Boston ivy, Parthenocissus tricuspidata. Photo: Getty Images.

How to grow parthenocissus

Find out all you need to know about growing Boston ivy, Virginia creeper and other species of Parthenocissus.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Plant
Plant

Do not Plant in January

Do not Plant in February

Do not Plant in March

Do not Plant in April

Do Plant in May

Do Plant in June

Do Plant in July

Do Plant in August

Do Plant in September

Do not Plant in October

Do not Plant in November

Do not Plant in December

Flowers
Flowers

Plant does not flower in January

Plant does not flower in February

Plant does not flower in March

Plant does not flower in April

Plant does not flower in May

Plant does not flower in June

Plant does flower in July

Plant does flower in August

Plant does flower in September

Plant does not flower in October

Plant does not flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

Parthenocissus is a wonderful, rampant, climbing foliage plant. There are several gorgeous species, including Boston ivy and Virginia creeper.

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It’s a real spectacle when the fiery colours of its leaves in autumn clothe an old house or wall. But you don’t have to have acres of land or a large country manor to accommodate this climber. There are varieties that aren’t quite so vigorous and are great for smaller gardens. It’s a real winner in shady spots and wildlife love to shelter among the leaves.

Find out all your need to know about growing parthenocissus, below.


Where to grow parthenocissus

Parthenocissus tricuspidata
Boston ivy, Parthenocissus tricuspidata

Parthenocissus will tolerate most garden soils. It’s ideal for a position in full sun or shade. Being such a vigorous plant it will need a large wall – an obelisk or trellis will not do. Plants can be grown on north-facing walls but the autumn colour won’t be as impressive as it would be in a sunnier spot.


Planting parthenocissus

Plant anytime from September to October or in spring for best results. Improve soil by digging in plenty of organic matter. Plants don’t require wires or supports, as they have small suckers which hold them to a wall. For the first two years the support of a garden cane will help the plant to establish a climbing route. Follow our step-by-step guide to planting climbers.


Propagating parthenocissus

Boston ivy, Parthenocissus tricuspidata
Boston ivy, Parthenocissus tricuspidata

Parthenocissus is a self-layer. This simply means that if a stem touches soil, it develops roots. In order to produce more plants, dig up a self-rooted stem. Cut away from the parent plants and pot on. You can do this anytime, so keep an eye out for rooted stems. Follow our guide to taking summer cuttings and find out more about layering here.


Parthenocissus: problem-solving

Parthenocissus is rarely troubled by pests or diseases.


Caring for parthenocissus

Virginia creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia. Photo: Getty Images.
Virginia creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Parthenocissus will require a little maintenance to keep it in check. To prevent it from taking over your entire house wall, prune side shoots back hard to the woody frame in late autumn and winter. When doing this look out for stems that have self-layered, so that they can be potted on to create new plants. Keep stems clear of guttering. The leaves are large and need raking up after falling in autumn. They make the perfect addition to leaf mould.


Parthenocissus for wildlife

The dark purple berries of the parthenocissus provide a valuable winter feast for birds. They are produced after the insignificant, often unnoticed, green flowers. The flowers are also very attractive to bees.

Bumblebee cutout. Photo: Getty Images.

Parthenocissus varieties to grow

Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Virginia creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia
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  • Parthenocissus henryana – also known as the Chinese Virginia creeper. This is the less vigorous of the genus spreading to 10m. Attractive leaves composed of five leaflets with white veins. Insignificant summer flowers. Stunning autumn colour. Prefers a sheltered spot. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it the prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM)
  • Parthenocissus quinquefolia – probably not one to plant, but more to avoid, as this is now categorised as an invasive, non-native species. It’s distinctive because the foliage is made up of five, coarse, large, raggedy edged leaflets. Extremely vigorous, handle with care
  • Parthenocissus tricuspidata – the three-lobed leaves of the Japanese creeper, also known as Boston Ivy, are most commonly seen growing on older buildings. It is a vigorous climber and clings to brickwork very effectively, sometimes causing damage. The fiery autumn colour is spectacular
  • Parthenocissus tricuspidata ‘Veitchii’ – the larger, slightly softer leaves of this cultivar have earned it the RHS Award of Garden Merit. It’s very vigorous and needs careful management
  • Parthenocissus tricuspidata ‘Green Spring’ – hardy with slightly fleshy green leaves that turn red in autumn. Reaches 15m
  • Parthenocissus quinquefolia ‘Yellow Wall’ – a reasonably new variety offering green leaves in summer that turn bright yellow in autumn. Spread 14m. Protected under Plant Breeders Rights