Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is an outstanding native vine — berries in summer, brilliant fall color and it could not be easier to grow.
That said, Virginia “creeper” may be a bit of a misnomer. This is a very vigorous vine. It grows fast; it grows up; it grows over the ground; it will cover a fence; it will fill a tree. It grows in sun, part shade and full shade. It is the energizer bunny. This vine has many attributes but only plant it, if you are able to keep a close eye on it or if you have a naturalized area where rampant growth won’t matter. In the garden setting, you have to be prepared to check on it every couple of weeks to see if pruning is needed. Also, please note the the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center reports the small berries of this common vine are extremely toxic to humans. Birds, though, eat them without a problem.
If you need to cover an unsightly fence or wall, as above, this is a great vine to use. Though it is not evergreen, it will readily provide three season coverage.
Virginia creeper is also sometimes recommended as a ground cover. While it would certainly quickly cover the ground, same caution — you will need to keep an eye on it if you don’t want it jumping to your lawn or nearby garden beds. Below Virginia creeper is trained it to intermingle with Clematis virginiana and Lonicera sempivirens to provide successive flowering and color for a long stretch of fence. These vines are still young but were very easy to train to grow along the top of the fence.
It was planted every 30 feet and then allowed to grow up a fence post. Every side shoot was removed for a season. By year two, most new growth is predominantly along the top of the fence.
For more information:
From the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, go here.
For photos of Virginia creeper as a ground cover, go here to the University of Wisconsin master gardener program.
For photos distinguishing Virginia creeper (5 leaves) from poison ivy (3 leaves) from the University of Pennsylvania, go here.