Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 1124 Parthenocissus tricuspidata

Common Names: Boston ivy, Japanese ivy Family: Vitaceae (grape Family)
Image Gallery

Boston ivy
Boston ivy


Japanese ivy, also known as Boston ivy, is a spirited woody vine that clings to its support with little round adhesive disks on the tips of its tendrils. The vigorous vine can grow to more than 70 ft (21 m) in length, often topping out in a tree. The leaves are either three-lobed or lobed to such an extreme that they actually become three leaflets. The yellowish green flowers are small and inconspicuous, leading to blue-black berries that are eaten by wildlife. In autumn the leaves turn brilliant shades of red and purple before they drop. There are numerous selections in the trade including some with yellow, purple or variegated foliage. Many cultivars have been selected for their intense fall colors.


Parthenocissus tricuspidata is native to China, Japan and Korea. It has escaped cultivation and become established in parts of Europe.


Light: Japanese creeper grows well in full sun, but produces the most intense fall colors in partial shade. It thrives on walls or the sides of buildings that face north, east or west. Moisture: Grow Japanese creeper in a moist, but well drained soil. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 8. Propagation: Young, fast growing tips can be rooted in spring or early summer. The vine also can be propagated by layering. Seeds may require a period of cold stratification.


Japanese creeper takes its own support, attaching to whatever structure it finds itself on, whether a tree, wall, fence, trellis, arbor, pergola or slow moving vehicle. Use this vigorous climber to cover unsightly fences, walls or buildings. The vines often grow in a dense jumble of thick, crossing vegetation, providing cover and habitat for small wildlife, especially bird nests. Just be sure to prevent the vines from growing under roof shingles and eaves or into window casements and so forth, where they can do damage as the stems enlarge. On a pergola or arbor, prune Japanese creeper to a spur system, as you would muscadine grapes, by cutting the current season's growth back to just one or two buds each winter. This will cause the next season's growth to cascade symmetrically over the support. See Floridata's muscadine grape (Vitis rotundifolia) profile for pruning details.

Boston ivy
Boston ivy blankets a wall with foliage supported by woody stems outfitted with adhesive disks.

Japanese creeper is very similar to the North American native vine, Virginia creeper (P. quinquefolia), but the later has leaves with five leaflets.


An alternate common name for Japanese creeper is Boston ivy. "Huh?", you say? The vine is often grown to cover brick buildings where it provides beauty and summertime shade on the sides of the building. This in many North American cities, but especially in Boston. Think of the Harvard University campus.

There are about ten species of vines in the grape family genus Parthenocissus. Some occur in eastern Asia and others in North America. The genus is named, in a sort of back-handed way, for the state of Virginia: Partheno is from the Greek for virgin. Cissus means vine. Why Virginia for a plant from Asia? Because the genus was first created for a species from Virginia that had the common name Virginia creeper: Parthenocissus quinquefolia. Check out Floridata's What's in a Plant Name for more taxonomic esoterica.

Steve Christman 11/23/10

Master Plant List

Click here to find plants in our Encyclopedia using the Master Plant List grid. Use this widget to search, sort and filter Floridata's plant database to easily locate Plant Profile pages. Use the dropdown menus to filter the grid to display items matching the selected Plant Type and Feature tags.

Plant Type Tags

tree icon
shrub icon
perennial plant icon
aquatic plant icon
cactus and succulents icon
grass icon
vine icon

Feature Tags

Attracts Birds
Attracts butterflies
Attracts Hummingbirds
Edible Plants
Cutting and Arranging
for pots and containers
drought tolerant plants
grows in wet soils
ornamental fruits
fall color
foliage plants
easy to grow plants
fast growing

Site Search

Use Google to search all of the pages on Floridata including the Plant Profile pages

Parthenocissus species profiled on Floridata:

Parthenocissus quinquefolia

( Virginia creeper, woodbine, five-finger poison ivy )

Parthenocissus tricuspidata

( Boston ivy, Japanese ivy )

Copyright 2015 Floridata.com LLC