In Defense of Virginia Creeper

Ok. I’m having some issues. As you can probably tell from my last post, I’m in the middle of quite a conundrum having to do with a thing called local ecotypes. I really want them because apparently they have the least potential for causing problems to other plants in the area whose lineage goes back to the time before Columbus. At least that’s what I’ve been lead to believe. Anyhow, yes, local ecotypes seem to be the way to go in the garden (unless you’re planting vegetables of course). But as I’ve also said, they aren’t that easy or affordable to come by which has me wrangling about what I’m going to do with an approximately 6 foot by 25 foot slope covered with cardboard and dead plants that’s looking pretty ragged and will look much more ragged if I don’t plant something there soon.

Slope looking pretty awful. Not a good marketing image for common milkweed either.

Needless to say, I’ve been running various ideas through my head such as using wild marjoram which is a non native herb but not supposedly invasive. I figured this would clear me of buying something that’s native but not of local ecotype. The bees do like it and it looks nice with little bluestem. And then I thought about my latest fave, Virginia creeper which would quickly fill the bank for free while I slowly added other more hard to get plants of local ecotype over time. Yes, that sounded pretty good. So I googled transplanting Virginia creeper and up came the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s Ask Mr. Smarty Pants with an answer that started like this:

In the South, Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper) is more often considered an extremely invasive weed than a candidate for transplanting.”

And ended like this:

“Dig up the main root, still not worrying about the suckers, and replant in the bed. Either the old suckers will dig into that soil, or new ones will develop, but the main root should survive.  But are you sure you want it to?”

And me with my issues wanted to yell, “Heck yes, I want it to!”

This is what I call a good garden thug. One that not only quickly covers a very weedy ground, but also provides valuable wildlife benefits and it’s about as local an ecotype as I’m going to get. Not to mention it’s quite an attractive plant, staying low to the ground and turning crimson red in the fall. What’s not to like? Sure I may have to trim it or mow over parts of it to keep it in check. Maybe I have to pull a vine that’s creeping up my porch screen, but hey that’s a heck of a lot easier than asking permission to tromp through a tick infested power line right of way in search of local ecotype native plants at the exact time when they have viable seeds, stratifying them for the correct amount of time, buying topsoil and sand to plant them, filling pots and planting them and watering the seeds until I get sprouts, then planting them into the slope and hoping they survive.

Now Mr. Smarty Pants also mentioned how Virginia creeper “could easily spread into gardens of people who really don’t want it.” Yes, this is true. Luckily, I don’t think I’m in that kind of neighborhood. Yet.