Accent and Cover With Boston Ivy

Despite its common name, Boston ivy is actually native to Japan and China. This vigorous clinging vine is often grown on brick or stone buildings. In fact, the term “Ivy League” came from its prominent use on many college buildings in the Northeast.

Boston ivy develops many long, branching stems. They have tendrils tipped with small sticky disks that attach directly to surfaces. Its large, three-lobed leaves are deep green in summer and develop superb fall color in shades of red, orange, yellow and purple. Boston ivy bears inconspicuous greenish white flowers that are followed by small, deep blue berries.

Use this low-maintenance vine to provide an attractive accent to buildings or as a cover for unsightly fences or stumps.

Common name: Boston ivy

Botanical name: Parthenocissus tricuspidata

Plant type: Deciduous woody vine

Zones: 4 to 8

Height: 25 to 50 feet

Family: Vitaceae


Growing conditions

  • Sun: Full sun, part shade, shade
  • Soil: Tolerates most soils
  • Moisture: Moderately moist to moderately dry

Care

  • Mulch: 1 or 2 inches organic mulch
  • Pruning: Cut back as needed to direct or limit growth
  • Fertilizer: Apply compost or soluble fertilizer as needed


Propagation

  • Seeds
  • Cuttings
  • Layering

Pests and diseases

  • No major problems

Cultivars

  • ‘Fenway Park’ has yellow to yellow-green foliage, turning red in fall.
  • ‘Green Showers’ has very large leaves.
  • ‘Lowii’ has small, sharply lobed leaves.
  • ‘Veitchii’ has small leaves that are tinted purple when young.


Garden notes

  • Though shade-tolerant, Boston ivy develops the best fall color in at least part sun.
  • Boston ivy’s sticky disks are very hard to remove from surfaces, so it’s not a good choice for buildings that must be painted regularly.

All in the family

  • Boston ivy is a member of the grape family (Vitaceae).
  • Other familiar genera in the grape family include Vitis (grapes) and Ampelopsis (porcelainberry, pepper vine).
  • Boston ivy is unrelated to true ivies (Hedera spp.). It’s in the same genus as Virginia creeper (P. quinquefolia), a widely distributed native North American vine that’s also noted for fall color.

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