Rich and rewarding


Bring the fiery shades of autumn to your garden with these stunning deciduous climbers.

Parthenocissus spp.

Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) both provide a striking display in autumn – and the more sun they get, the better they look. Although both like cold winters – which will result in even richer autumn colours – they still put on a good show in areas with a more moderate climate. Both are fast growers and thrive in well-drained, fertile soil and, once established, need little water. A major bonus of these two climbers is that they will cling to almost any surface, so a support structure isn’t necessary. Prune the plants in winter when the branches are bare, so you can see where they need trimming. In summer, cut back any long branches that are growing too rampantly.

Virginia creeper and Boston ivy are easily confused. Look at the leaves: Virginia creeper bears a cluster of five clearly distinct leaves, while each leaf of Boston ivy is three-lobed. If the two plants are grown near to each other, cross-pollination may occur, resulting in new hybrids.

Plant guide

Common name Virginia creeper

Botanical name Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Common name Boston ivy

Botanical name Parthenocissus tricuspidata

•   Full sun to shade

•   Frost resistant

•   Average water needs

•   Wind resistant

•   Autumn colour in April and May

Chinese wisteria (left)

Many a gardener has fallen in love with the fragrant purple blooms of wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) in spring. But look how beautiful and subtle this climbing plant’s foliage is in autumn with its lovely yellow hues. Chinese wisteria grows easily and looks good against a wall, on a pergola or up a tree. Plant it in a sunny spot and keep it well watered until established. It will thrive in almost any type of soil, but make sure it has enough room to grow. Prune back hard just after the flowering season.

Plant guide

Common name Chinese wisteria

Botanical name Wisteria sinensis

•   Full sun

•   Average water needs

•   Frost resistant

•   Autumn colour in April and May

Ornamental grape (right)

An ornamental grape will bring a touch of the Winelands to your garden, but without the hassle of messy fruit dropping on your stoep! Ornamental varieties of Vitis vinifera look like the real thing but don’t bear fruit; their leaves change colour from yellow to orange to flaming red in autumn. Plant your grape (check with your nursery that it’s an ornamental variety) in well-drained, compost-rich soil and give it plenty of water in summer, especially in winter rainfall regions. In summer, prune the plant lightly and in winter cut it back hard to its support structure. An ornamental grape will do well in most parts of the country, except where it’s very humid, such as in coastal KwaZulu-Natal.

Plant guide

Common name Ornamental grape

Botanical name Vitis vinifera varieties

•   Sun to semi-shade

•   Average water needs

•   Frost tender

•   Autumn colour in March and April

By Marié Esterhuyse

Photographs Kosie Jansen van Rensburg

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April 2023

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