English Ivy

How to Grow and Care for English Ivy

english-ivy

English ivy (Hedera Helix) is an evergreen perennial. It is also classified as a woody vine. English ivy can act as a ground cover, spreading horizontally. But it is also a climber, due to its aerial rootlets, which allows it to climb to 80 feet high.

The plant will eventually bear insignificant greenish flowers, but it is grown primarily for its evergreen leaves. In this regard, ivy can be classified as a foliage plant. The best time to plant English ivy is spring. It is a fast, aggressive grower that is considered invasive in many areas. Keep a watchful eye on children and pets because English ivy is toxic to humans and animals.

English Ivy Care

To the ancient Greeks and Romans, glossy-leafed, dark green ivy was sacred to the god Dionysus (Bacchus in Rome), and the pagan druids reflected on ivy in the Christmas carol, "The Holly and the Ivy," where the plant represents female divinity. This plant continued to impact ancient cultures as its evergreen vines physically covered vast areas of Europe without much intervention.

The fact that English ivy plants spread quickly means that they can be useful as ground cover for filling in hard-to-plant spots in your landscaping. Their aggressive nature suggests that they could be effective allies against erosion on hillsides. At home indoors or out, English ivy does well planted in containers or baskets where its trailing vines can hang down. Ivy needs protection from winter winds as well as the hot summer sun, so plant appropriately.

Light

English ivy plants grow well in part shade to full shade. The ability to grow in shade has made English ivy a traditional ground cover for planting under trees, where most grasses may not grow well. Since ivy is vigorous and has a dense growth habit, it's an effective ground cover if your objective is to crowd out weeds.

Ivy grown indoors needs bright, indirect light in summer but can benefit from some direct light in winter.

Soil

Grow this evergreen vine in well-drained soil. Although it will grow in poor soils and soils of a wide range of pH levels, it does best in average loams. A thick layer of mulch helps keep the soil moist in dry climates.

Indoors, ivy does best in potting mix that is loose and well-drained.

Water

When watering your ivy, always check the soil before adding water. Ivy prefers to be kept slightly on the dry side, so let the soil dry out some (dry to the touch on top) before you water your ivy plants again. Indoor or outdoor ivy prefers evenly moist but not soggy soil. Also, make sure that your plant has excellent drainage. Ivy should not be kept in standing water or overly wet soil.

Temperature and Humidity

English Ivy plants grow best in temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Their leaves will stay dark green when grown in steady temperatures and medium to high humidity. It does not like cold winter wind or high summer heat.

In some areas and with some species of ivy, it's possible to keep potted plants outdoors in winter, and new growth emerges from the stems in spring.

Fertilizer

Feed English ivy every two weeks during the spring and summer season, using a 20-20-20 fertilizer (or a 2-2-2 organic formula). Do not use fertilizer or plant food if the plant is in a stressful situation: very hot, very cold, or very dry soil, or when leaf production has stopped.

Pruning

Use clean and sharp cutting shears to trim ground cover plants in the spring to keep them manageable and discourage bacterial leaf spot. Prune any ivy into a bushy shape by pinching off its growing tips, also in spring. A hard pruning every few years helps revitalize the plant.

If English ivy is already climbing one of your trees, be careful if you wish to remove it. Do not just rip a vine off, which could hurt the tree's bark. Instead, cut each vine where you find it coming out of the soil at the base of the tree, where it begins its ascent. When cut off from the earth (and thus from a water source), the part of the vine left anchored in the tree bark will eventually wither and die.

This removal technique is the best way to get rid of the plant organically, but it does require some patience. You will need to go back year after year and cut new growth until all strength has been sapped out of the plant. It is only at this point that new shoots will stop emerging every spring.


Propagating Hoya

The same trimmings or stem cuttings that you take from pruning your ivy can be used to propagate new plants taking these easy steps:

Use healthy stems that are 4 to 5 inches long. Submerge the cut ends in water and wait for roots to develop.
Transfer the stems to a pot or the ground. Plants grown as ground cover naturally spread when stems contact the soil and take root; you can cut rooted stems and dig them up to move them to a pot or a different garden location.


Common Pests and Diseases

English ivy may become host to aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, and other pests, which can usually be sprayed off with water and can be controlled with neem oil or insecticidal soap.1 One homemade remedy for aphids is to spray the foliage with a mixture of dish soap and water.

Diseases that affect ivy include bacterial leaf spot and root rot.3 Leaf spot appears as black or dark brown spotting on the plant foliage. Unfortunately, the best remedy is to remove the affected plants. Help protect any remaining plants by spraying them with a 10-to-1 mixture of water to vinegar.

Root rot is typically caused by warm and humid weather and can be fatal to affected plants. Again, removal is the best remedy. Unaffected remaining plants can be treated with fungicide for protection.