Parthenocissus is a wonderful, rampant, climbing foliage plant. There are several gorgeous species, including Boston ivy and Virginia creeper.
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 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.
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.
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 is rarely troubled by pests or diseases.
Caring for parthenocissus
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.
Parthenocissus varieties to grow
- 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