Ivy plants are fast-growing and aggressive woody evergreen vines. Outdoors, the plants are used as ornamental ground-cover or as a sophisticated green covering for both brick and stone walls. English ivy (also known as Hedera helix) even gave the Ivy League colleges their name!
English ivy is also a very prevalent indoor houseplant, especially for the likes of hanging baskets. English ivy was brought to the New World by colonial settlers but is originally a European native. It quickly naturalized into the wild and grows easily in the U.K. today.
Popular uses for ivy plants include being used as a dense ground cover, where other ground covers such as turfgrass do not readily grow. It is also used as a picturesque climbing cover for brick facades, fences and stone walls. Ivy plants, and especially English ivy, can grow an impressive 100 feet outward as a ground-cover or upward as a climbing vine. When being used as ground-cover, the plants tend to stay between six and eight inches tall.
How to grow ivy plants
Before considering English Ivy for your own home or garden, it’s important to consult local nurseries to ensure English ivy is acceptable in your area. As an extremely aggressive plant that is often regarded as invasive in some regions, especially in the Pacific Northwest, where it can choke out native species, it’s wise to plant with caution. You will need to learn how to keep the plant under control and confined to your property and your property only.
Other ivy plants do not grow to the same extent, although care is still needed when growing the species. Ivy is also a popular houseplant, which often comes as a surprise, especially as it’s more finicky to grow indoors than it is to grow outdoors. Ivy plants are not the biggest fan of artificial warm, dry air though, which is what’s available in the majority of heated homes today.
In addition to this, it doesn’t always thrive when air conditioning systems are present. Nevertheless, many want to grow it indoors because of the aesthetic vibe it offers. When correctly grown, ivy plants make wonderful climbing plants and trailing plants, and can also be used for indoor topiaries.
The trick to growing healthy ivy indoors is to choose a location that offers cool nights and a moist, humid environment. H. Helix varieties traditionally boast aerial roots that cling; this allows the plant to be trained up supports or to trail from hanging baskets. For best results, remember to mist your ivy on a regular basis, especially during the dry winter months.
In both the summer and winter months, ivy enjoys bright indirect light. In the winter months, plants are able to tolerate a little direct sunlight and can be placed in south-facing windows. However, you should ensure they are not exposed to such light for too long.
The majority of ivy plants prefer fertile, moist, but well-drained soil. In warmer, drier climates, it is important to ensure the ground is heavily mulched, as this will keep it cool and moist. When kept indoors, ivy enjoys loose, well-drained potting mix.
Potted ivy thrives best in humid, moist conditions, but it’s wise to avoid soaking the plant. Try to avoid allowing the soil to dry out and keep it evenly moist. This will encourage attractive red foliage in the autumn months.
Temperature and humidity
When planting ivy plants outdoors, opt to place your plants in locations that provide moderate conditions, which protect your plants from harsh winter winds and the excessive heat of summer. Very humid conditions can cause ailments such as root rot and bacterial leaf spot.
Ivy plants grown inside enjoy cooler nights, sometimes below 16°C. Many species can overwinter when placed outside in pots and this will cause them to grow back from their stems. During hot summer days, it’s important to mist the plants on a regular basis to help prevent them from drying out.
This fast-growing species necessitates little feeding. In fact, a small feeding in early spring is about all that’s required, and in some conditions (perfect conditions), even this is unnecessary. During the growing season, opt for a controlled-release fertilizer or add a very weak liquid fertilizer twice a week.
It’s important to re-pot small ivy plants into fresh potting soil every year or every other year for bigger plants. More mature, tired plants can be given a new lease of life and planted back into their same pots with fresh soil.
Propagating ivy plants
Using stem cuttings, you can propagate ivy easily. Because these plant species are trailing plants, they benefit from trimming. These trimmings can then be used to propagate your plants. Any cuttings should measure between four and five inches in length.
They should then be placed in water until a good network of root hairs has grown. The final step requires you to plant the cuttings in potting soil. These stems will not root where they are placed and can be moved at a later date.
Care and Planting
For best results, use all-purpose potting soil to plant ivy. You should place it in a pot with good drainage. Let the top of the soil dry to the touch between waterings, and feed with quality fertilizer once a month in the spring, summer, and autumn.
Regularly mist the foliage in the dry, winter months. If the vines get too lengthy, you can always trim them back to the length you desire.
You’re probably most familiar with English ivy on building exteriors, but it also makes a lovely houseplant. This speedy climber is both easy to grow and care for, and looks lovely in either hanging baskets or dangling from a shelf. You can also train it to grow up a topiary.
If adding it to your home, just be aware that it is toxic to dogs and cats, so try to place it in a spot where your pets cannot access it.
Sources: apartmenttherapy.com, thespruce.com