Incorporating English Ivy in Your Landscaping (2022)

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

he 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.

Common NameEnglish ivy, common ivy, European ivy
Botanical NameHedera helix
FamilyAraliaceae
Plant TypePerennial, evergreen climbing vine
Mature SizeN/A; climbs and spreads as much as possible
Sun ExposurePart shade to full shade
Soil TypeFertile and moist
Soil pHNeutral to slightly alkaline
Bloom TimeFall
Flower ColorGreenish-white, greenish-yellow
Hardiness Zones4-13 (USDA)
Native AreaEurope, Scandinavia, Russia
ToxicityToxic to people and pets

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.

Warning

English ivy is considered invasive in many areas, including the Pacific Northwest, California, several Southeast states, and parts of the Midwest. Before planting English ivy, consult a local extension office to confirm that it is not considered an invasive species in your area. English ivy is also widely known to be capable of causing damage to trees and brickwork.

Incorporating English Ivy in Your Landscaping (1)

Incorporating English Ivy in Your Landscaping (2)

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Incorporating English Ivy in Your Landscaping (3)

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Light

English ivy plants grow well in part shade to full shade. The ability to grow in shade has made English ivy a traditional groundcover 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.

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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 groundcover 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 notjust rip a vineoff, 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 English Ivy

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

  1. Use healthy stems that are 4 to 5 inches long. Submerge the cut ends in water and wait for roots to develop.
  2. 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.

Potting and Repotting English Ivy

Somegardeners grow these plants in hanging baskets, letting them cascade over the sides. Indeed, considering their invasive quality, this is a very sensible way to grow the vines for their beauty without having to worry that they will spread out of control.

Small ivy plants can be repotted once a year, while larger plants can be repotted every two years. Always repot with new potting soil to ensure adequate nutrition. Older plants that can use a boost often can be revived by simply replacing the soil in the same container.

Common Pests & Plant 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 oilorinsecticidal soap. 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. 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.

FAQ

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Article Sources

The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Hedera helix. North Carolina State Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox.

    (Video) Let's Grow: Style Your Home with House Plants ENGLISH GARDENS

  2. Viles, Heather, Sternberg, Troy, Cathersides, Alan. Is Ivy Good or Bad for Historic Walls? Journal of Architectural Conservation, 17, 2, 25-41, 2011, doi:10.1080/13556207.2011.10785087

  3. English Ivy (Hedera helix): Identification and Control of Diseases in Commercial Greenhouse Production and in Landscapes. University of Florida IFAS Extension.

FAQs

Can I put English ivy in my garden? ›

Ivy makes a nice shady groundcover.

Ivy doesn't have to climb. If you're willing to maintain it, you can keep English ivy at ground level. And, since it grows well in shady areas, you can use ivy as a pretty, dark green groundcover in those areas where it's difficult to get anything else to grow.

Can ivy be planted with other plants? ›

Ivy is great for use as a soil cover and to spill over the rim of containers, pots and hanging baskets. Plant them alone or mixed with other plants in a well-drained pot that has a drainage hole(s). When growing Ivy in containers, I suggest using a premium quality potting mix or potting soil, or a 50/50 mix thereof.

Where should I place my English ivy? ›

Ivies do well at cool to moderate room temperatures of 50 to 70 °F during the day and about 5 to 10 °F lower at night. A good, rich commercial houseplant potting mix will be fine for ivy. They should be planted in a container with good drainage.

Can English ivy be potted with other plants? ›

In fact, you can take a cutting from the stuff that's climbing all over the ground in your backyard and move it indoors. Ivy looks fantastic trained up a trellis or moss-covered pole, or allowed to trail down over the edge of a pot. You can grow it with other plants, or make it a solo star.

Why is English ivy a problem? ›

(Hedera helix)

English ivy quickly takes advantage of disturbed areas to shade-out and outcompete understory vegetation, and can also kill overstory trees after climbing to and dominating the canopy.

Is English ivy poisonous to touch? ›

English ivy is toxic to humans and many animals

The foliage of English ivy is its most popular attribute, but it's also its most deadly.

What plants can compete with English ivy? ›

Some examples of native plants that may be able to compete against English ivy are woodland aster, creeping mint, creeping phlox and Solomon's seal.

Is ivy good for the garden? ›

Ivy is a great workhorse in the garden because it's evergreen, attracts wildlife and is good on north-facing walls and in areas where nothing else will grow. There are also many cultivars with different leaf shapes and/or variegated foliage. (Variegated plants need some sunshine to really shine.)

How fast does English ivy grow outdoors? ›

English Ivy Growth Rate

Outdoors, ivy takes around 3 months to become established as a wall climber or ground cover and will pick up growth speed the following year in perfect conditions.

Does English ivy purify air? ›

Indoors, English ivy can be kept as an air-purifying houseplant. It doesn't need tons of direct light, so it's ideal for growing indoors unless you have children or pets who may touch it or try to eat it.

Is English ivy toxic to dogs? ›

Many popular ivy plants, including English ivy and Devil's ivy/Golden Pothos, have moderate toxicity to pets. Mouth and stomach irritation, excessive drooling, foaming at the mouth, swelling of the mouth, tongue and lips, vomiting, diarrhoea.

Is English ivy invasive? ›

English ivy is an aggressive invader that threatens all vegetation levels of forested and open areas, growing along the ground as well as into the forest canopy.

How often should I water English ivy? ›

Water the ivy plant once the soil is dry.

If it's dry, water the soil until it's saturated and wait to water again until the soil dries out. You'll probably have to water the plant 2 times a week. Avoid watering the plant so much that water pools in the bottom of the container.

Does English ivy grow fast? ›

How fast does English Ivy Grow? English Ivy grown indoors can grow up to 9 feet annually but it will be at least 2 years before any significant growth. To encourage quicker growth, take good care of it and make appropriate adjustments before planting and use fertilizer to encourage fast growth.

Can English ivy take full sun? ›

English ivy performs well grown outdoors in full sun to full shade. However, varieties with green leaves perform better in partial sun to shade, and those with variegated leaves tolerate sunnier conditions.

Will ivy choke out other plants? ›

Ivy knows no bounds: It grows quickly in all directions, both horizontally and vertically, clinging to other vegetation and depriving it of all sunlight. If the vining plant doesn't smother and kill trees, shrubs, and grass, it'll infect them with rot or disease.

Does ivy suffocate other plants? ›

Gardeners who love the romantic look of ivy wrapped around trees, rejoice! Ivy does not kill trees and is actually very beneficial to wildlife in your garden, so go ahead and plant ivy at the bottom of a tree as part of your wildlife garden ideas.

What plant will choke out ivy? ›

Virginia creeper (though native, it is aggressive) Clematis. Wild native grape. Native wisteria.

What is the best ivy for ground cover? ›

Gardeners searching for ivy as ground cover often choose English ivy because it can tolerate poor soil, requires little maintenance and has glossy, dark green foliage. Especially good for covering slopes, it can grow even in shady areas.

Do mosquitoes live in ivy? ›

Ground covers such as ivy (Hedera helix), which is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9, need frequent moisture for best growth. The foliage densely shades the ground, providing ample mosquito habitat.

Does English ivy need a trellis? ›

Unlike some climbing vines, ivy doesn't need to be tied to the trellis. It climbs using either aerial rootlets, such as English ivy, or adhesive discs, such as with Boston ivy, and secretes a sticky substance that helps it climb. Plant ivy in its ideal growing conditions and it will rapidly climb a trellis.

How do you thicken English ivy? ›

How to rejuvenate and thicken an Ivy Plant | Donna Joshi - YouTube

Can English ivy survive winter? ›

Types such as Boston ivy and English ivy survive winters that get as cold as minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Others, such as Swedish ivy, are only cold hardy to USDA plant hardiness zone 10. Poison ivy grows to USDA zone 4, where winters see readings as low as minus 30 F.

How do you protect English ivy in winter? ›

Spray the ivy with an anti-transpirant spray in late fall to protect the foliage from drying winds and the frozen ground. These conditions can deprive the plant of it's natural moisture intake and when using this spray, moisture loss is reduced by up to 80 percent.

Does English ivy reduce mold? ›

English ivy can reduce particles of fecal matter and mold

According to WebMD: “Six hours later, 60% of the airborne-mold had vanished from the air around the ivy. Almost as much of the airborne feces were also gone from the air (58%).

Are there any benefits of ivy? ›

Ivy leaf is anti-inflammatory and has been shown to be as effective as the drug ambroxol for chronic bronchitis. More. Anti-inflammatory herbs may help people with bronchitis. Often these herbs contain complex polysaccharides and have a soothing effect; they are also known as demulcents.

What animals eat English ivy? ›

Sadly, they do. The English Ivy is, in fact, a favorite tasty treat for Deer. It is no wonder, some growers have reported watching Deer eat their English Ivy to the ground until there is nothing left in its place but roots.

What happens if a cat eats ivy? ›

Moderately Poisonous Plants for Cats

These include: Ivy can cause vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, breathing difficulty, fever, and muscle weakness.

Is English ivy a perennial? ›

English ivy is an evergreen, perennial woody vine in the ginseng (Araliaceae) family. Its dark green, waxy leaves are alternate and have between 3 and 5 lobes. H. helix has tiny greenish-white flowers that bloom in late summer or early fall and after the flowers come blue-black berries.

Is lavender poisonous to dogs? ›

The lavender plant contains a compound called linalool, which can be toxic to animals like dogs and cats. However, the plant has such small concentrations of linalool that toxicity is not a common issue. The problem happens when dogs ingest an enormous amount of lavender.

Does English ivy damage brick? ›

Damage to Structures

While there appears little-to-no evidence of English ivy roots destroying mortar between bricks, or creating cracks and holes in other masonry, ivy can severely damage wood, brick or mortared stone, concrete and stucco building walls.

What is the difference between English ivy and Boston ivy? ›

How to tell Boston ivy from English ivy? English ivy (Hedera helix) is evergreen, while Boston ivy is not. Autumn foliage on English ivy remains a dark green; it does not turn red, as does Boston ivy. English ivy is also a considerably more aggressive plant that can grow to 100 feet or more.

How deep are English ivy roots? ›

Roots are long and mostly creeping (usually 1-4 inches deep).

What does an English ivy prefer? ›

Ivies LIKE humidity.

While ivies don't like overly moist soil, they do like moist air. You can increase the humidity in your home—or at least around your plants. To do this: Add pebbles to a saucer, then add water. Set your ivy on the pebbles and the water will evaporate, raising the humidity around the plant.

Why is my outdoor ivy dying? ›

Key Takeaways: The reason for a dying Ivy is usually because of under watering, too much sun or the pot is too small and the soil dries too quickly which turns the leaves brown and dried out. Over watering and a lack of nutrients turn the Ivy's leaves yellow.

Why are my English ivy leaves falling off? ›

Ivy loses its leaves because of ambient soil or atmospheric conditions. If there is insufficient water, Ivy's leaves will turn brown and drop off. Ivy's leaves will first turn yellow, then brown, and drop off if it's overwatered. Insufficient nutrients will also turn leaves yellow – but not brown.

How far apart do you plant English ivy? ›

Growing English Ivy Plants

Plant English ivy in a shady area with an organically rich soil. If your soil lacks organic matter, amend it with compost before planting. Space the plants 18 to 24 inches (46-61 cm.) apart, or 1 foot (31 cm.)

What is the easiest ivy to grow? ›

The Irish Ivy is one of the most adaptable ivy plants. It can grow just as well in direct sun as it does in full shade. It looks very similar to the classic English Ivy, but it has larger leaves. Its vines are also light green as opposed to the white vines of the English variety.

How tall does English ivy get? ›

Mature Height/Spread: English ivy is an evergreen creeping vine forming a dense mat of dark green foliage. It spreads horizontally over the ground, 6 to 8 inches high, or climbs on walls, fences and trellises up to 50 feet high.

Can you plant ivy in the ground? ›

Ivy is a vine that grows quickly and comes in many varieties that can be used as a decorative indoor plant, outdoor ground cover, or to grow up a structure, wall, or tree. Ivy is also easy to plant. Take a few cuttings from an existing ivy plant and place them in a glass of water until they develop roots.

When should ivy be pruned? ›

The Ivy is an easy plant to prune, so don't worry very little can go wrong. We advise to prune your Ivy hedge twice a year, to keep him looking healty and full the whole year around. It is best to prune the ivy in the spring, for example in late May or June. Do this shortly before the ivy forms the young leaves.

Is ivy good for the garden? ›

Ivy is a great workhorse in the garden because it's evergreen, attracts wildlife and is good on north-facing walls and in areas where nothing else will grow. There are also many cultivars with different leaf shapes and/or variegated foliage. (Variegated plants need some sunshine to really shine.)

Can you plant ivy in the ground? ›

Ivy is a vine that grows quickly and comes in many varieties that can be used as a decorative indoor plant, outdoor ground cover, or to grow up a structure, wall, or tree. Ivy is also easy to plant. Take a few cuttings from an existing ivy plant and place them in a glass of water until they develop roots.

Is English ivy an indoor or outdoor plant? ›

While it can be grown indoors, it is a very popular outdoor plant because its vines are used to decorate external walls or fences. People that grow English Ivy indoors often prefer to place the plant in hanging baskets so that the leaves may fall graciously downwards, making for an amazing decorative plant.

How do I grow ivy in my garden? ›

How to Plant Ivy - YouTube

Is English ivy invasive? ›

English ivy is an aggressive invader that threatens all vegetation levels of forested and open areas, growing along the ground as well as into the forest canopy.

Is English ivy poisonous to dogs? ›

Many popular ivy plants, including English ivy and Devil's ivy/Golden Pothos, have moderate toxicity to pets. Mouth and stomach irritation, excessive drooling, foaming at the mouth, swelling of the mouth, tongue and lips, vomiting, diarrhoea.

What is the best ivy for ground cover? ›

Gardeners searching for ivy as ground cover often choose English ivy because it can tolerate poor soil, requires little maintenance and has glossy, dark green foliage. Especially good for covering slopes, it can grow even in shady areas.

How do you encourage ivy to spread? ›

Light/Shade

Keeping your ivy in an area with moderate to full shade will help promote the most growth, but the plant will still grow in lighter areas just at a slower rate. Growing English Ivy in shaded areas also causes the leaves to grow larger than it would in areas with more light.

Will English ivy take over grass? ›

Fast-growing English ivy can easily take over your lawn and landscape.

How far apart should I plant English ivy? ›

Growing English Ivy Plants

Plant English ivy in a shady area with an organically rich soil. If your soil lacks organic matter, amend it with compost before planting. Space the plants 18 to 24 inches (46-61 cm.) apart, or 1 foot (31 cm.)

Does English ivy clean the air? ›

The NASA study found English ivy to be the most effective houseplant for cleaning benzene from the air, removing 89.8% of benzene over 24 hours. Here's what the Air Oasis study found: English ivy is the best air purifying house plant for benzene reduction.

How do you make English ivy bushy? ›

Pruning English ivy indoors prevents the plant from becoming long and leggy. Simply pinch or snap the vine with your fingers just above a leaf, or prune the plant with clippers or scissors. Although you can discard the cuttings, you can also use them to propagate a new plant.

How many times a week should I water English ivy? ›

Water the ivy plant once the soil is dry.

If it's dry, water the soil until it's saturated and wait to water again until the soil dries out. You'll probably have to water the plant 2 times a week. Avoid watering the plant so much that water pools in the bottom of the container.

Does English ivy need a trellis? ›

Unlike some climbing vines, ivy doesn't need to be tied to the trellis. It climbs using either aerial rootlets, such as English ivy, or adhesive discs, such as with Boston ivy, and secretes a sticky substance that helps it climb. Plant ivy in its ideal growing conditions and it will rapidly climb a trellis.

Where should I plant ivy in my garden? ›

If growing English ivy as a house plant, grow it in a bright, cool spot, out of direct sun. It's a good choice for a cool porch, unheated conservatory or draughty hallway.

What is the difference between English ivy and Boston ivy? ›

How to tell Boston ivy from English ivy? English ivy (Hedera helix) is evergreen, while Boston ivy is not. Autumn foliage on English ivy remains a dark green; it does not turn red, as does Boston ivy. English ivy is also a considerably more aggressive plant that can grow to 100 feet or more.

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