Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is a woody, deciduous vine noted for its fast growth. Native to the United States, Virginia creeper is also called woodbine or American ivy. Virginia creeper grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 7. The vigorous vine is decorative but damages houses due to its rapid growth and methods of vine attachment.
Virginia creeper is a perennial vine that quickly covers fences, buildings and ground features. An attractive, loose-growth vine, the creeper adds screening cover to arbors and trellises. As groundcover, the vine reduces erosion and spreads over broad, bare ground or rocky slopes with equal ease. Thriving in dry, sandy soils or moist, loamy conditions, this vine tolerates salt exposure along beaches and coastal zones. Virginia creeper is drought tolerant and enjoys full sun or partial shade. Its foliage changes from green to crimson in autumn.
These deciduous vines spread by attaching themselves with aerial roots and holdfasts. The aerial roots grip rough surfaces, such as tree bark or trellises, and weave across the entire surface. The holdfasts are tendrils with adhesive discs that attach and harden like cement to brick, masonry and other surfaces. These suckers attach the vine permanently to houses and other structures. The vines, growing 30 to 50 feet long, work under sidings or roof shingles. The vine's weight eventually breaks down shingles or wood siding, especially in the winter when ice collects on the vine network. Attempting to pull off the vine damages paint and siding because the holdfasts stick to the surface.
Regularly cutting back Virginia creeper controls unwanted growth. When the vine creeps under siding or roof shingles, trim back and redirect the vines. Take advantage of the screening benefits by planting Virginia creeper on a trellis next to the building. Keep it trimmed to the trellis, not letting the holdfasts reach the house. Leave room between the trellis and house so that you can easily intercept invasive growth. A Virginia creeper may grow 60 feet high and 50 feet wide. While this is advantageous in covering decrepit structures or outlying rubble, it is detrimental when suckered to the side or roof of a home.
The spreading Virginia creeper readily climbs up houses, trees and shrubs. Easy to grow and hard to remove, the vine damages wood and painted structures. It kills host plants by depriving them of needed sunlight. While offering fast coverage of raw or uneven ground, it is not a good partner in direct contact with houses and desirable plants. Its blue berries that form in autumn are highly toxic to people and should not be eaten. The sap is harmful to some people, containing oxalate crystals that irritate skin. Handle the plant only when wearing gloves.