Problems of Virginia Creeper

Vine Grows Too Fast
Overfeeding - If it seems as if a Virginia creeper vine needs constant pruning, and puts out mostly leaves but few berries in the fall, it is likely that it's diet is too rich. Omit the annual dose of fertilizer next season and see if the condition is corrected.

Plant Defoliated
Caterpillars - Several kinds of caterpillars may attack creepers from time to time. The striped caterpillar of the eight-spotted forester moth can strip the creeper leaves rapidly, especially in the late summer, when the second generation appears. Spray vine foliage with BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) as soon as feeding caterpillars are visible. They will ingest the bacteria, sicken and die in a matter of days. Repeat spray if it rains. Otherwise, two applications five days apart should remove these pests. For more information see the file on Controlling Caterpillars

Holes Chewed In Leaves
Japanese Beetles - Japanese beetles love creepers. They can skeletonize a vine's leaves very rapidly. Adult beetles are 1/2 inch long, with shiny metallic green and brown wing covers. As soon as they appear, begin to handpick those that are within reach. Knock them into a pail of soapy water. If they are too numerous for handpicking alone to be effective, set up pheromone beetle traps, making sure the traps are no closer than 50 feet to the creeper or any other plant vulnerable to beetle attack, such as roses. Handpick stragglers not caught by the traps. If the traps cannot handle the infestation, spray infested vines with a solution of pyrethrum and isopropyl alcohol. Mix 1 tablespoon alcohol into 1 pint pyrethrum spray. For more information see the file on Controlling Japanese Beetles

Leaves Yellowed
Scale - If creeper vine leaves turn yellow and drop, suspect a scale infestation. Soft scale is the species that most commonly infests creepers. These insects appear as small bumps along vine stems and under leaves. Scale insects feed beneath these protective concave shells. They are oval, flatish, and greenish to brownish in color. Caught early on small plants, scale bumps can be scraped off with a fingernail or a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Dense populations are more easily controlled by spraying vines with a mixture of alcohol and insecticidal soap every three days for two weeks. Add 1 tablespoon alcohol to a pint of soap spray. For more information see the file on Controlling Scale

Leaves Discolored And Deformed
Mites - Mites sometimes infest creepers. Spider-shaped, they are about 1/50 inch long, barely visible to the unaided eye. They have 4 pairs of legs, piercing-sucking mouth parts, and very compact bodies. They cluster on vines and suck plant juices, causing foliage to become pale and distorted. Look for stippling of tiny yellow dots or red spots on leaves. Leaves, stalks, and adjacent stems may be distorted or swathed in fine webbing. Spray infested vines with a forceful water spray to knock the mites off the leaf undersides. Do this in the morning, repeating daily for three days. Spray especially persistent mites with insecticidal soap combined with pyrethrum every 3 to 5 days for two weeks. Spray creeper vines with dormant oil in early spring while they are still bare of leaves to kill overwintering mites. For more information see the file on Controlling Mites

Foliage Curls, Turns Yellow
Aphids - Check vine stems and foliage for clusters of soft-bodied, pear-shaped, reddish-brown insects a little bigger than the head of a pin. These are aphids, which suck sap from plant tissues causing the foliage to yellow and wilt. These insects also secrete a sticky "honeydew" on the foliage that coats it. It, in turn, encourages sooty mold fungus, which then coats the leaves in black. To dislodge light aphid infestations, spray the undersides of vine foliage vigorously with water three times, once every other day, in the early morning. Spray aphids directly with insecticidal soap every 2 to 3 days in cases of heavier infestations. As a last resort, use pyrethrum spray, spraying it directly on the aphids. Take care to use pyrethrum late in the day to minimize killing honeybees and other beneficial insects that reside nearby. For more information see the files on Controlling Aphids

Leaves Mottled With Pale Spots
Leafhoppers - These insects, which range all over the United States, are 1/2 to 1/3 inch long. Either green, brown or yellow with colorful markings, leafhoppers carry their wings in such a way as to appear wedge-shaped. They sometimes lay their eggs on the undersides of creeper leaves and both adults and young suck juices from vine foliage and stems. Infested foliage turns pale, weakens and often drops. Leaves may be covered with sticky honeydew from the insects which, in turn, may encourage mold. Spray affected vines with an insecticidal soap and alcohol. Add 1 tablespoon alcohol to 1 quart of ready to use soap spray. In areas where leafhopper infestation is an annual event, cover new foliage on vines for a month in the spring with agricultural fleece, the white spun fabric designed for garden use, to act as barrier against infestation. This will not protect against those insects hatched from eggs that have overwintered on the vine, however. For more information see the file on Controlling Leafhoppers

Brown to Black Spots, or Blotches on Leaves
Leaf Spot - Leaf spot diseases in creepers are caused by any of several fungi that thrive on moist leaf surfaces. Brown to black spots develop on the leaves of infected plants. These spots often come together to form larger patches of dead tissue. Sometimes there are flecks or black dots around the spots. These are the spore-bearing fruiting bodies of the fungus. Pick off and discard infected leaves, and spray the vine foliage every seven to ten days with a flowable sulfur spray. Avoid wetting the foliage while watering the vines. Mulching around plants helps prevent fungi from being splashed up from the ground by rain. For more information see the file on Controlling Fungal Disease

Leaves Covered with White Powder
Powdery Mildew - Powdery mildew appears as a distinctive white powdery coating on the leaves of the plants it infects. This fungus can occur during either very hot, dry or very humid conditions. Where vines are crowded and air does not circulate freely through stems and foliage, the environment is even more favorable for powdery mildew. Badly infected leaves become discolored, distorted, and drop. As soon as the telltale whitish bloom of fungi appears on Virginia creeper foliage, spray it with wettable sulfur once or twice, a week apart. For more information see the file on Controlling Fungal Disease

Sunken Spots On Leaves
Anthracnose - This fungal disease forms distinct lesions on creeper leaves, which appear as moist, sunken spots with fruiting bodies in the center. Often small spots run together causing large blotches. Sometimes the tips of stems die back to several inches below the buds. Pustules containing pinkish spores appear. Dieback and defoliation may occur in severe cases. Gather and destroy fallen leaves. Prune away diseased stems. Spray vines with a copper fungicide such as Bordeaux mixture every 3 to 5 days for three applications. Maintain shrub vigor by feeding and watering well, especially during droughts. Disinfect garden tools with liquid bleach solution or 70 % rubbing alcohol to avoid spreading the fungus to other plants. For more information see the file on Controlling Fungal Disease

Lesions On Vine Stems
Canker - Canker is caused by a fungus. It causes certain stems on a creeper vine to delay new growth in the spring, or new growth is less vigorous. Leaves turn light green then tan, turning upward and lying close to the stem instead of spreading out. Diseased leaves and branches show small, rose-colored, waxy pustules. Bark at the base of an infected stem peels off readily; the wood is discolored. Prune out dead stems as soon as they are visible. Remove and destroy dead leaves caught in vine branches. Spray 4 doses of a copper fungicide or lime sulfur solution: (1) after the dead leaves and dying branches have been removed and before growth starts in the spring; (2) when growth is half completed; (3) after spring growth has been completed; and (4) after fall growth is complete. Keep vine watered, fed and mulched to maintain its vigor. For more information see the file on Controlling Fungal Disease