your Virginia Creeper to extend on the walkways, it will develop roots that will sneak through the pavement or among the rocks, and later dislocate them from their places. Not to mention the odd look of the smashed vines and leaves…
Cut out the vines that tend to grow over the walkways or help them climb for a neat look.
5. Trim Regularly
This is the most important step when growing Virginia Creeper. Many people think this plant is too intrusive to be left alive, but I’d say it’s only a fast grower. If my hair would grow as fast, I wouldn’t call it “intrusive”, for sure :))
Yes, it will take over the garden, but you can easily keep it under control by regular trimming. After ten years of growing Virginia Creeper in my garden, let me tell you how I do it, to get the best results.
There are two types of trimming to keep your Virginia Creeper under control:
Spring Trimming: It’s the most important one, and it should be done early in the spring, after the freezing nights are gone (which means late March or early April in my area). I cut more than a half of each plant, and choose one main stem and a few branches that I shorten. I cut off all the broken or dried vines, and keep only those that are healthy enough to develop new vines in different directions.
Regular Trimming: You need them to keep the plant under control and direct it growth. I usually trim the plant from April to June once in a couple of weeks or even weekly, if needed when the new vines are growing and the plant is expanding on the set. Once the peak of the growth has gone (in late June, early July), I only trim it once every 203 weeks, to keep its shape.
Late in the autumn, my virginia Creeper comes with the reward, an awesome foliage that covers the fences in shades of crimson red, orange and olive green.
Did you change your mind about this plant already? Because this is one of a kind resource for your garden: it’s affordable, easy to grow and adaptable in almost any kind of environment!
Be your own gardener and design the garden of your dreams!