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Creeper Plants: Types, Uses, Care, and More

by Maria L. Searle
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Creeper Plants Types, Uses, Care, and More

Creeper or creeper plants are small plants with a fast growth rate that categorizes them as invasive in some areas. Also known as vines or procumbent plants, creepers naturally grow close to the ground due to their weak stems that prevent standing upright.

Despite their preference for horizontal growth, you can guide your creeper plants to extend vertically by attaching their stems to support structures. Unlike climbing plants that secure themselves to structures, creepers need human intervention if you want them to achieve height.

Thanks to their stunning flowers and foliage, creeper plants are popular among gardeners and landscapers. Not only do they make for beautiful ground covers, but also look gorgeous covering walls, fences, trellises, and trees.

Besides adding striking visual appeal to any space, creepers can also provide privacy (although their name suggests otherwise!), curb noise, and attract various wildlife.

Today, I’m helping you discover more about the fascinating creeper plants by discussing their types, characteristics, uses, care requirements, common problems, and ideas to incorporate creepers into your landscape.

Types of Creeper Plants

Creeper plants come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, offering you great diversity when choosing a creeper type to grow on your property.

Generally, creeper plants have 3 types as follows:

Climbing Vines 

Typically, creeper plants are small, low-profile plants that stay close to the ground. 

However, in cases where these plants develop long enough strands, you can promote them to grow upwards by securing their vines to a support structure. For example, tie it to the structure with a string.

The climbing vines of creepers need your help to start climbing, unlike climbers that attach themselves to support structures.

Once you provide them with the means for climbing, creeper vines will continue to increase in height as they look for more sunlight.

Different types of climbing vines use different ways to grow upward. Most of them rely on fickle stems, which wrap around the support and continue wrapping as they grow longer.

Some climbing vines, such as ivy, produce aerial roots as they grow. These small roots attach to the support to enable further climbing.

Other climbing vines, such as passionflower or pea plants, demonstrate the tendril growth pattern. They produce a specialized thread-like leaf, petiole, or stem for clinging and climbing.

Ground Covers 

Creeper plants make for excellent ground cover. Thanks to their low-lying growth and creeping spreading style, these plants can cover large sections of the ground with nearly no maintenance on your part.

Examples of creepers that you can use as ground covers include:

  • Creeping liriope
  • Creeping thyme
  • Creeping myrtle
  • Creeping juniper
  • Creeping Phlox
  • Creeping Jenny

Trailing Plants

There are also types of creepers referred to as trailing plants, which cascade along the ground or overflow from pots. The stems of these plants do not root at nodes.

Trailing creepers are fantastic for brightening up dull flower beds, fences, or walls. Examples include English ivy, strawberries, creeping jenny, pumpkin, and Virginia creeper.

Characteristics of Creeper Plants 

Now that you’re familiar with the main types of creeper plants, let’s take a closer look at some of their botanical characteristics:

Leaf Shape and Size 

If you try to find a common description for all the leaves of creeper plants, you’ll find it’s an impossible task. That’s simply because creepers exist in a wide variety of plants with many different leaf shapes and sizes.

Here are a few examples:

  • A Virginia creeper leaf has 3/5/7 leaflets with saw-toothed edges, a tapered base, and pointed tips. Each leaflet grows up to 6 inches long.
  • A honeysuckle leaf has an ovate or oblong outline with an entire margin. It grows up to 3 inches long and wide.
  • Creeping thyme has tiny, pubescent leaves. Each leaf is elliptical-shaped with a rounded tip and grows no bigger than 1 inch.

As you can tell, there’s great diversity in the shape and size of creeper plants’ leaves depending on the specific plant in question.

Growth Habits 

As I’ve mentioned earlier, creeper plants are those that naturally grow horizontally. They spread close to the ground either by stem growth or underground roots.

Creepers have weak, fragile, and thin stems that are unable to stand erect or support the plant’s weight. So instead of growing upright, they extend along the soil on the ground.

Creeper plants that spread via stem growth produce roots on their stems as they extend along the ground. Creeps that spread underground shoot up new plants from roots.

Flowering and Fruiting

Many types of creeper plants sprout brilliant flowers. Examples include:

  • Jasmine
  • Bluebell
  • Climbing roses
  • Bougainvillea
  • Wisteria
  • Mandevilla
  • Bignonia crossvine

Some creepers follow their blooms with notable fruit. Examples include:

  • Pumpkin
  • Strawberry
  • Watermelon 

Uses of Creeper Plants 

Uses of Creeper Plants

Creeper plants serve multiple uses in gardening and landscaping. Here are a few of the most significant:

Groundcovers for Erosion Control 

If your yard has eroded patches or you’re trying to protect it from eroding, creeper plants are an ideal solution. They’re vigorous, gorgeous, and possess a spreading pattern that can slow down heavy rain.

Additionally, creeper plants have robust roots capable of holding soil back. Many of them are also deer resistant.

Examples of the best creeper plants for erosion control include creeping junipers, Japanese spurge, and creeping phlox. They all make for exquisite ground covers.

Climbing Vines for Vertical Gardening 

Creeper plants, particularly climbing vines, are ideal for vertical gardening. This is great news if you don’t have much space in your garden to work with.

It’s also an effective way to make use of unconventional spots such as fences and walls.

Additionally, vertically-growing plants can be easier to maintain and harvest. They boost visual interest as well as create privacy wherever needed.

Trailing Plants for Hanging Baskets and Window Boxes

Creeper plants, particularly trailing plants, are amazing for adding color and dimension to your hanging baskets and window boxes.

Their spread pattern is perfect for overflowing the edges of any container with mesmerizing attractiveness.

The best part is that they’re super easy to make and maintain even if your thumb is the greenest out there.

How to Grow and Care For Creeper Plants 

If you’re set on growing creeper plants, you should keep up with their care requirements. Generally, you should follow the directions below to help your creepers thrive:

Soil and Sunlight Requirements 

Creeper plants are pretty flexible when it comes to the type of soil they prefer for optimal growth. Sandy, loamy, or clay soil are all suitable options with a neutral slightly acidic pH.

As for sunlight requirements, these vary depending on the specific creeper plant in question. Most creepers need plenty of sun exposure, from full sun to partial shade.

Watering and Fertilization 

Watering creeper plants during summer, spring, and fall should be a daily occurrence. Hot and dry weather makes creepers especially demanding of moisture.

Still, you should take care not to overwater your creepers to avoid problems such as root rot. Also, you should lower the watering frequency in winter.

Creeper plants do best in compost-rich soil that supports healthy growth and flowering.

Nitrogen, magnesium, and phosphorus are the 3 main nutrients you should provide to your plants’ soil. Other minerals such as iron, calcium, and sulfur can also help when added from time to time.

Be careful not to over-fertilize the soil or you’ll be risking damaging your creepers.

Pruning and Training

Pruning is necessary for creeper plants to control their spread and keep their invasiveness in check. It can also promote blooming and improve the plant’s overall health.

Additionally, pruning rids creepers of harmful weeds that could hog their nutrition.

Training-wise, you need to provide your creeper plants with strong enough support to get them to grow upwards. Such structures can be walls, trellises, aluminum wires, and so on.

Common Problems and Pests Associated With Creeper Plants 

Creeper plants can fall victim to attacks from various insects and diseases. They can also be affected by environmental stresses.

Here’s a quick overview of common issues you should look out for when growing creeper plants:

Disease and Fungal Infections 

Creeper plants can suffer from a wide range of infections, from fungal to bacterial to viral. Below are two of the most widespread ones:

Powdery Mildew

Extremely common and easy to recognize, powdery mildew causes characteristic white to gray patches to appear on leaves. You may also notice powdery mildew on buds, young fruit, and flowers. 

These spots resemble talcum powder and are most likely to develop in summer. The leaves may also turn yellow and fall prematurely.

Dealing with powdery mildew calls for the application of a fungicide such as neem oil, sulfur, or potassium bicarbonate.

Fusarium Wilt

This fungal disease is known to cause yellow and gray-green discoloration in leaves along with dark spots at the base of stems. Its symptoms also include growth stunting and may develop to death.

The best way to control Fusarium wilt is by planting resistant strains rather than applying fungicides.

Insect Infestations 

Pests can prey on creeper plants and cause a wide range of issues from yellowing leaves to fatal diseases. The following are among the most notorious culprits:

Aphids

Aphids are tiny, oval-shaped bugs that feed on plant sap. They can be green, black, red, and many other colors.

You can detect an aphid infestation by observing the small insects on the underside of leaves, yellow spots at feeding sites, and sticky leaves with sooty mold. You’ll also notice a substantial presence of ants.

You can combat an aphid infestation by spraying the creeper with a garden hose, neem oil, and/or insecticidal soap. You may also cut off the infected leaves.

Mites

Mites are tiny bugs that are typically black, brown, or red. They are commonly called spider mites because of the silk webs they often weave for protection.

Mites feed on plant sap, so they cause yellow spots on leaves. You’ll find them along with their webs on the underside of leaves in case of an infestation.

Similar to an aphid infestation, you can fight a mite infestation by cutting off the infected parts and spraying the creeper with a garden hose, neem oil, and/or insecticidal soap.

Whiteflies

You can identify a whitefly infestation if you see small white bugs and tiny yellow eggs on the underside of creeper leaves. Sticky leaves with yellow spots are additional giveaways since these insects feed on plant sap.

Whiteflies aren’t true flies, but their activity peaks in summer. To get rid of them, you can try using reflective mulches, spraying with water or insecticidal soap, using a low-power vacuum, and/or trimming the infected parts.

Environmental Stresses

These include harsh wind, heavy rain, extreme temperatures, and soil pollutants such as heavy metals and pesticides.

Design Ideas for Incorporating Creeper Plants in Landscaping 

Here’s how to execute a few landscape design ideas featuring creeper plants:

Using Climbing Vines on Trellises and Fences 

Here, you just need to weave the ends of the creeper plant through the bottom of the trellis or fence.

Care as normal and use zip ties or garden twine to keep the plant growing in the desired direction without flopping over.

Groundcovers for Walkways and Borders 

  1. Prepare the soil by removing grass, weed, roots, and any other unwanted elements. 
  2. Add fertilizer and rake the spot smoothly.
  3. Plant your creepers.

Trailing Plants for Vertical Walls and Containers

  1. Line the basket with a plastic liner or moss.
  2. Add the compost, pressing it until you reach the basket’s rim.
  3. Place the creeper plant in the center and top with compost.
  4. Before hanging it, leave it in a bright, warm spot for a few days.

Conclusion

There you have it, a comprehensive guide on creeper plants. They’re perfect for erosion control as ground covers, vertical gardening as climbing vines, and ornamental uses as hanging baskets and window boxes.

Colorful, vigorous, and easy to care for, creeper plants are great for changing up the look and feel of your home even if you’re a beginner.

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