76 Parthenocissus quinquefoliaCommon Names: Virginia creeper, woodbine, five-finger poison ivy Family: Vitaceae (grape Family)
Virginia creeper is a fast growing, high climbing vine that attaches itself with tendrils whose tips expand disclike cementing themselves to surfaces. The deciduous leaves are palmately compound with (typically) five leaflets radiating outward from a central petiole (leaf stem) like spokes on a wheel. Each leaflet is about 3-7 in (7.6-17.8 cm) long and 1-2 in (2.5-5.1 cm) wide. The leaves turn fiery red in fall and are very showy. The individual flowers are small and inconspicuous and arranged in elaborate long-stemmed clusters with each flower at the tip of its own peduncle (flower stem); such an inflorescence is called a cyme. The whole inflorescence is about 4-6 in (10.2-15.2 cm) across. The berries are blue black, less than 0.5 in (1.3 cm) across and much relished as a food source for birds and other wildlife.
Parthenocissus quinquefolia is native to eastern North America from Quebec to Florida and west to Texas.
CultureEasy to grow, Virginia creeper can get out of hand if not managed. It will send up sprouts everywhere and it seeds itself; established plantings may smother shrubs and trees. Virginia creeper will thrive in most soils, in sun or partial shade, with or without a structure to climb on. Light: Light (filtered) shade; part sun; full sun. Moisture: Drought tolerant. Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 - 9. By root cuttings or by seeds, which may require 60 days of chilling before they will germinate. Propagation: By root cuttings or by seeds, which may require 60 days of chilling before they will germinate.
Virginia creeper is favored for its brilliant fall foliage and as a maintenance-free ground cover. When allowed to clamber over trees or other tall structures, it develops elongated leafy festoons that are especially showy. Where there is nothing to climb, it attaches to the ground with adventitious roots, and makes an excellent cover for slopes or other places where grass is not practical or desired.
The genus name, Parthenocissus, is a Latinization of the Greek translation of the common name, Virginia creeper. To signify "Virginia", the author of the name used Partheno which means virgin; cissus means vine, and quinquefolia is Latin for "five leaves."
There is another 9 or 10 species of Parthenocissus in Japan and China. Japanese ivy (P. tricuspidata) is another deciduous relative often planted to cover walls and better known as Boston ivy.
Don't allow this vigorous climber to shade out desirable trees or shrubs.
Steve Christman 7/9/97; updated 1/2/98, 7/2/04