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Parthenocissus - Growing Guide
Boston ivy, Virginia creeper
Parthenocissus are hardy, deciduous, tendril climbers from the forests of China and North America. They are closely related to Ampelopsis and Vitis. Some species are self-clinging from aerial roots as well as having leaf tendrils to twine around supports. Those which are self-clinging do best on walls and fences but make no mistake about how vigorous they are and how far up into the eaves of a house (or even in through a crack in a windowsill) that they can get. A fairly brutal annual trim to keep them at a reasonable height on a house wall is essential. Once the creepers get into a slate roof there really can be trouble.
Twining species are best grown up trees or over other evergreen shrubs, perhaps in hedges. These plants come into their own in autumn with brilliant displays of red, purple red and almost black autumn colours. Some species will also produce small grape-like rounded clusters of fruits after an especially hot summer where the plants have had a real baking. While these can be attractive the flowers themselves are pretty insignificant.
P. henryana, the Chinese Virginia creeper, has dark green leaves with three to five toothed leaflets which are about 5in long. The leaves have conspicuous white veining in their centres. This species can easily grow to 20-30ft and develops woody stems. The leaves turn bright red in autumn.
P. quinquefolia, the Virginia creeper, is also a vigorous woody climber with the leaves composed of five toothed leaflets about 4in long. This species thinks nothing of growing 40-50ft and has brilliant red autumn colours.
P. quinquefolia ‘Engelmanii’ is self-clinging, vigorous and has a scarlet autumn show.
P. quinquefolia ‘Star Showers’ is a newish introduction with white-mottled and variegated foliage.
P. tricuspidata ‘Green Spring’ is a vigorous growing form of Boston ivy with self-clinging shoots and leaves that can be 8in across. The young leaves are bronze when young, and purple in autumn. This one can grow to 70ft.
P. tricuspidata ‘Veitchii’ is a selected form with smaller ovate or trifoliate leaves which are purple when immature and dark red-purple to black in the autumn.