Valued for handsome foliagegreen in summer, reliably turning to superb orange or red shades in fall. Blossoms are insignificant; more noticeable are clusters of small blue-black fruit that forms in late summer or fall and hangs on into winter if not consumed by birds. Vines typically cling to walls by suction disks at ends of tendrils. All but the fairly restrained P. henryana are said to grow to 5060 ft., but they are really limited only by the size of the support.
These vines thrive in organically enriched soil. Think twice before letting them attach to shingles, clapboard, or mortared brick or stone. At repainting time, the clinging tendrils are hard to remove, and the stems can creep under siding. They also hasten deterioration of wood and mortar. When vines reach desired size, prune each dormant season to restrain spread andfor those trained on buildingsto keep them away from doors, windows, and eaves. Cut out any wayward branches; likewise cut out any that have pulled away from their support, since disks will not reattach. Trim as needed during the growing season.
P. henryana. SILVER-VEIN CREEPER. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to China. Grows to 20 ft.; less aggressive growth than the other species listed here. Leaves have five leaflets to 2 in. long; they open purplish, then turn an attractive dark bronzy green with pronounced silver veining and purple undersides. Color is best in partial or full shade; in strong light, leaves fade to plain green. Foliage turns rich red in autumn. This vine clings to walls, but it needs some support to get started. Also a good choice for spilling over walls or as a small-scale ground cover.
P. quinquefolia. VIRGINIA CREEPER. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to eastern U.S. Big, vigorous vine that clings or runs over ground, fences, trellises, arbors, trees. Looser growth than P. tricuspidata; has a see-through quality. Leaves divided into five 6-in. leaflets with saw-toothed edges. Foliage is bronze-tinted when new, matures to semiglossy dark green, turns crimson and burgundy in early fall. Good ground cover on slopes; can control erosion. In a home garden, however, it can be a terror as it spreads by roots and seeds at lightning speed. 'Engelmannii' is a denser, smaller-leafed selection; 'Star Showers' has white-splashed leaves that in fall first take on pink tones, then turn red.
P. tricuspidata. BOSTON IVY. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to China, Japan. Semievergreen in mild-winter areas. Foliage color is similar to that of P. quinquefolia in spring and summer but covers a broader spectrum in fall, varying from orange to wine-red. Leaves are glossy, to 8 in. wide, variable in shape; usually three lobed or divided into three leaflets. Clings tightly, grows fast to make a dense, uniform wall cover. This is the ivy of the Ivy League; covers brick or stone in areas where English ivy (Hedera helix) freezes. Grows best on walls with northern or eastern exposure. 'Green Showers' has large (10-in.) leaves that turn burgundy in fall. 'Lowii' and 'Veitchii' produce half-size leaves on less rampant vines. The foliage of 'Fenway Park' is lime-green (gold in sun). 'Calico Cat' has mottled, tri-color foliage of white and pink on a green background with burgundy stems.