Creepy Virginia Creeper

(Question)

Hi there,

I’m a new homeowner and a new gardener, and apparently also the new owner of a very robust virginia creeper, growing all over a chain link fence in our backyard. I tried pulling it all out twice last year, but there were huge root systems under the fence that were impossible to dig out (my neighbour has also installed some kind of plastic trench at the bottom of the fence on his side, presumably to stop the vine from taking over his garden). This spring I would like to plant a cedar hedge in front of the fence as a privacy screen, but I am concerned that the virginia creeper will start growing again soon (there are still woody roots along the length of the fence), and I’m worried that it/its roots might try to take over a new cedar hedge. Any tips and thoughts are much appreciated!

 

(Answer)

Thank you for cintacting the Toronto Master Gardeners concering your prolific Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia).

You are not alone when it comes to trying to rid your garden of this vine. Unfortunately, this five-leaved woody vine does not play well with other plants. It climbs quickly, choking out everything in its path. This includes other flowers, trees, shrubs, fences, walls, gutters, poles and even windows.  If left, it will take over your cedar hedge so your only option is to get rid of it for good.

 Herbicides have been used in the past, but the Toronto Pesticide Bylaw would not permit the use of these in home gardens in the City of Toronto (as this would be considered a cosmetic use).

The best approach will be to dig it out as soon as it appears. By repeatedly cutting or mowing the vine to the roots will deprive the plant of nutrients and eventually the roots will die back from lack of nutrients. You will have to be diligent and persistent. With a little bit of patience it is possible to get rid of this vine in this manner.

Another method to deter this weedy vine, is known as solarization. Once the vine is cut to the ground in spring, you can cover the area with thick black plastic and allow the heat to accumulate under the plastic, over the hot summer months, to kill off a reasonable percentage of the roots. This works best in areas that get direct sunlight and the plastic needs to remain in place for 6 to 8 weeks without anything on top of it. You may need to remove the plastic, check for shoots and cut the stalks to the ground, then replace the plastic, 2-3 times over the summer for best results. This technique may need to be repeated for several summers until this weed is under control.

This  link explains the method and optimum season of use.

Ridding your garden of this aggressive vine will not happen overnight, however it will work eventually. Planting a cedar hedge is not recommended until you have eradicated the vine.