In fall, Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) turns magnificent shades of scarlet, maroon, and purple. It's a fast-growing, creeping vine that clings to brick, masonry, and fences with disc-like, sucker-tipped tendrils.
During summer, rich green, three-lobed leaves grow 8 inches long and overlap on long stalks, forming a dense covering. The vine also produces blue-black berries that birds appreciate. Boston ivy is easy to grow and transplant, and it survives in difficult urban sites. Although it's called "Boston" ivy, its origin is Japan and central China.
Common name: Boston ivy, Japanese creeper
Botanical name: Parthenocissus tricuspidata
Plant type: Deciduous tendril climber
Height: 60 feet with support
Zones: 4 to 8
- Sun: Sun or shade
- Soil: Sandy to clay
- Moisture: Grows best with evenly moist soil but withstands dry conditions.
- Mulch: Put a 1- to 2-inch layer of organic mulch around new plants to deter weeds.
- Fertilizer: None required.
- Pruning: Renovate in early winter when the plant is dormant. If necessary, prune during summer to contain the vine.
- Leaf spots, powdery mildew, Japanese beetle, and scale insects may occur.
- Take softwood cuttings in early summer or hardwood cuttings in winter.
- ‘Beverly Brooks' has large leaves and bright red fall color.
- ‘Lowii' has a finer texture and deeply lobed leaves that grow just 4 inches long.
- ‘Purpurea' has reddish leaves all season.
- ‘Veitchii' has darker reddish purple color in fall.
- Boston ivy easily covers wood or metal fencing, trains over large boulders, or creeps through the garden as a ground cover.
- The plant's adhesive discs may damage masonry walls and buildings.
- Boston ivy has an invasive tendency in Connecticut, meaning it may escape from cultivation and naturalize. Check with local garden centers for more information.
All in the family
- Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia, Zones 3 to 9) is a fast-growing, deciduous vine with palmate leaves that turn bright red in fall. The vine has tendril branchlets that end in suction cup holdfasts. It grows 50 feet long.
- The Vitaceae family includes vines for wine and raisin production and some tropical vines such as kangaroo vine and water vine.
(Text by Mary Pestel, photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, www.baileynurseries.com)