A Tale of Two Vines – The Quest To Cover The Fence!

April 12th, 2014

One of the most common requests I get when visiting a customer is what will grow on my fence?

Well I know firsthand that both popular vines, Boston Ivy and Virginia Creeper, will cover the fence nicely and without the need for trellises to boot! I have both in my back yard that is surrounded by fence with narrow gardens between fence and the pool we inherited when we bought the house. Both vines provide nice fall colour and both are deciduous and lose their leaves in the late fall.

Here’s my opinion of the pros and cons of both of these vines.

1)    Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Virginia Creeper is five-leaved ivy, or five-finger vine, it is a species of flowering plant in the vine family Vitaceae, native to eastern and central North America.

Virginia Creeper

Virginia Creeper

I didn’t plant Virginia Creeper but I “borrowed” it from my neighbour behind me. We are in a corner house so my backyard faces the side of my neighbours’ garage. When we moved in 8 years ago, the vine was covering their whole garage wall, right up the soffits.

I appreciated those few weeks of the vine covered garage.  If I had to look at a brick wall in my backyard then it was great to see it covered with green… that is until they had it removed from their house, much to my chagrin.

Well I quickly learned there was no such thing as ‘removing’ Virginia creeper! Pro or con, you decide.

As it grew back with a vengeance, my next door neighbour and I decided to train it over the back and eventually side fence between us. If I had to look at a brick wall, I might as well have a green covered fence!

Virginia Creeper

Side fence between next door neighbour and I.

We were quite successful in a short period of time.  The vine filled in nicely but needs constant trimming to keep it in check.  You can see at the base of the fence that it even grows on the ground and seems to make a beeline for the pool. Since it is a deciduous vine it does allow for some hard pruning to keep it in check.

And even though Virginia Creeper plants attach to fences and walls with “pads” inside of tendrils, they still do a fair bit of twining and are constantly twining through my Japanese Maple (my one show piece in my virtually gardenless back yard). But my biggest pet peeve, believe it or not, is it also interferes with my ornamental grasses that I squeezed in front of it. It is constantly growing throughout the grass, ‘pulling it down’.

Virginia Creeper Ornamental Grass

Virginia Creeper pulling down ornamental grass.

2)    Boston Ivy, Parthenocissus tricuspidata

As for Boston Ivy, I didn’t plant it either.  It was already planted in the narrow garden that I inherited along the fence but it was just a small patch and didn’t look like it was going to do much.

Well I guess this story is similar to the tortoise and the hare… as fast as the Virginia Creeper grew the Boston Ivy took its time filling in nice and slowly. It’s much bigger glossier leaves creating a thick matte along the fence attaching itself with similar tendrils as the Virginia Creeper.

Boston Ivy

Boston Ivy

So while I spent the last 8 years taming the Virginia Creeper, the Boston Ivy crept up on me and pleasantly surprised me with a nice glossy display.

I have tried to remove the Creeper from the back fence this summer and have let the Ivy fill in nicely. The nice cool spring may have contributed to its great growth this year but it has certainly taken its time.

vines and pool

Fence with vines.

So good or bad, I am sure when my customers want to know what will cover their fence, they mean now and not in 8 years!

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11 Responses to A Tale of Two Vines – The Quest To Cover The Fence!

  1. Denise says:

    I have ivy growing on my fence for 20 years, kept up as a living fence.My neighbor is now cutting it off her side so it’s falling off on my side.How can I attach it or what can I do to keep the beauty on my side?Her home has been condemed and wants everything dead, no help through the city.I just please need help to save the ivy

    • blogadmin says:

      Hi there,

      If it is a wooden fence, you can try putting little nails into the fence and creating a trellis of string ( like fishing line that you cannot see) and weave the vine around and between fence and string. The vine will start to twine itself with the support. Hope that helps.

  2. Denisha says:

    Helpful information. Fortunate me I found your web site accidentally,
    and I am shocked why this twist of fate did not came
    about in advance! I bookmarked it.

  3. laura says:

    was curious how long it took to grow up your wall again? we have a virginia creeper that faces our house on our neighbors garage – and he cut it all down to the root – am curious if it will come back this coming spring and cover the garage again or if it will be a few years

    • blogadmin says:

      Hi Laura,

      It grows pretty quick, especially if it has a good surface to grab onto. I can’t say that it will cover the first year but it will not take years.
      Hope that helps,
      Joanne

  4. Tana, Allred says:

    Thank you. This was very helpful.

  5. Brittney says:

    Fantastic site. Plenty of useful information here.
    I’m sending it to several pals ans also sharing in delicious.
    And obviously, thank you on your sweat!

  6. Tessa says:

    Hi ….how do I stop my neighbour’s Virginia creeper coming over ( OUR) ) fence …& covering our 4
    Climates? I have had a word with him….& he has told me to leave it alone !
    Thanking you for your reply
    Regards…Tessa

    • blogadmin says:

      Hi Tessa,

      That is tricky. Virginia Creeper is definitely aggressive and will take over your clematis. Cutting it back will just make it grow
      more. You can try using the creeper as a “living” trellis for your clematis and have them climb through it. Or you can try growing your
      clematis on obelisks away from the fence. Enjoy the green background of the creeper but have your clematis growing in front of it but separate.
      Adding the vertical flowers at that height is really beautiful in the garden.

      Good luck,
      Joanne

  7. Irene says:

    Will boston ivy rot my fence and how long could that take or should I not even worry about that I am 74yrs of age ??