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The Virginia creeper can be a pretty display in most gardens. It is a perfect spot for birds to nest, for mice to thrive and it can, if properly trimmed and cared for, look mightily pretty creeping up an old gazebo or another wall in your garden. They are natural climbers and can make their way up just about anything.
But not everyone has a perfect appreciation for these creepers, and for a few very good reasons.
They are quite poisonous. Consumption of their berries can be fatal to humans, and their leaves give off the oil that can make you itch and burn. They’re not as potent as poison ivy, but constantly brushing against the plant with bare skin will not be pleasant. Although pretty, they are not for the faint of heart gardener. Better yet, a creeper can kill your other plants by wrapping itself around them and suffocating them.
To top it off they are very difficult to remove once they’ve settled. Wrapping around anything they can reach; they can dig themselves into an area like nothing else.
Sometimes you just want to get rid of them. Whether it’s because your kids started playing in the garden, it killed your begonias, or you’re just not in the mood for trimming it every week, this article will show you how to get these creepers off your lawn, and how to do it safely.
How do I know if it’s a Virginia Creeper?
Native to North America, the Virginia creeper, also called the woodbin by some, can easily crawl up a wall using tendrilled spikes on its vines, and can reach incredible heights of up to 100 feet! They can be quite pretty and make for a spectacular sight when taken care of properly.
Surprisingly the Virginia creeper is often misidentified as poison ivy. Poison ivy, as most of you will know, is a far more poisonous and hazardous plant and is also best removed from the garden when it starts growing. But how can you tell the difference between the ivy and the creeper?
Although they are both vines, there are some specific differences to look out for.
- Leaves – “Leaves of three, leave it be!” The Virginia creeper has five leaves per cluster and the poison ivy only has three.
- Vines – Although both have thick vines, poison ivy vines are hairy, a little fuzzy, and the Virginia creepers are smoother.
- The rash – If you’ve come into contact with the plant and your itch only a little, or barely after the first contact, it’s most likely a Virginia creeper. As we all know poison ivy leaves a terrible rash, and the resulting itchiness is painful.
Poison Ivy vines are a little more difficult to remove, as breaking the vines can release its toxins into the air, and inhaling the toxins can be pretty bad for your lungs. If you’re unsure, it might be best to call in a professional.
What you will need:
- Gloves – Try to get some thick gloves to work on the creeper. As stated, it can make you itch like crazy, so don’t work on it with your bare hands.
- Long-sleeved shirt – Sometimes you’ll have to reach deep into the vines to get at a spot you can’t quite reach. A long-sleeved shirt will protect you from poisonous leaves.
- Gardening sheers – Use strong gardening shears to cut off the branches. Make sure it is sharpened and oiled.
- Diluted glyphosate – Glyphosate is an herbicide and the best product in getting rid of a creeper. Although used on weeds to protect crops, it has been proven to be very effective against creepers. Be sure to follow the instructions and pour the glyphosate into a foam paintbrush. You’ll need to have absolute control over the product to avoid hitting any of your other plants.
Take note: Each Herbicide is different and will have to be applied differently, so make sure you understand exactly what the instructions say.
- Black bag – Drop the vines you cut off into the bag. Be sure to keep it all together and dump it immediately so that your kids or dogs don’t end up stepping in it.
Get Rid of the Virginia Creeper
Step one: Unwind the vines
The first thing you’ll have to do is unwind the vines. The vines might be too high or wrapped around a favorite rosebush. So first, gently pry off and unwrap the vine from whatever it has decided to grab onto. Once you’ve successfully removed the vines, and they are all sprayed out, you can start trimming.
Step Two: cut the vines
Cut the vines off one by one and put them in the black bag.
By unwinding the branch first and then cutting you ensure you don’t end up with hundreds of trimmings that you have to pick up later. Work slowly and methodically and you’ll soon have the creeper down to a manageable size.
Once you have trimmed most of the vines back, and you have a few scant vines still left over, you can then grab the glyphosate and start spraying.
Step three: Spray glyphosate
Now that the plant has been trimmed, and isn’t connected to anything important you can spray the glyphosate over the plant to kill it. Be extra cautious when spraying the herbicide. Glyphosate kills quickly, and if you accidentally hit one of your favorite flowers it might die.
When to remove a Virginia Creeper
The best time to spray a creeper is in summer. During the hot month is usually the time it grows at its best, and will be quick to absorb the glyphosate into its system. Make sure to unwind the creeper before spraying. It cannot be stressed enough how easy it is to hit other plants with glyphosate and kill them off.
Another excellent time would be autumn. If you want it dead a little quicker, trim the plant and immediately spray the glyphosate on the freshly cut vine. The open ‘wound’ will quickly absorb the herbicide and it will die quite quickly.
A Virginia creeper can be a stunning addition to any garden if you’re willing to put in the work to keep it from ruining your other plants.
It is home to many different animals and can bring a wonderful bit of diversity in your little plot. But don’t be fooled by its prettiness, the Virginia creeper is a hard taskmaster, and demands a certain amount of respect when handling it. Sometimes it’s best to remove it from the garden to prevent accidents, and other times it’s best to remove the creeper to spare yourself the constant trimming that it demands.