Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata)
Quick facts and care essentials
• Zones 2-24, 31-41
• Full sun, partial shade or full shade
• Regular watering
• Climbs by: Clinging with holdfast discs at ends of tendrils
Though it isn’t an ivy, this is the vine that gave the Ivy League its nickname: English ivy (Hedera helix) froze in the colder northern climates, so gardeners ended up planting Parthenocissus instead. It soon became a favorite, especially appreciated for its brilliant fall color. It clings tightly to its support by holdfast discs, quickly climbing as high as 30 to 50 feet.
Leaves are up to 8 inches wide, with three distinct lobes or three leaflets; they’re glossy green from spring through summer, then turn to red, yellow, or orange in autumn. For a finer-textured, smaller-leafed vine than the species, look for ‘Veitchii’; its foliage is burgundy red when new, and many believe it has the finest fall color.
Boston ivy does well in ordinary garden soil. In intensely hot regions, plant it only on walls that have a northern or eastern exposure. It naturally forms a matlike foliage cover. Prune to control and train at any time during the growing season; thin vines heavily and routinely if you want just a fine tracery of growth.