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Parthenocissus - virginia creeper

Parthenocissus is a genus of climbing plants from the Vitaceae family. Not so long time ago they didn’t comprise a separate genus and used to be classified as belonging to the genus Vitis or Ampelopsis

The plants of the Parthenocissus genus are vigorous climbers growing 10-20 m high (1-2 m of new growth a year). They climb by means of tendrils that are sometimes tipped with adhesive pads, which allows the plant to cling even to a very smooth surface. The stems are slightly twining and provide the plant with the additional support.

The main attraction of Parthenocissus are their green leaves that turn brilliant scarlet just before falling in autumn. The flowers open in July-August. They are quite inconspicuous, greenish-yellow and most often hidden beneath leaves. The fruit are small (3-6 mm in diameter), violet-black berries with a whitish waxy bloom, sometimes set on red petioles. They look very ornamental, especially after the leaves have fallen, and stay on the plant from September until December, or until the birds eat them.

Parthenocissus don’t need any special care apart from occasional trimming of overgrown stems.

They have no special soil requirements and tolerate well average soil. They grow best and the autumn leaf colour change is most attractive in full sun but they will also do well in half-shade.

Parthenocissus are one of the most popular climbers, both in private gardens and in public green spaces. They are excellent for:

  • covering walls of houses, protecting them against rain, wind and sun
  • covering all sorts of fences, walls, wire meshes, noise barriers, etc.
  • creating screens and masking unsightly buildings and constructions e.g. rubbish sheds, garages, warehouses, barracks
  • as groundcover, even over a very large area
  • climbing up trees, street lamps, pylons, columns
  • creating shady spots by growing over arbours, pergolas, arches and gates

Parthenocissus inserta – Thicket Creeper

Very similar to Virginia Creeper, it’s often mistaken for it and sold under the wrong name. It has no adhesive pads at the end of the tendrils and therefore is not self-clinging. The leaves are composed of five coarsely serrated wide leaflets, often glossy on the upper side, colouring deep red in autumn. Vigorous in habit, it attains the height of 10-20 m, producing 1-2 m of new growth a year.
It’s less demanding and hardier than Virginia Creeper. Excellent for land rehabilitation and for planting in difficult conditions. Particularly useful for covering fences, arbours, pergolas, as groundcover, and everywhere where you don’t want your climbing vine to scale neighbouring walls.

Parthenocissus quinquefolia - Virginia Creeper

A vigorous, commonly cultivated climber. It grows vigorous attaining the height of 10-20 m (1-2 m of new growth a year). The leaves composed of five leaflets, serrated, matt-green on the upper side and bluish underneath, turn deep red in autumn.
It tolerates average soil, can grow in full sun and in half-shade, resistant to diseases and pests and fully frost hardy. It is well suited for growing both in public green space and in private gardens. Suitable for growing up walls, over various kinds of supports or as groundcover.

Parthenocissus tricuspidata - photo J.Borowski
  • STAR SHOWERS 'Monham' – a new cultivar with handsome, white-green leaves in summer that reveal pink veins in cold weather. In autumn the white parts of the leaves turn pink and the green ones, scarlet. The adhesive pads at the ends of the tendrils allow the plant to scale walls. It is less vigorous than the species, reaching the height of 3-6 m (0,5-1 m of new growth a year). It thrives and looks best in a well-lit position, sheltered from strong sun and wind. It likes high air humidity. It’s particularly useful for breaking the monotony of monochrome greenery, lightening dark spots and creating colourful combinations. Suitable for growing up walls, pergolas and all kinds of garden supports.
  • 'Troki' - a polish variety with attractive large glossy leaves with five leaflets, green in summer, and deep fiery red in autumn. The colouring is more attractive and the coloured leaves stay longer on the plant before falling than in the species, or in the variety murorum. It’s vigorous and self -clinging thanks to the adhesive pads at the ends of leaf tendrils. It grows up to 10-20 m high, producing 1-2 m of new growth a year. Fully frost hardy, healthy and quite undemanding. An excellent subject for growing up fences, but may also be trained up walls, arbours, pergolas and other supports. Suitable for a container on a balcony. Makes good groundcover.
  • var. murorum - a variety with strongly forked tendrils tipped with 6-12 strongly adhesive pads Leaves composed of five leaflets. Particularly suited for covering walls, but it can also climb up other supports, such as tree trunks, pylons, wire fences, arbours and gates. It may also be used as groundcover. Fully frost hardy.

Parthenocissus tricuspidata - Boston Ivy

A spectacular, popular, vigorous climber growing up to 10-20 m high (1-2 m of new growth a year). It has simple, three-lobed leaves that are glossy and firm in texture. In autumn they change colour from deep green to various hues of red and orange. The leaves overlap making a good textured covering for a wall. It attaches itself to the support by means of tendrils tipped with 5-12 strongly adhesive pads that can cling to any surface, even the smoothest one.
It grows and looks best in a sunny position. It will also do well in half shade, but the autumn leaf colour will be less prominent. It tolerates the majority of average soils, but isn’t fully hardy and may freeze during severe winters. Suitable for use in a milder climate.
Ideal for growing up walls (to which it clings very tightly), arbours, pergolas, gates, trees and pylons. It may also be used as groundcover. An excellent climber for both public green spaces and private gardens.

  • 'Green Spring' - large, glossy leaves with slightly red veins that turn deep red in autumn. Young shoots and leaves are purple-red.
  • 'Veitchii' – the most commonly used cultivar. The leaves are slightly smaller than those of the species but more glossy. Young leaves and shoots are reddish.

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