Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Virginia creeper

Vitaceae (Grape Family)

Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)
Marcus, Joseph A.
A woody, dedicuous vine, Virginia Creeper can be high-climbing or trailing, 3-40 ft.; the structure on which it climbs is the limiting factor. Virginia Creeper climbs by means of tendrils with disks that fasten onto bark or rock. Its leaves, with 5 leaflets, occasionally 3 or 7, radiating from the tip of the petiole, coarsely toothed, with a pointed tip, and tapered to the base, up to 6 inches long. Leaves provide early fall color, turning brilliant mauve, red and purple. Inconspicuous flowers small, greenish, in clusters, appearing in spring. Fruit bluish, about 1/4 inch in diameter.

Virginia Creeper can be used as a climbing vine or ground cover, its leaves carpeting any surface in luxuriant green before turning brilliant colors in the fall. Its tendrils end in adhesive-like tips, giving this vine the ability to cement itself to walls and therefore need no support. The presence of adhesive tips instead of penetrating rootlets also means it doesnt damage buildings the way some vines do. It is one of the earliest vines to color in the fall. A vigorous grower, it tolerates most soils and climatic conditions.

In years past, children learned a rhyme to help distinguish Virginia Creeper from the somewhat similar-looking and highly toxic Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans): Leaves of three, let it be; Leaves of five, let it thrive. Poison Ivy leaflets are normally in groups of three, while those of Virginia Creeper are in groups of five. The berries of Virginia Creeper can be harmful if ingested, however, and the rest of the plant contains raphides, which irritate the skin of some people.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Vine
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Complexity: Palmate
Leaf Margin: Dentate
Size Notes: 3-40
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Black, Blue
Size Class: 12-36 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Green
Bloom Time: May , Jun


USA: AL , AR , CO , CT , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , LA , ME , MD , MA , MI , MN , MS , MO , NE , NH , NJ , NY , NC , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , UT , VT , VA , WV , WI , DC
Canada: NB , ON , QC
Native Distribution: Quebec and Ontario south to FL, w. to s.e. MN & TX, south to Guatemala. Zones 5 to 11.
Native Habitat: Chaparral & brush country, open woodlands, shaded woods, streamsides, riverbanks

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Moist, well-drained soils. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Rocky, Limestone-based Caliche type
Conditions Comments: Tolerates most soils and climatic conditions.


Use Ornamental: Attractive, Fall conspicuous, Twines on fences & other plants, Screens, Climbs walls & columns, Arbor, Ground cover. Unlike some climbing vines, it adheres via adhesive discs rather than penetrating rootlets, so it wont damage buildings.
Use Wildlife: Fruit-birds, through the winter, inc. chickadees, nuthatches, mockingbirds, catbirds, finches, flycatchers, tanagers, swallows, vireos, warblers, woodpeckers, and thrushes. A larval host for several species of sphinx moths.
Warning: POISONOUS PARTS: Berries. Highly Toxic, May be Fatal if Eaten! Symptoms include nausea, abdominal pain, bloody vomiting and diarrhea, dilated pupils, headache, sweating, weak pulse, drowsiness, twitching of face. Toxic Principle: Oxalic acid and possibly others. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.) Also, the plants tissues contain raphides, which can irritate the skin of some people. It is far less likely to irritate, and less irritating than, Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), though, which it somewhat resembles and with which it is often confused.
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds
Larval Host: Abbotts Sphinx Moth (Sphecodina abbottii), Pandora Sphinx Moth (Eumorpha pandorus), Virginia Creeper Sphinx Moth (Darapsa myron), White-lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata)
Deer Resistant: Moderate

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Parthenocissus quinquefolia is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Virginia creeper sphinx
(Darapsa myron)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Last Update: 2013-09-08