Virginia Creeper

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Virginia Creeper

The common name of Virginia Creeper was originally applied to the North American climber Parthenocissus quinquefolia. It was later also given to the closely related P. tricuspidata, which is a native of China and Japan. The Asian species is often seen growing over rocks in Chinese gardens, or alongside other vines such as wisteria. The Chinese consider this plant so vigorous that they call it ‘Mountain-climbing Tiger’.

Plant details

Common name: Virginia Creeper, Boston Ivy, Japanese Ivy
Botanic name: Parthenocissus tricuspidata

The genus name is from the Greek (parthenos = virgin and kissos = creeper). The species name refers to the three cusps or points on the leaves.


Vigorous, self-clinging deciduous climber which adheres firmly to slightly rough surfaces by means of disc-shaped suckers at the ends of branched tendrils. The glossy green leaves are toothed and lobed, and colour to scarlet, yellow and purple in autumn. It has insignificant greenish yellow flowers, followed by bunches of blue black berries resembling tiny grapes.

Best climate

This frost hardy plant will tolerate temperatures down to -15°C, and produces wonderful autumn colour even in climates with mild winters.

Good points:

ideal for covering large walls and fences spectacular autumn foliage quick coverage


When the stems of the plant are pulled off a wall or fence, the sucker discs remain. They permanently mark the surface and look very ugly. The plant is very vigorous and must be kept under control. It is especially important not to let it climb up under the eaves of houses. This climber is deciduous, so in winter that ugly wall you wanted to hide may reappear! However, the tracery of the bare stems on the wall can look attractive.


Virginia creeper needs a strong vertical support. Plant in full sun for best autumn foliage colour. Pruning is not necessary except to control size.

Getting started

Plants can be grown from semi-hardwood cuttings in summer and autumn, or hardwood cuttings in winter. They are also readily available at nurseries.

Further reading

‘The Garden Plants of China’ by Peter Valder. Published by Florilegium, 1999, ISBN 1876314028, rrp $88.