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Grape ivy is one of several different kinds of plants, all in the grape family, Vitaceae. Most commonly the term is used for a houseplant, Cissus rhombifolia, which is grown for its foliage. There are hundreds of species of Cissus. Grape ivy is also an alternate term for Boston ivy or Japanese creeper, Parthenocissus tricuspidata. Boston ivy is a vine that grows to great length and is renowned for covering buildings.
Cissus rhombifolia is a common household plant, grown for its evergreen leaves. It is usually grown in hanging baskets as a short vine. The leaves are composed of three 2-9 inch (5-22.5 cm) leaflets, which vary in length according to which cultivar is being grown, and the health of the plant. It has tendrils and is able to climb, in addition to trailing downwards.
This houseplant grows best at temperatures between 68-82°F (20-27.8°C) and prefers to receive bright light without being subjected to direct sunlight. The soil should be allowed to dry out somewhat between waterings. The plant should be pinched back periodically to encourage fresh growth, and propagated by cuttings. Grape ivy is considered as being tolerant of abuse.
Another species in this genus that is also called grape ivy is Cissus trifoliate. This form is a gray, woody vine that grows up to 30 ft (10 m) long. It is often used in xeriscape, or drought resistant, plantings in the southwestern United States. The plant is found throughout the southern United States and in Mexico.
This kind of grape ivy also has leaves with three leaflets. Its leaves grow to 3.1 inch (7.8 cm). The plant has small flowers in March and April that produce small, black fruit. It prefers sandy, well-drained soils. Yet another grape ivy is Cissus nodosa,, which is a highly invasive plant in Hawaii and other Pacific islands.
Boston ivy or Japanese creeper, Parthenocissus tricuspidata, is also known as grape ivy. This is the ivy that gave rise to the term Ivy League. It can grow as large as tall buildings, and sticks to them via discs that the tendrils produce. Originally from Asia, Boston ivy can grow in cold regions that English ivy, Hedera helix,, is unable to tolerate. It can also grow in warmer, sub-tropical regions, particularly if grown with eastern or northern exposures.
There are some benefits to growing Boston ivy. The shade produced by the vines can reduce the air conditioning costs for the buildings it covers. There are also negatives, however. When removed from concrete or wood, the sticky pads can be left behind, marring the structure. This deciduous, woody vine should be pruned to keep it away from doors and windows, so that it does not grow inside.
Boston ivy has 2 to 8.8 inch (5 to 22 cm) leaves that are simple, but are divided into three leaflets. Although it produces small flowers, it is grown for its foliage, which turns bright red in the fall. Its blue fruit add to the beauty of the plant, and are usually eaten by birds.