Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is an invasive vine which will grow over just about anything including your prize ornamental shrubs and trees. If left to grow unhindered it will eventually kill the plants it’s growing on by depriving them of light and oxygen.
Sometimes referred to as five-leaved ivy, like traditional ivy, it can be hard to get rid of. But, don’t despair. We’re going to explore a few ways that you can rid your garden of this weed.
Remember that a weed is just a plant that grows where it’s not wanted. Believe it or not, there are people who actually plant Virginia Creeper on purpose. But that’s another story.
What Does Virginia Creeper Look Like?
This woody vine has five leaflets with saw-toothed margins. It’s often confused with poison ivy which has just three leaflets. However, the two can quite often be seen growing together.
Virginia Creeper grows equally well in dense shade as it does in full sun. In fall, the leaves turn bright red, making the plant quite attractive. It also produces masses of dark blue berries which are loved by the local bird life.
Be aware though, that the entire plant, including the berries, is toxic to humans and dogs. In addition, the sap of the vine can be highly irritable to human skin. That’s why you should wear gloves before you start working on it.
Killing Virginia Creeper: The First Step
If you want to rid your garden of this weed for good, there are number of steps you should take for effective eradication. Remember to wear gloves and long sleeves before you undertake this first step.
Armed with a good pair of pruning shears and some heavy duty clippers, cut back the plant as hard as you can. You’ll also need to untangle it from around your trees and shrubs and pull it off fences and other structures.
Try to cut it right back to almost ground level if you can. Put the clippings into a bag and dispose of them. Be careful to ensure that you get rid of any berries or seeds that might still be on the plant.
Using Herbicide To Kill The Remainder Of The Plant
Once you’ve cut back the vine, it’s time to apply some herbicide to kill off the plant and its root system. The most effective herbicide to use is diluted glysophate following these steps:
- Following the instructions on the herbicide you’re using (such as Roundup), dilute with water in the recommended quantities.
- Make sure you wear gloves.
- With a foam paintbrush, paint the cut stems of the vine with the glysophate solution. Be extra careful not to drip the glysophate onto any other plants as it will kill those as well.
- Check regularly for any possible new growth and repeat the above steps.
This is the easiest and quickest way to get rid of Virginia Creeper once and for all.
Alternatives To Using Herbicide
If you don’t relish using herbicides in your garden, you can try some more organic methods to remove this pesky vine. The effects of these may not be as immediate but with a little persistence, they should work.
Cover The Vine With A Thick Layer Of Mulch
If the Virginia Creeper is mainly growing on the ground you can cover it with a thick layer of mulch. This will effectively deprive the plant of air, water and sunlight and will eventually cause it to die. This method may, however, take many weeks before you see positive results.
Using Vinegar And Water
Due to its highly acidic nature, white vinegar can be effective in killing Virginia Creeper. Ideally, you would still want to cut the creeper back first before applying the vinegar mixture as it could harm your other plants as well.
You can make up a mixture of 20/80 vinegar and water and put it into a sprayer. Then you simply spray the vine and it should start to die back in about 3 days.
If you’ve cut the vine back to ground level, you can also try pouring straight vinegar onto and around the cut stem. However, be very careful not to get the vinegar onto any other plants. After a couple of days, add some organic manure or compost to the soil to counteract the remaining acidity.
Using Boiling Water
This can be effective if you apply the boiling water several times around the base and root system of the vine. You will have to cut the creeper back to ground level first though, before using this method.
Using Rock Salt
Only use this method if you have no desirable plants growing nearby as it will take some time to leach the salt out of the soil.
Mix one cup of rock salt into one gallon of hot water. After allowing the salt to dissolve, pour this mixture around the base of the vine. The vine should be dead within a few days and you can remove it roots and all.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Virginia Creeper poisonous?
Both the leaves and the berries of the vine are poisonous to both humans and dogs. They contain oxalate crystals. The sap of the vine can also cause irritation to human skin.
How do you kill Virginia Creeper naturally?
You can try one of the methods discussed above or you can dig it out of the ground manually.
What is Virginia Creeper good for?
Interestingly, the bark of Virginia Creeper was traditionally used in cough syrup. Because of its vigorous growth, it’s also good as a ground cover down slopes to hold back erosion. As long as it’s maintained and cut back regularly, it can be quite useful for this purpose.