Are you tired of staring at a bare rock wall? Plant some of these vigorous climbers and watch them go. Many types of vines have small, green leaves in summer and turn a brilliant red in the autumn. Some have berries that can also attract birds to your yard. But keep an eye on these creepers, because they can be invasive and destructive if not kept in check.
English Ivy (Hedera helix) is one of the most familiar of the climbing plants used in landscaping. There are many varieties of ivy, some with dark green leaves and some variegated, but all are vigorous climbers and will grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 11. The leaves of English ivy are 1 to 2 inches across. This evergreen plant will grow in full sun or partial shade and likes moist, fertile soil.
Wintercreeper euonymus (Euonymus fortunei) is often grown as a shrub, but will climb a wall if trained to do so. It is hardy in USDA zones 5 though 9. Wintercreeper euonymus has small, dark, green leaves that turn a blazing red in the fall. This deciduous plant can be invasive, because it is spread by birds that eat its berries.
Another vigorous climber with green leaves in the summer is the Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). The elongated leaves of this vine are arranged in groups of five each ranging from 2 to 4 inches long. Virginia creeper, which is hardy in USDA zones 3 through 9, is a favorite with birds who like to nest among its branches and eat the dark berries. The leaves turn red in the autumn before they fall. Virginia creeper is sometimes mistaken for poison ivy, but it will not make you itch.
Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata), also called Boston creeper or Cottage ivy, is the plant that gave the Ivy League schools their name. It is very easy to grow and will tolerate even poor soil conditions. It has three-lobed leaves that turn red in the fall and is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 8. Like the wintercreeping eunonymus and the Virginia creeper, the Boston ivy is also deciduous.
Keeping Vigorous Vines Under Control
All of these climbers will need regular pruning to keep them where you want them. Vines can take over an area quickly and choke out other plants if you don't take care of them carefully. Also, these plants can be a danger to masonry, so it your wall is put together with mortar, check regularly to make sure the tendrils are not undermining the structure.
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