Boston ivy, Parthenocissus tricuspidata. Photo: Getty Images.

How to grow Boston ivy, Parthenocissus tricuspidata

All you need to know about growing Boston ivy, Parthenocissus tricuspidata.

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

Boston ivy is a wonderful, rampant, climbing foliage plant, typically used to clothe large, old houses. Like closely related Virginia creeper, it makes a real spectacle in autumn, when its glossy green leaves leaves turn fiery shades of red and orange, before falling.

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Boston ivy is in the same family as Virginia creeper, but is more shade tolerant, and doesn’t bear berries. Being so rampant and large, it’s best suited to larger gardens, and it needs quite a bit of maintenance to keep its growth in check.

How to grow Boston ivy

Grow Boston ivy in moist but well-drained soil in full sun to shade. Provide support, such as a small trellis, for the first couple of years, until it starts self-clinging to the wall or fence you’re growing it up. Throughout summer you may want to tie in or remove wayward shoots, along with dead or damaged leaves. Then, in autumn, prune back to keep its growth in check, particularly if growing up a house, making sure it doesn’t encroach on windows or gutters.

Boston ivy: jump links


Where to grow Boston ivy

Parthenocissus tricuspidata
Boston ivy, Parthenocissus tricuspidata

Boston ivy will tolerate most garden soils. It’s ideal for a position in full sun or shade, but bear in mind that its autumn foliage won’t be as impressive if growing in a shady spot. Being such a vigorous plant it will need a large wall – an obelisk or trellis will not do.


How to plant Boston ivy

Plant in autumn or spring for the best results. Improve soil by digging in plenty of organic matter beforehand, and water in well. Use canes or a small piece of trellis to offer support for the first two years, until its suckers develop and it clings to the fence or wall itself.


Caring for Boston ivy

Boston ivy 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 and windows. The leaves are large and need raking up after falling in autumn. They make the perfect addition to leaf mould.


How to propagate Boston ivy

Boston ivy, Parthenocissus tricuspidata
Boston ivy, Parthenocissus tricuspidata

Boston ivy 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.


Growing Boston ivy: pests and problem-solving

Boson ivy is rarely troubled by pests or diseases.


Boston ivy varieties to grow

Boston ivy, Parthenocissus tricuspidata. Photo: Getty Images.
Boston ivy, Parthenocissus tricuspidata. Photo: Getty Images.
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  • Parthenocissus tricuspidata – the standard Boston Ivy, this is 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 Boston ivy cultivar have earned it the RHS Award of Garden Merit. It’s very vigorous and needs careful management
  • Parthenocissus tricuspidata ‘Green Spring’ – a more compact variety, with with slightly fleshy green leaves that turn red in autumn. Reaches 15m