Planting Virginia Creeper? Beware!

Updated on January 9, 2018
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, and it has been suggested that the Creeper be urged to run for office. 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 eye-catching 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.

Questions & Answers

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    • profile image

      Gardener John 

      7 hours ago

      "The Virginia creeper has the mentality of a megalomaniac, and it has been suggested that the Creeper be urged to run for office" Hey liberal, your Trump Derangement Syndrome is showing again.

    • profile image

      Johnmacnab 

      3 months ago

      Jacob B.

      I don't know how fast it grows, except I think it could win Formula 1. As for what it will grow in - anything. It doesn't care.

    • profile image

      Sue 

      3 months ago

      Our creeper, planted circa 1990 by the previous owners, is now growing through the pool - so that shoots are visible under the liner. We've always tried to manage it (that is, cut it back, dig bits out etc each year to keep it somewhat controlled) but this latest discovery means time for the round-up, as a leak is a costly problem. Pretty sure it will outlive us regardless of what we apply though. Yes it's lovely at times but I wish we'd removed it when we moved in 20 years ago!

    • profile image

      Jacob B 

      4 months ago

      Wonderful article! My favorite part: "when you are having barbecues or erotic pool parties."

      Does anyone know how fast this vine will grow? How many meters / feet per year? Will it grow in wet clay soil with very poor drainage?

    • profile image

      Johnmacnab 

      4 months ago

      An excellent description Dave.

    • profile image

      Dave Mitchell 

      4 months ago

      Have it here in south central Ontario, Canada, A horrible thing to get rid of. The trees can't support themselves and fall over. It takes over and then some. Sent straight from the devil in my opinion.

    • profile image

      John McNab 

      5 months ago

      Athena

      I'm warning people about the Virginia creeper because, although it is beautiful, it does take over if not controlled.

    • profile image

      Athena 

      5 months ago

      Virginia creeper is a great native vine. Why you are telling people to beware and be warned is beyond me.

    • profile image

      Laura 

      11 months ago

      We have a Virginia creeper that grows on our neighbors garage that faces our yard on our property and is absolutely beautiful

      He had someone come over and cut it back all the way to the roots.._will it grow back this summer to cover the garage or will it take a few years? I am devastated!

    • profile image

      Lori Fraser 

      14 months ago

      Good Article. Love the humour

    • John MacNab profile imageAUTHOR

      John MacNab 

      2 years ago from the banks of the St. Lawrence

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

    • profile image

      Happy 

      3 years 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 imageAUTHOR

      John MacNab 

      4 years ago from the banks of the St. Lawrence

      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.

    • profile image

      diana bishop 

      4 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 imageAUTHOR

      John MacNab 

      5 years ago from the banks of the St. Lawrence

      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.

    • John MacNab profile imageAUTHOR

      John MacNab 

      5 years ago from the banks of the St. Lawrence

      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.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      5 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

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      5 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.

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