Virginia Creeper – beauty or beast?

Posted by gardensoul on March - 28 - 2013

Virginia CreeperVirginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, is an attractive tropical looking vine that grows easily along Colorado Front Range gardens. But it can get out of hand pretty quickly, creeping into your neighbor’s yard and up the side of your house, destroying siding along the way. Why is it so bad? It grows very fast, has a vining habit and producing many berries. Birds love these berries, contributing to the spread of this plant. I get it under my plum tree, a common location as birds are resting on its branches and dropping the seeds from their beaks (or the other end!). Warning: The berries are highly toxic to humans and may be fatal if eaten. Its sap can also cause skin irritation in some people.

Virginia creeper may be hand pulled, or sprayed with an herbicide. Probably the best product for Virginia creeper is triclopyr sold as a cut stump and vine killer (8% triclopyr). Read ALL label instructions and warnings before applying any herbicide.

Virginia creeper is a native to the US, fast-growing, perennial, woody vine that may climb or trail along the ground. The leaves are compound, containing five leaflets. Leaflets range in size from 2-6 inches and have toothed margins. The leaflets are red when they first emerge but turn green as they mature. In the fall, leaves turn a bright red to maroon color. The inconspicuous green color flowers are borne in small clusters during the spring and followed by small clusters of fruit in early summer. This fruit is a 4 to 6 mm diameter bluish-black berry that usually contains two to three seeds. The vines adhere to surfaces by means of five to eight branched tendrils ending in cup-like adhesive tips. New stems are brownish-green and finely hairy but gradually acquire pale, raised dots and turn purplish-brown with age.

2 Responses so far.

  1. Brandon Dunn says:

    Im looking for a great climbing-privacy vine. Is virginia creeper mt best choice if I live in central Colorado Springs?

    • gardensoul says:

      I see a few problems using Virginia Creeper. The berries are highly poisonous, birds love the berries and spread the seeds readily, and it is a favored plant for Japanese Beetles. My personal choice would be honeysuckle (Lonicera sp.). It is showy all summer and attracts hummingbirds. Look for the Blanche Sandman variety, a showstopper with pink-orange blossoms and golden throats.