Growing Virginia Creeper and Killing It Organically
Virginia Creeper or Parthenocissus quinquefolia
- isn't that a
mouthful? - is a vine that nobody should be able to kill but many folks
This vine will grow anywhere and cover anything.
It never met a wall it didn't like, a fence it couldn't conquer or a
plant it couldn't smother.
Grow it in full sun, shade, sand, clay, drought, damp or any
combination of your choosing. This is a vine to live where no other
vine will survive.
Hardy- you want tough. This plant will grow well into USDA zone 3 and
down into 9. How's that for a plant range? :-)
How Fast Does it Grow?
Yes, but is it fast?
Able to leap tall buildings in a single year, this plant will grow 6 to
10 feet a year. It may not do that the first year of planting as it
sometimes sulks a little for the first year.
Watch out for second year!
Does it have flowers or anything attractive about it?
It has flowers but you'll not be impressed as they are greenish-white
and hidden by the foliage. So unless you like hidden greeny-white
flowers, no flowers.
But the fall foliage is red and spectacular.
OK is it salt tolerant? You got it. For sure. No roadside salt on this
plant will slow it down so feel free to use it on a fence as a green
Will it climb on buildings?
Does Superman fly? Take a look at many of the 'ivy-covered' colleges
in northern parts of North America. They're Virginia Creeper covered.
Damages Buildings ??
Once it gets to windows and the roof, it can insert tendrils into loose
spaces and latch on.
Yes. You have to prevent this from happening or damage can result.
Are there varieties available other than the species? It is hard to
believe but yes, there are indeed other varieties available:
The most common is 'engelmannii' which gives rise to the name
'Engelmann's Ivy' under which this plant sometimes masquerades. It
has smaller leaves than the species.
A second, 'saint-paulii' has smaller leaflets again but apparently
(and very difficult to believe) clings better.
Doug, I have this vine and I want to get rid of it. How?
The only organic way to eliminate this plant is to saw the stems off as close to the ground as you can. It will resprout (guaranteed!) and you'll have to keep on cutting down the sprouts as they emerge. It may take two years to finally kill it but you'll do it.
I did eliminate one by cutting down the plant to the ground and then spraying with a herbicide soap spray every time I saw a shoot. That slowed it down but I found it was more work than simply taking some loppers out once a week and cutting the new shoots.
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Off The Wall
OK but how do I get it off the walls now?
Why ask me? I'm a gardener, :-) I tell you how to grow and sometimes kill
plants but I'm no carpenter or stone mason (both of which you may need
Having said that, I cut all the main trunks off the plants on our
new house (leaving the vines up on the building to die. A year later,
they came off easily with no damage to the house although there were
bits and pieces that had to be manually removed.
Your neighbor has some and you want it. The easiest way is to take some
tender tip cuttings (just like a houseplant ivy) and root them up in a
glass of water. Once they are well rooted, plant them where you want
And that my friends is the story of Virginia Creeper.
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Virginia Creeper plants
and seeds but I think the seeds are more trouble than they are worth - start with one plant and take cuttings if you need more.