All About Growing & Caring For Boston Ivy

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Boston Ivy is a classic climber that anybody can grow!

Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) is a deciduous vine plant with glossy, bright green foliage that transitions to vibrant reds and oranges during the fall. Known for its ability to climb along arbors, buildings, and fences quickly, Boston Ivy has been used for years as a decorative way to add vertical greenery to otherwise dull walls.

Here, we’ll show you how to grow and care for Boston Ivy, discuss how to use Boston Ivy, and answer frequently asked questions. 

Boston Ivy covering a wall surrounding a wooden door

How to grow Boston Ivy:

  • Soil: Grows best in well-drained, loamy soil.
  • Light: Boston Ivy requires (6+ hours sun) to part sun (4-6 hours sun). Boston Ivy leaves will take on a stronger fall color when grown in full sun. In warmer climates, like growing zones 7 through 11, too much sun can cause leaf scorch and do better in part sun.
  • Water: Water needs for Boston Ivy are average, but require more frequent deep watering while being established. After fully-developing roots, water weekly or more often in warmer climates. Boston Ivy is fairly drought-tolerant once established.
  • Spacing: The vines from Boston Ivy are vigorous and grow rapidly, reaching up to 50 ft. high and 10 ft. wide, so space generously.
  • Fertilizing: While fertilizing Boston Ivy is unnecessary, if you have infertile soil, you may apply a slow-release fertilizer in the spring as new growth develops.
  • Winterizing: Boston Ivy winter care is minimal and consists primarily of pruning. Young vines may appreciate extra mulching, but they are generally hardy.
  • Maintenance & pruning: Prune the vines once each year (in late winter) to control the rapid growth. The vines respond well to pruning, so have no fear!
Boston Ivy growing along an arbor wall

Thrives in tough-to-grow conditions

Boston Ivy is truly an easy-to-grow and maintain perennial, making it great for beginners! Once established, drought tolerance and soil tolerance make it grow rapidly regardless of area. Combined with its rapid growth rate, you’ll sit back and enjoy its beauty in no time. There is also no need to worry about pests or damage; Boston Ivy is also deer and disease-resistant.

Scaling walls, arbors, and more!

The short tendrils from Boston Ivy climb and grip surfaces making it a perfect vibrant climber along walls, trellises, arbors, and fences. When used in mass plantings, watch your walls transform into vibrant red and orange colors during autumn. Aside from scaling surfaces, Boston Ivy can also be used as a ground cover that will go dormant in the winter and emerge with emerald green leaves come spring.

Classic beauty no matter the age

Boston Ivy takes on many different leaf forms, which means they can often be misidentified. Mature plants tend to have a single leaf with three lobes on it, while juvenile plants have leaves that are compound with three leaflets! As your plant grows and matures, the leaf form will show more of a mature lobed shape. This information is handy for identifying Boston Ivy from Virginia Creeper.

Boston Ivy fall color growing on a wall
Boston Ivy showing off it’s gorgeous fall color.

Frequently asked questions about Boston Ivy:

Is Boston Ivy invasive?

Yes, but it’s complicated. Boston Ivy is considered an invasive plant and was brought to Massachusetts from Japan, but its invasiveness is considerably short-lived. Once Boston Ivy spreads out of its boundaries, it will quickly succumb to native vines. It also only grows rapidly in new areas with human intervention and training, so rest assured, unwanted spreading is unlikely unless intentional. 

Can you grow Boston Ivy in pots?

Growing Boston Ivy in pots is a great way to keep them contained! When choosing your container, opt for something wide with plenty of drainage. Plant one per container, and watch as the gorgeous green leaves cascade over the edges. If you want Boston Ivy to continue to climb structures, place the pots at the base of any walls or arbors.

How fast does Boston Ivy spread?

Boston Ivy is a highly fast-growing vine, adding up to 10 ft. each year during the first few years! This vigorous climber also reaches maturity at or around 50 ft. long after five years of growing.

Boston Ivy vs. Virginia Creeper: what's the difference?

While Boston Ivy is in the same family as Virginia Creeper, they have many differences that set them apart. Virginia Creeper is native to North America, while Boston Ivy is invasive and originated in Japan. The leaves on Virginia Creeper are also more clustered and serrated, but it’s smooth and lacks grip along structures compared to Boston Ivy, making the latter a better climber. 

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Written by: Lindsey Griffith, click here to read bio.

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