Planting Virginia Creeper? Beware!

Spring Green Virginia Creeper Leaf
Spring Green Virginia Creeper Leaf
That innocent cutting.
That innocent cutting.
Now that Virginia has her feelers around the branch, this conifer is doomed.
Now that Virginia has her feelers around the branch, this conifer is doomed.

The Virginia Creeper is a beautiful Plant

Certainly it is a beautiful plant; the stems have five leaflets and are pleasantly attractive, especially in May when they are still ‘Spring Green,’ but the 'pleasantly attractive' vine does tend to take over.

Most gardeners plant the vine for privacy. It is ideal for covering the fence between you and your neighbours; not only does it cover the boring blandness of a fence or wall, but it gives you a delightful plant to look at. As a plus in the way of privacy, the vine will extend about a foot higher than the fence.

If you don’t get on with your neighbours, the Virginia creeper is a must during the summer months. The vine will protect you from their prying eyes when you are having barbecues or erotic pool parties. Not only do the robins love building nests in the foliage, but all the other birds drool at the first sight of the vine’s blue/purple berries in September. As an added bonus, the reddish leaves are breathtaking in the fall.

(During research, I was very surprised to find out that the vine’s berries are poisonous and the sap can cause irritation - http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_paqu2.pdf ), a fact that does not seem to put the birds off.

Although it loses its foliage during the winter months, this is no big deal to most Canadian families, as by that time they have emptied the pool and hunkered down, with snow-blowers and shovels to hand; not forgetting the ample supply of chilled beer to help immunise them against the dreaded effects of cabin fever. The BBQ is left in a convenient place on the deck in case there is mild day of around minus 10C when it can be used again.

The Virginia Creeper as it begins world domination - from the top of your fence.
The Virginia Creeper as it begins world domination - from the top of your fence.
peekaboo - coming from UNDER your deck?  But...but...the vine is 30 feet away.   Impossible!   Not with the Virginia creeper it isn't.
peekaboo - coming from UNDER your deck? But...but...the vine is 30 feet away. Impossible! Not with the Virginia creeper it isn't.
The Iris is soon going to have visitors, as you can just see from the vine's creeping rootstalk.
The Iris is soon going to have visitors, as you can just see from the vine's creeping rootstalk.
Remember, after the backhoe takes the roots out, paste the remaining roots with  Roundup or some such.   At the top of the picture, through the wooden fence, is your neighbour's pool, and you don't want the creeper creeping up through that, do you?
Remember, after the backhoe takes the roots out, paste the remaining roots with Roundup or some such. At the top of the picture, through the wooden fence, is your neighbour's pool, and you don't want the creeper creeping up through that, do you?

Why should you beware of planting such a multi-talented vine?

The Virginia creeper has the mentality of a megalomaniac; hiding within that cutting that you are about to plant is a ruthless, power crazed determination. To you, the cuttings will grow to be an eyecatching method of hiding your neighbour’s antics, but the Virginia creeper views the top of your fence as a jumping off point for world domination.

Most gardeners, who decide to plant the Virginia, on learning that the vine grows up to 50 feet high, tend to check their garden for tall buildings or trees, and if there are none, sigh with relief, and go ahead and plant it. Do not make this mistake. The creeper does not care whether it is climbing upwards or sideways. By the same token, don’t sigh with relief if your garden is less than 50 feet in length. The vine also has a spread of 50 feet, and it does not care how large your garden is; it will grow to its allotted 50 feet no matter whose garden it’s in. The vine doesn’t care if it grows over your car, or over your swimming pool, but most importantly, it doesn’t care if it grows under your home.

It is the insidious under part that is the most dangerous.The vine spreads by the use of little suckers; the suckers attach to anything – concrete, brick, wood, steel, mail boxes, sheds, decks, trees; it is a cosmopolitan, multicultural plant with no racial or ethnic tendencies – just as long as it is in control. The suckers can be easily removed if caught in time. The ‘caught in time’ part is what matters most. At first the vine appears to be harmless, belying its true intent. You will probably be delighted at its rapid growth over the first couple of years.

After the second year, you may decide to do some pruning – that is when you will realise that all of the delightful little leaves aren’t just sitting there for you to admire; they are working feverishly in a Virginian creeper underground. Each bud that is lying on the soil is spreading – downwards, and sideways. The vine is quietly reproducing itself via its creeping rootstalks or rhizomes.

Your tiny little bud eventually becomes nearly impossible to eradicate – and almost impossible to dig up without a backhoe. But with the scientific name of Parthenocissus Quinguefolia, what else would you expect?

You have been warned.

More by this Author


Comments 8 comments

drbj profile image

drbj 3 years ago from south Florida

BOLO! BOLO! Be On the Look Out for the dangerous, mind-of-its-own Virginia Creeper. Thanks for the warning, John. We have a similar noxious plant here in Florida - it's called Bermuda Grass, and it devours beautiful lawns.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

That must be what I use to see on courthouses as a kid and loved. It climbed right to the sky. I have a corner I wouldn't mind having it in! lol


John MacNab profile image

John MacNab 3 years ago from the banks of the St. Lawrence Author

drbj: Many thanks for the visit and comment drbj. My pleasure young lass. Now, in Fall, the creeper looks stunning and I feel guilty about lambasting it.


John MacNab profile image

John MacNab 3 years ago from the banks of the St. Lawrence Author

Jackie: Many thanks for reading and leaving a comment. Virginia Creeper probably would be the plant you saw on courthouses, Jackie. You'll also see it climbing up telephone poles. It is a beautiful plant, but beware of its world domination tendencies.


diana bishop 2 years ago

I planted 2 virginia creepers this spring. 1 each end of an arch. It has grown very quickly and about 2 weeks ago the leaves turned a beautiful red. They only lasted 1 week and all fell off.

Will they always do that or is it just the first year?


John MacNab profile image

John MacNab 2 years ago from the banks of the St. Lawrence Author

The leaves are beautiful in the fall aren't they. They turn red and fall off every year. I'm raking up Virginia Creeper leaves now, and we are losing our privacy. Roll on next spring when the creeper turns green again and shields us from our neighbors. Thanks for reading and commenting diana.


Happy 16 months ago

Virginia creeper is my hero!

Saved us from needing air conditioning even in our hottest summer months. We use to Cook in the afternoons because the whole back of

The house faced the west setting sun. Looked into planting trees, but

plumber said No Way with your older home pipes.

We made an arbor that arches over our windows and sidewalk using a

Bird netting and the Virginia Creeper forms a lush cool wall like a green

Tunnel. If it gets warm....you just go out inside the tunnel and spray water on the leaves....pull the cool into the windows with fans and ahhhhhhh Delish Cool All afternoon ! The dense shade forms just

When you need it, turns Scarlet, then disappears and let's the Winter

Sun warm your house...can't see the bird netting but the branches and

Net keep the snow off the side walk and entry of back door...they are very

Strong. So Yes We LOVE our Virginia Creeper!!


John MacNab profile image

John MacNab 5 months ago from the banks of the St. Lawrence Author

Yes, Virginia Creeper has a lot to recommend i t, doesn't it.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working