Virginia Creeper (or five-leaved ivy) is a North American vine with woody stems, deep blue berries and brilliant red autumn foliage. Because of that gorgeous foliage and its attractiveness to birds, some gardeners ~ including me ~ grow Virginia Creeper as an ornamental vining plant for the yard. Virginia Creeper is well suited for growing along a fence line for summer and autumn privacy, upon a pergola for shade, or even alongside the house where it can provide shade during the dog days of summer.
The rapid growth of a Virginia Creeper is why many gardeners view this vine as too invasive for cultivation in the yard. Mature plants can reach 60 feet in length and will reseed themselves like crazy. If you are thinking about planting some Virginia Creeper in your yard for some quick privacy or shade, study these pros and cons to determine if Virginia will be too invasive for your yard or not.
The “Plus” side of growing Virginia Creeper
1. Rapid Growth provides complete privacy within 3-4 years. Once Virginia Creeper is solidly rooted, it doesn’t take long for it to completely cover a fence or to provide shade. In our yard, to use as an example, two plants and four years was all it took to completely cover a 125 long and six-foot high chain link fence. What’s especially nice about using creeper along a fence line, is that it grows about 12-16″ above the horizontal fence supports for even more privacy.
2. Provides shelter and food for birds. Songbirds and even ducks & chickens enjoy munching on Virginia Creeper berries. The dense foliage also provides them with safe shelter during mealtimes and bad weather.
3. Dies back every year. Unlike most vines (such as English ivy), Virginia creeper is deciduous and will die back every fall. Once the leaves are off, the vines can be pruned back substantially to keep under control.
4. Easy to control. There’s no arguing that Virginia Creeper will overrun your shrubs and trees. Fortunately, Virginia Creeper plants attach with “pads” inside of tendrils and are very easy to yank out of places where they don’t belong.
5. Stunning fall colors. Gorgeous autumn foliage is why many gardeners love the look of Virginia Creeper. When temperatures drop, the foliage turns a brilliant red.
6 Can be used to create autumn & winter wreaths. The vines of the Virginia Creeper are fantastic for weaving into long-lasting wreaths, baskets, and other fall decor.
The negative side of using Virginia Creeper, and why it could be too invasive.
1. Rapid growth paired with length. When you are in a hurry to cover an unsightly part of a yard, rapid growth is a good thing. It’s not so good however when the Virginia Creeper doesn’t STOP growing. Virginia Creeper that has run out of fence line will climb into tall trees, over parked cars, and up and over outbuildings which is why its often categorized as an “invasive” plant species.
2. Rapid propagation. Virginia Creeper multiplies faster than a pair of bunnies. While you probably wouldn’t mind baby vines growing along the fence line, it’s a real hassle when birds spread the seeds in your flower and vegetable garden beds. Rapid propagation means that regular weeding off all your beds will be necessary to keep the creeper under control.
3. No foliage in the winter and spring. Virginia Creeper tends to loose its foliage in late September to mid October, and doesn’t grow back until June leaving the fence line bare seven months of the year.
4. Takes a lot of work to keep under control, and is difficult to remove permanently. Having a patch of Virginia Creeper in the yard means a lot of yard work. There’s the constant pulling of the vines from shrubs and trees, daily weeding and pruning, and the tug-of-war of pulling up creeper roots from beneath decorative rocks, under sidewalks, and beneath the foundation of your home.
If you like bright foliage, dense coverage, and lots of free vines for crafting, Virginia Creeper is a fantastic ornamental plant for any yard. But if constant weeding and pruning is not your idea of a good time, then you’ll find that Virginia Creeper will be much too invasive to include in a landscaping plan.