by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
Good fences make good neighbors, but fences can be downright ugly. This Arizona native vine is specially selected to dress up those miles of stockade fence. A mountain vine with rich green foliage turns fire engine red through October with blue fruit accents. When spaced at 8′ intervals, this fast-growing vine covers a boring fence within a season. Plant red walls of beauty that are absolutely deer and javelina PROOF!
A close relative of Boston ivy, the Virginia creeper can be used for ground cover or a climbing vine on stone walls and trellises, supported by its grasping tendrils. Its leaves have five leaflets and morph from their summer green into a fall foliage color ranging from red to burgundy. This spectacular change should earn the plant a spot on any list of the top shrubs and vines with Autumn color. The flowers are small, but the berries are a pleasing dark blue enjoyed by birds.
Botanical Name Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Common Name Arizona creeper, Virginia creeper, Victoria creeper, five- leaved ivy, five-finger, woodbine
Plant Type Deciduous perennial vine
Mature Size 30′ feet
Sun Exposure Full sun to part shade
Soil pH 5.1 to 8 pH
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Greenish white
Hardiness Zones 4-9
Native Area Rocky Mountains to the eastern United States
How to Grow Virginia Creeper
Groundcover for erosion control is the number one use for this vine. Virginia creeper also climbs up trees naturally. Train it onto garden arbors, pergolas, and down unsightly fencelines. Although it’s a climbing vine, it sprawls between boulders, over landscape cuts to hold soils from erosion.
In the mountains, Virginia Creeper prefers 6+ hours of sun. The more sun equals more leaves with better Autumn color.
Grow Virginia creeper in well-drained soil. It will grow well in a variety of soil types, including clay, sand, or loam. It will tolerate a range of soil acidity and alkalinity.
Water newly planted trees regularly with a garden hose for at least one month (2 months in Summer). Automatic irrigation systems may not be sufficient initially. Water frequency will vary according to the season, exposure, and plant size.
April – Oct this Maple should be irrigated 2 x weekly.
Nov – Mar this Maple should be irrigated 2 x monthly
Feed 4x Times per Year with either 7-4-4 All Purpose Plant Food, Soil Sulfur, or Humic. Here’s the recommendation by season:
Spring = 7-4-4 All Purpose Food + Soil Sulfur
Summer= 7-4-4 All Purpose Food + Humic
September = 7-4-4 All Purpose Food
December = 7-4-4 All Purpose Food
Although standard Virginia creeper grows well in most yards, you might try several improved horticultural varieties for increased pest resistance:
Engelmann’s ivy – is less vigorous than the species plant. Some bronze color tends to creep into its otherwise red fall foliage. It clings well to walls and fences.
Monham – has leaves with white variegations.
Variegata – is less vigorous, with yellow and white variegation of the leaves, which becomes pink and red in autumn.
Prune Virginia creeper vines well in the winter or early spring each year to keep them under control
especially if they threaten to grow over gutters or encroach on trees. Vines that have come detached will not reattach to a surface, so they should be trimmed away, as should any dead or diseased vines.
Virginia Creeper vs. Poison Ivy
While Virginia creeper is often mistaken for poison ivy, it doesn’t have the urushiol toxin that causes the poison ivy rash. The key difference is that poison ivy and poison oak has three leaves on a stem, no more. Virginia creeper has five leaves on a stem.