Boston ivy is a wonderful, rampant, climbing foliage plant, typically used to clothe large, old houses. Like closely related Virginia creeper, it makes a real spectacle in autumn, when its glossy green leaves leaves turn fiery shades of red and orange, before falling.
Boston ivy is in the same family as Virginia creeper, but is more shade tolerant and doesn’t tend to bear berries. Being so rampant and large, it’s best suited to larger gardens, and it needs quite a bit of maintenance to keep its growth in check.
Boston ivy can be grown in the same location as English ivy (Hedera helix). Both are shade tolerant. Choosing whether to grow Boston ivy or English ivy depends on your preferences: English ivy is evergreen while Boston ivy is deciduous. English ivy provides food and homes for a huge range of wildlife while Boston ivy has fewer options for wildlife. Boston ivy does develop reddish leaves in autumn but only if growing in partial sunshine, while English ivy remains green all year round.
How to grow and care for Boston ivy
Grow Boston ivy in moist but well-drained soil in full sun to shade. Provide support, such as a small trellis, for the first couple of years, until it starts self-clinging to the wall or fence you’re growing it up. Throughout summer you may want to tie in or remove wayward shoots, along with dead or damaged leaves. Then, in autumn, prune back to keep its growth in check, particularly if growing up a house, making sure it doesn’t encroach on windows or gutters.
Boston ivy: jump links
- Where to grow Boston ivy
- Planting Boston ivy
- Caring for Boston ivy
- Propagating Boston ivy
- Pests and diseases
- Boston ivies to grow
Where to grow Boston ivy
Boston ivy will tolerate most garden soils. It’s ideal for a position in full sun or shade, but bear in mind that its autumn foliage won’t be as impressive if growing in a shady spot. Being such a vigorous plant it will need a large wall – an obelisk or trellis will not do.
How to plant Boston ivy
Plant in autumn or spring for the best results. Improve soil by digging in plenty of organic matter beforehand, and water in well. Use canes or a small piece of trellis to offer support for the first two years, until its suckers develop and it clings to the fence or wall itself.
Caring for Boston ivy
Boston ivy will require a little maintenance to keep it in check. To prevent it from taking over your entire house wall, prune side shoots back hard to the woody frame in late autumn and winter. When doing this, look out for stems that have self-layered, so that they can be potted on to create new plants. Keep stems clear of guttering and windows. The leaves are large and need raking up after falling in autumn. They make the perfect addition to leaf mould.
How to propagate Boston ivy
Boston ivy is a self-layer. This simply means that if a stem touches soil, it develops roots. In order to produce more plants, dig up a self-rooted stem. Cut away from the parent plants and pot on. You can do this anytime, so keep an eye out for rooted stems. Follow our guide to taking summer cuttings.
Pests and diseases
Boson ivy is rarely troubled by pests or diseases. However vine weevil may nick the leaves and lay eggs in the soil, the grubs of which may eat the roots and weaken the plant. This isn’t usually a problem for a plant as vigorous as Boston ivy, however.
Boston ivy varieties to grow
- Parthenocissus tricuspidata – the standard Boston ivy, this is most commonly seen growing on older buildings. It is a vigorous climber and clings to brickwork very effectively, sometimes causing damage. The fiery autumn colour is spectacular
- Parthenocissus tricuspidata ‘Veitchii’ – the larger, slightly softer leaves of this Boston ivy cultivar have earned it the RHS Award of Garden Merit. It’s very vigorous and needs careful management
- Parthenocissus tricuspidata ‘Green Spring’ – a more compact variety, with with slightly fleshy green leaves that turn red in autumn. Reaches 15m