MCMINNVILLE, Ore. - If you're looking for a colorful climbing vine and a non-invasive ground cover, Purpurea (Vitis vinifera), a purple-leaf relative of wine grapes, has both. Unlike its agricultural relatives, its fruit has an unpleasant taste.
"Purple leaf grape is a real show-off in the fall, when its leaves turn a deep reddish purple," said Linda McMahan, horticulturist with Oregon State University Extension. Its ornamental features and use as a climber or ground cover, make up for the lack of fruit flavor, she added.
Because of its success and non-invasive characteristics, Purpurea is featured in "GardenSmart Oregon" as an alternative to English Ivy, a prolific invasive vine.
"Three years after planting, the two vines in front of the OSU Extension Office in Yamhill County are just beginning to reach eye-catching size," she said. "It has been well worth the wait, and many visitors have already commented and asked questions."
Purple leaf grape also is considered to be water wise and can be used in drought-tolerant landscapes.
"Although it adapts to many different soils, growth and color are best in full sun," McMahan said. It does best in zones 6-9, west of the Cascades.
To add to its credits, the species has also been selected as a “Great Plant Pick” by the nonprofit Elizabeth Carey Miller Botanical Garden.
Fall is a great time to plant woody trees, shrubs and vines, McMahan said. "Purple leaf grape is commercially available in Oregon at specialty nurseries, so now is a good time to search it out."