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How to Grow: Virginia Creeper
full sun, part sun, part shade, full shade
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
Virginia creeper has insignificant blooms. It’s mostly grown for its colorful foliage and berries
Mature Height x Spread
30 to 50 feet x 5 to 10 feet
native, fall color, deer resistant
This aggressive deciduous vine is similar to Boston ivy in that it’s mostly grown for the colorful leaves in fall and the blue berries that form in summer. The biggest difference between Virginia creeper and Boston ivy is the shape and color of the leaves. The leaves turn a purple to reddish color in fall and drop earlier than Boston ivy leaves. The berries are favorites of birds. Virginia creeper is a good choice for growing on a north wall or to brighten a dark area because of its colorful fall leaves, The vines have holdfasts that attach to a wall or structure. They are best grown up masonry, stone or a fence, since the holdfast can leave marks on wood and vinyl.
When, Where and How to Plant
Virginia creeper is hardy throughout our region. Purchase plants from a local garden and plant from spring to early fall in well-drained, compost-amended soil. The leaves will have the best color if grown in part shade. Space plants 5 to 10 feet apart.
Grow Virginia creeper in a wide-range of soils as long as they stay moist. Water plants well and mulch with bark mulch. Virginia creeper doesn’t need additional fertilizer other than a thin layer of compost each spring around its roots.
Regional Advice and Care
Like Boston ivy, once Virginia creeper attaches itself to a wall or building it will be hard to remove or paint the wall. Plant where it can grow, unimpeded for many years. Virginia creeper can become invasive in our region so, if possible, remove berries to stop it from self-sowing. Prune vines in spring to keep it in bounds. Virginia creeper does strongly resemble poison ivy. The difference is Virginia creeper has 5 leaflet leaves, while poison ivy has 3 leaflet leaves (“leaves of three let them be”). Be careful not to confuse the two vines. Virginia creeper doesn’t have any significant pests and diseases.
Companion Planting and Design
Grow Virginia creeper up a wall, building, or fence where it can remain for years. Plant Virginia creeper on non-wooded surfaces since the lush growth can cause the wood to mold and rot over time. If growing against a wooden house, consider building a trellis 3 feet away from the building so plenty of air can flow behind the vine and keep the wood dry. Grow Virginia creeper over walls or on banks to cover a slope. You can often see it rambling in wild areas over other trees and shrubs.
‘Engelman’ is a strong grower that clings to structures, such as trellises, easier than the regular species. ‘Moham’ or ‘Star Showers’ is a newer variety of Virginia creeper that features variegated green and white leaves.
Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.