How To Kill Virginia Creeper Swiftly And Effectively

You aren’t alone if you’re having trouble getting rid of pesky Virginia Creeper. 

This aggressive vine grows rapidly and can climb virtually any surface making it challenging to eradicate. 

We reached out to gardening pros and combed the internet to find the best tips and products to help you kick Virginia Creeper to the curb. 

Virginia Creeper is killed using both organic and chemical solutions. First, remove as many vines as possible and expose the main root. After you pull the vines, apply the solution to the root and let the vines decompose. Remove the dead vines after several days and repeat if necessary.

This tenacious weed has a reputation for its relentless ability to grow back and reappear over time. 

Read on for pro tips and tricks to eradicate Virginia Creeper, shield your beloved plants, and take back your garden.  

how to kill virginia creeper

How To Identify The Virginia Creeper 

Parthenocissus quinquefolia, or Virginia Creeper, is commonly known as woodbine, American Ivy, and thicket creeper. 

People often use the five-leaved vine aesthetically as a climbing vine or for ground cover in open areas. 

It’s known for decorating buildings and fences with gorgeous green leaves in the spring and summer and vibrant orange, red and purple leaves in the fall. 

Additionally, Virginia Creeper can prevent soil erosion. 

However, it can quickly become invasive and create a headache for gardeners. 

Virginia Creeper steals sunlight and nutrients from plants and other vegetation and will quickly smother desirable trees and plants in your garden. 

 This resilient five-leaved ivy plant can grow in most climates and soils. 

This woody vine can grow up to 3″ inches in diameter, and leaflets range from 2 to 6″ inches in length. 

Although Virginia Creeper is often mistaken for Poison Ivy, it’s easy to distinguish the difference. 

As my parents taught me when I was a child: 

“Leaves of three, let it be. Leaves of five, let it thrive.”  

How To Remove Virginia Creeper Vines (While Protecting The Other Plants)

Here’s a list of things you’ll need to get started: 

  • Gloves & protective clothing 
  • Pruning shears
  • Garbage bag or tarp to shield desirable plants (Optional) 

First, you’ll need to pull off the vines. 

Don’t forget to put on your gloves! 

The sap in Virginia Creeper can cause skin irritation in some people. 

Pull or cut all the vines until you get to the central root. 

The key is to get as close as possible to the ground so your solution can penetrate and attack a smaller area of the plant. 

The closer you get to the ground and the main root, the quicker you eliminate the invasive vine. 

Pro-tip: Puncture the root using a screwdriver first.

For larger roots, take a screwdriver and create a few holes in the vine. 

Dab or pour the solution of your choice directly into the hole. 

This allows your solution to absorb more quickly into the vine.   

Cover the desirable vegetation using a garbage bag or tarp after you’ve pulled off the vines to ensure your beloved plants aren’t a casualty in the process. 

If you aren’t careful, the solutions that kill Virginia Creeper will also damage or kill other plants in your garden. 

Products To Use In Killing Virginia Creeper 

After trimming away the vines and covering your good plants, you’ll need to apply a solution to the root. 

Everyday household items such as vinegar and rock salt are non-toxic and have been found to effectively kill Virginia Creeper. 

Store-bought products also work if you’re willing to buy them. 

Don’t forget! 

If you didn’t cover your plants with a garbage bag or tarp, avoid spilling any solution on plants or vegetation you want to keep.  

Vinegar Solution

The acid in vinegar is toxic to plants. 

Using a simple solution of 20% white vinegar and 80% water, combine the liquids and pour or spray over the vines. 

Let the mixture sit for 72 hours, and then remove the remaining dead roots and vines. 

If you still have living vines or you’re unsure if you completely eradicated the Virginia Creeper, repeat the process until you’ve successfully killed the plant. 

Rock Salt Solution

Another household solution to treat unwanted vines is a combination of rock salt and hot water. 

Like the process using vinegar, combine one cup of rock salt and one gallon of hot water. 

After the salt has dissolved, pour the mixture over the remaining roots. 

Remove the dead vegetation after a few days. 

Repeat the process if any living vines remain.

Ready-to-Use Products

In addition to the household options mentioned above, we’ve found the best ready-to-use herbicides to kill Virginia Creeper. 

There are dozens of products for removing weeds and brush, so we’re going to help with a couple of our favorites. 

If you’re new to gardening or lawn maintenance:

Roundup’s Poison Ivy Plus Tough Brush Killer contains two chemical ingredients known to kill tough vegetation: glyphosate and Triclopyr. 

This user-friendly product doesn’t require any mixing and comes with an attached spray head.  

If you want the fastest results: 

Southern Ag Crossbow Specialty Herbicide works super fast. 

But it requires more work because you will need to mix the concentrate with water and need a garden sprayer or something similar for application outside of the product itself.  

If you want the safest product:

Safety is essential, too, especially if you have kids or pets. 

Doctor Kirchner’s Natural Weed & Grass Killer is more expensive, but it’s safe and ready to use right out of the gate. 

It opts for natural ingredients such as ocean saltwater and food-grade vinegar instead of chemicals such as glyphosate or Triclopyr. 

Commonly Asked Questions

Does Vinegar Kill Virginia Creeper?

We talked about vinegar above, but how does it kill this vine?

Well, white vinegar has a high acid content. 

Vines don’t handle acidity very well, and it’s this acidity that ends up killing our invasive plant in question. 

Too much acidity will bleed into the soil and make it unlivable for many plants, which is why we don’t recommend a pure solution of vinegar in your natural creeper killer spray. 

The 80/20 rule works great for this purpose (80% water, 20% white vinegar). 

Just mix it, spray it, and wait three days for the plants to die off. 

Will Bleach Kill Virginia Creeper?

Bleach will kill Virginia Creeper right away! 

But it will also kill any other plants nearby as well as most other livings things there. 

Bleach is a last-ditch option, and one most experts (including us) never recommend. 

The bleach even watered down, will affect the soil for an extended period. 

Keep the bleach in your bathroom or kitchen, and don’t bring it outside to take care of any lawn care. 

You may also want to check out our article on what bleach does to grass to explain why we don’t like this option. 

Should Virginia Creeper Be Cut Back?

If you don’t want to take the creeper out completely, it is possible to control its growth, though it requires quite a bit of work. 

As a vine, Virginia Creeper is pretty aggressive. 

It’ll grow and take over other plants quickly. 

But some people like how it looks. 

You need to cut it back to keep it from harming your other plants. 

In early spring and late fall, assess your vine situation and determine where you want it to stay. 

Clip and remove any vines outside of this line or area twice per year. 

Also, remove any unattached bits of the vine. 

They won’t reattach once they’ve let go, but they will keep growing and reaching out for other areas to plant roots. 

How Poisonous Is Virginia Creeper?

As a plant, this vine isn’t a deadly or poisonous one, but still, you need to watch out for it. 

As we touched on before, the sap contains an irritating oil. 

It won’t cause a terrible reaction like those of poison ivy, but for those with sensitive skin, you may end up with a mild and irritation rash. 

This is why we always recommend wearing proper gloves when trimming or killing this vine. 

The berries on this vine are NOT safe to eat. 

They have a high amount of oxalic acid, which is toxic to many pets and humans. 

It won’t kill you, but it does cause mild illness. 

How High Does Virginia Creeper Grow?

Without killing it or trimming it back, the Virginia Creeper can grow up to 60′ feet high if given enough support. 

Be ready to stop this (unless you want it as a decoration) through trimming and killing, as discussed in this article.