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Virginia Creeper / Engelmannii

The Virginia creeper is a healthy and strong self-clinging vine that is well known for its beautiful leaf form and autumn colouring. The species originates from North America and is amongst the most popular climbing plants.

Parthenocissus quinquefolia "Engelmannii," American ivy, five-leaved ivy

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Virginia Creeper "Engelmannii" starting to change colour
Virginia Creeper "Engelmannii" starting to change colour

To Thrive...

Plant in sunny to semi-shady location; will develop more beautiful autumn colours in the sun. Distance between plants: 3 - 6 metres.

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Characteristics and Pruning

This vine climbs with both tendrils (stem tendril climber) and adhesive pads (self climber), has vigorous growth (up to 25 m high) and an annual shoot growth of 1 - 3 metres, often cascading. Has young reddish stems and leaves that are large, strong, smooth, or filigree ("Engelmannii"). Exceptionally healthy foliage, and extremely frost-hardy; foliage from May to October with intense autumn colour! Climbs with short tendrils, at the ends of which adhesive discs form (strong adhesion to any surface). The inconspicuous green-yellow flowers in early summer are followed by blue-black berries on red stems. They are a beloved food for birds, who then leave their bright blue 'droppings.' Summer and winter prune as needed to restrain its vigorous growth (can cause building/structural damage...) The plants are very easily shaped into any form, but the wild variety doesn't adhere well to walls and facades at all and is not particularly suited for building greening.


Note: Often the closely related P. inserta (thicket creeper or 'false virginia creeper'), which does *not* stick to walls, is available under the name of P. quinquefolia. Also, there is a wild species of Parthenocissus quinefolia (not Engelmannii) which is strong in growth, has coarser and darker foliage, and minimal adhesion capacity. It is rather insignificant for facade greening. 

Climbing Supports for the Facade

Additional support to attach the plant and to prevent collapsing is recommended. In some cases and especially on wind-exposed walls where risk of collapse is higher, wire rope systems (see below) like the basic kit may be required. For very tall walls, a support system like our medium classic kit may be needed. See the table below for compatible systems.


Suitable wire rope systems?

Please click the icon to see the full suitability chart

Parthenocissus quinqefolia on the city hall of Quedlinburg / Germany
Here the plants have already climbed to a height of approx. 25 metres.
Self-climbing Virginia creeper
American Ivy (V.creeper) in autumn

Examples of greening with Engelmannii

Here you can see Virginia creeper in different stages and seasons...

Virginia creeper tends to climb more vertically than its cousin, the 3-lobed Boston ivy, which also spreads horizontally.
Same growth pattern on another building
Because of its vertically-bound growth, this plant can be cultivated in pots, led onto masts, etc..
Gradually, a horizontal expansion takes place.
Virginia creeper after 3-5 years
After 4-8 years...
Courtyard facade greened with 5-lobed Virginia creeper
After some years, overhanging / cascading growth is possible
Five-lobed ivy on a church in Plauen / Saxony
If the plant grows over the eaves, it can interfere with roof drainage, and building damage is possible.
Old spinning-factory covered with 5-lobed Virginia creeper, Leipzig / Saxony
This building is almost completely covered by green 'fur' (5-leaved ivy).
Autumn foliage of the five-lobed Virginia creeper
Autumn leaf-colouring on a church ruin, Wachau near Leipzig / Saxony
Scarlet autumn leaves on a church
Autumnal "Engelmanii" on an apartment building

Botanical Features

Here you can see the leaves, aerial rootlets, adhesive pads, fruits, and blossoms of Parthenocissus quinquefolia, and the potential building damage it can cause.

A young "Engelmanii" in winter; here the naturally vertical growth can be seen.
Parthenocissus quinqefolia "Engelmanii"-- the short tendrils have adhesive pads on their tips.
Wild Parthenocissus quinqefolia (not Engelmannii): young shoots have longer tendrils, which can wrap themselves more easily around twigs, etc..
Special Parthenocissus quinqefolia "Saint Paulii" in Potsdam Sanssouci; on the right a new shoot grows from a bud, reddish-brown in colour.
Close-up of the strong aerial rootlets, similar to ivy
The Virginia creeper can develop quite strong adhesive pads and cause building damage.
Adhesive pads of Part. quinqefolia on a clinker brick wall
There are several varieties of Parthenocissus quinqefolia; here one with rather smooth leaves. It can be assumed that the common German name "Virgin Grape" comes from the blue, seemingly un-fertilised, inedible berries.
Parthenocissus quinqefolia (wild form, not Engelmannii)
Another related variety is Parthenocissus henryana, slow-growing and less frost resistant.
Greening of a wall with Part. quinqefolia
Early autumn leaf colouration of the young Engelmannii vine
Virginia creeper Engelmannii in autumn
Beautiful scarlet leaves in autumn
In the shade the foliage develops a stronger yellow colour
Annual pruning is strongly advised; a 1 m strip should be kept free from roof edges, etc..
With increasing age and height, foliage mats can fall off the wall from their own weight and/or the force of winds.
Climbing aids are therefore recommended as a fall/collapse protection. Here: a historical growth support with horizontal wires to prevent collapse. Town hall Quedlinburg, Saxony-Anhalt.
Here a wire rope system as fall-protection; Mesh/grid sizes do not need to be very narrow-- 1.2 m x 1.2 m is enough.
Virginia creeper likes to crawl into cracks and crevices and then come out again somewhere else, thus growing 'negatively phototropic.' This can lead to structural damage, e.g., on facades with open joints as in this photo.

Wire Rope Systems for Virginia Creeper

Please click on the graphics for details!

 = suitable             = of limited suitability             = unsuitable