English vs boston ivy

Boston Ivy On Walls: Will Boston Ivy Vines Damage Walls

Boston ivy growing up brick surfaces lends a lush, peaceful feeling to the environment. Ivy is renowned for adorning quaint cottages and centuries-old brick buildings on university campuses—thus the moniker “Ivy League.”

This distinctive vine is a beautiful evergreen plant that thrives in difficult areas most plants won’t tolerate. The plant is also useful for covering up unsightly defects in brick or masonry walls. Although Boston ivy has many benefits, it has nearly as many negative qualities. Consider carefully before planting Boston ivy in your garden.

Will Boston Ivy Vines Damage Walls?

English ivy, Boston ivy’s extremely destructive, distant cousin, can destroy walls as it digs its aerial roots into the surface. English ivy is also extremely aggressive and is considered an invasive weed in many states for its ability to choke out native plants and trees.

In comparison, Boston ivy is a relatively gentle grower that clings by means of small suckers at the end of the tendrils. The plant is known as a self-adhesive plant because it requires no trellis or other supportive structure to keep it upright.

Although Boston ivy is relatively well-behaved, growing Boston ivy on walls requires considerable maintenance, and ivy plants near walls will soon find the way to the upright surface. Planting the vine on or near a painted wall may not be a good idea because it is likely to damage the paint. Otherwise, the vine does little damage.

Never plant Boston ivy plants near walls unless you’re prepared for the plant to be permanent, and you’re willing to do regular maintenance. Frequent trimming is required to keep the ivy from covering windows, eaves and gutters. Once the plant is established, it can be extremely difficult to remove and eliminating the vines permanently may require many hours of ripping, digging, scraping and scrubbing.

If you’re thinking about planting Boston ivy, purchase the plant from a reputable, knowledgeable nursery or greenhouse. Be sure you’re buying Parthenocissus tricuspidata (Boston ivy) and avoid Hedera helix (English ivy) like the plague.

The Invaders: Ivy (Hedera helix)

All true ivies are members of the genus Hedera and closely related to the common ivy, Hedera helix, which is often called English Ivy. The plant known as Boston ivy is a member of the grape family, closely related to Virginia Creeper, another notable invasive plant.

True ivy has been known from ancient times. It was a symbol of the god Dionysos, who wore an ivy crown, as did his followers, known as bacchantes or mainads. They also carried a staff called the thyrsos, wrapped in ivy. Before he discovered the grape vine, Dionysos was said to have eaten the toxic berries of ivy in order to induce intoxication. Ivy has also been used as a symbol of Christmas, like many other evergreen plants, though the ivy takes a distant second place in the carol The Holly and the Ivy.

Ivy has two phases of growth. We most commonly see it as a woody, climbing evergreen vine that clings to surfaces by means of aerial roots. In this juvenile phase, its leaves are palmate, with three lobes. But in full sun mature ivy may develop a thick trunk without aerial roots, with heart-shaped leaves and insignificant flowers that develop into small black berries.

It prefers a shady location, and is valued because of its ability to thrive in deep shade, both indoors and out. While most ivies want a moist soil, at least one variety, H algeriensis, is drought-tolerant. Growers have produced a number of ornamental cultivars, many with variegated leaves. It is popular as a houseplant and a container plant, but ivy has most often been planted as a groundcover in shady areas, such as the north side of a house or beneath trees, and as a climber, to cover walls. It is precisely these properties, however, that have made it very unpopular in many quarters and led to its being considered invasive. Ivy is currently #8 in the list of Top Ten Thugs here at Dave’s Garden, and the negative comments of gardeners are quite vehement in their condemnation. As a dense groundcover, it can crowd out other, native species. And as a climber, it has sometimes been considered destructive to walls and damaging to the trees it ascends.

In the garden, the vines can get out of hand, invading areas where they are not wanted if not constantly trimmed. When this happens, it is difficult to eradicate. Because of its waxy leaves, it resists herbicides. The roots can become thick and woody, too strong to pull out of the ground, and they will sprout again if cut back. Perhaps the best method, short of a backhoe, is to paint the cut surfaces of the trunks and roots with a very strong herbicide rated for killing brush.

Worse, when it escapes into the wild, usually spread by birds consuming the berries of the adult plant, ivy can cover a forest floor and crowd out native vegetation. For this reason, the states of Oregon and Washington have listed H helix or some of its cultivars as noxious weeds.

Another concern for the spread of ivy in forested area, as well as for trees in the garden, is the plant’s climbing habit. The trunks of ivy, in warmer climates, can grow quite large and thick, completing for sunlight with the host and sometimes threatening to pull down the tree.

Here, as in many other cases, the critical factor is climate. I have a sizable bed of common ivy growing as a groundcover beneath some large junipers at the north-east corner of my house in Zone 5, and I have been very happy with it. The ivy successfully chokes out weeds and produces a nice appearance. Once a year, I trim it to keep it in bounds. Although it has made some attempts at climbing the junipers, a sub-zero cold snap usually comes along and freezes the exposed vines on the trunks, killing the growth. The ivy has given me a lot less trouble in this respect than the Virginia Creeper.

In the warmer, damp rain forests of the US northwest coast, on the other hand, with no killing freezes to keep the ivy’s growth checked, the vines can turn into monsters, justifying the opinions of gardeners who consider it a thug.

Photo Credit: Ivy on tree © 2005 by Nate Steiner http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Above: Seasons merge on a wall of Boston ivy.

Boston ivy celebrates the season in a similar way to other members of the grape vine family; with great flamboyance. Shadows of just-departed leaves create an effect of molten embers, the longer exposed areas being a deeper red. However, when the leaves go, their pale stalks remain, in a horrible anticlimax. A fine black tracery decorates the host building or structure over winter.

Cheat Sheet

• Boston ivy is a sensible alternative to classic ivy, although it is even more vigorous, growing to more than 30 feet, reaching maturity in from five to 10 years.
• Because Boston ivy is not evergreen, it is less heavy than ivy in winter; its adhesive disks, resembling tiny lizard’s toes, stick on top of mortar instead of digging into cracks.
• Like ivy, Parthenocissus tricuspidata provides a good insulation for buildings and a safe haven for wildlife.

Keep It Alive

• Boston ivy is very hardy, thriving in a wide range of situations (including USDA growing zones 4 to 8) and in any aspect, whether sheltered or exposed. Soil type is not a problem, whether acid or alkaline, chalk or clay, although like so many plants it prefers moist and well-drained.
• Autumn color is guaranteed whether planted in sun, partial, or full shade.
• Boston ivy benefits from being tied at first but ultimately it is self-clinging.

Above: Boston ivy in the Cotswolds, England.

As with all vines and climbers, growth should be kept away from gutters and roofs; Parthenocissus tricuspidata is not for the laissez-faire gardener. If you find that you need to remove it from a particular elevation, cut the stems at the base first, only unclothing the wall when the plant has weakened. Since vines are chosen by birds for nesting, wait until winter to do this.

Above: In which gutters, roofs and paintwork have been spared, by a methodical gardener.

Read more growing tips in Boston Ivy: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design in our curated guides to Vines & Climbers 101. For more ways to add curb appeal to Exteriors & Facades, see:

  • Before & After: A Two-Faced Victorian Garden with a Secret
  • Hardscaping 101: Window Boxes
  • Curb Appeal: 11 Ways to Make Your House Look Welcoming in Winter

Last week on Instagram, I posted a gorgeous ivy-covered home posing the question, “Has anyone ever lived in an ivy-covered home? I hear the ivy is damaging and would love to learn more.” The post generated over 6,000 likes and 135 comments! It seems most everyone loves the romance of these charming homes… but they can be high-maintenance. After reading all the comments, I thought it would be fun to summarize them here today and share a plethora of additional ivy-covered eye candy.

Source unknown. One Instagram reader commented that this home is down the street from her home in Boston.

Comments regarding problems with ivy included damage to bricks and to mortar between the bricks, as well as ivy finding its way into screens, cracks in windows, and spaces between wood siding. Apparently it can hold moisture against the house causing mortar to crumble. One person had to replace the mortar between the brick. Ivy can also adhere to stucco causing stucco to pull away from the house. Some comments suggested there was less of a problem in dry climates vs. damp, high humidity climates. However, others indicated that they had not had these issues.

A 1920s Dallas home, via Architectural Digest.

There were two things that were apparent in these comments. One: Ivy has to be maintained, i.e., trimmed at least a couple of times a year, kept away from screens and windows, and kept away from creeping into vents, etc. Two: One should choose the best type of ivy… Apparently some types of ivy are more damaging than others. English Ivy, Boston Ivy, Fig Ivy, and Virginia Creeper were suggested as less damaging alternatives.

A 1930s David Adler home in Lake Forest, Illinois. Source.

Another problem mentioned with ivy was the critters that it can attract. Rodents, spiders, birds and their nests, and bugs and insects in general are a few examples. One person described how a snake had crawled up the ivy onto the roof and into a vent going into the house. It got under the bed in a guest bedroom and caused quite a stir. Another said her ivy was used by squirrels as a super highway to the roof of their house where they caused damage. They cut the ivy back several feet from the roof and solved the problem. One person said that her ivy had become a breeding ground for big cockroaches.

The Oaks estate in Cohasset, Massachusetts, once owned by the heirs to the Dow Jones and Wall Street Journal fortunes. Source.

In spite of these potential problems with ivy, very few people indicated that the problems were so great that they had it removed from their homes. The sentiment seemed to be that it was worth the hassle. One person said that it takes a long time for it to do serious damage. “It just takes monitoring and maintenance to keep it in check.” Another said “there is always a price to pay for fashion.” Regarding the potential damage, another person said “but I don’t care, it is too beautiful.”

A French chateau in La Chapelle-sur-Dun.

A popular alternative, Virginia Creeper, can grow in sun to full shade, where soils are soggy to dry and even in lightly alkaline soils. The adaptability of the plant makes it suited for any site but care should be taken to keep it off wood siding and gutters. The vine climbs and adheres to vertical surfaces with aerial roots, and the weight of the plant could pull off boards and misalign gutters.

Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. Source.

Additional information on Creeping Fig can be read here, and visit here for more on English Ivy. These are two more alternatives that were mentioned. Another recommended alternative is Fig Vine. But some warn of the damage they can cause as well.

A 1910 Georgian in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Source.

Darien, Connecticut. Source.

Gladwyne, Pennsylvania. Source.

Palm Beach, Florida. Source.

Palm Beach, Florida. Source.

Hilfiger estate on Nantucket. Source.

An Italian country manor. Source.

David Easton.

Dallas, Texas (Highland Park). Source.

A River Oaks estate in Houston, Texas. Source.

Tulip Hill in Maryland, circa 18th century. Source.

A circa 1927 Greenwich, Connecticut real estate listing. Source.

Hidden Pond Farm, Morris County, New Jersey. Source.

Circa 1915 Rye, New York real estate listing. Source.

Circa 1920 Nashville, Tennessee real estate listing. Source.

Raleigh, North Carolina. Source.

Atlanta, Georgia (Buckhead). Source.

Ralph Lauren’s circa 1919 Bedford, New York estate. Source.

Sister Parish’s childhood home. Source.

A 17th century Hampshire vicarage, England. Source.

Source unknown.

Llanrwst, Wales

Atlanta, Georgia (Druid Hills). Source.

Climbing roses, also worth considering. Chesapeake Bay. Source.

There seems to be mixed reports on all suggested alternatives. I think the bottom line on all ivy type plants, even the alternatives, is that they can cause some damage, especially if they are not kept in check. But they are so beautiful that they are worth it! To see my Instagram post on the subject and all 135+ comments, please click here. I’d love your thoughts, please weigh in!

Ivy: To remove or not to remove, that is the question

Question: We bought a home last spring. It’s brick and wood on the exterior, and there is some kind of ivy growing up on the side of the house. We love the way the ivy looks, but we’ve been told that we should remove it because it could damage the brick. Is this true? If so, how should we go about removing it?

Answer: There are several different ivies and ivy-like plants whose aerial roots are capable of clinging to buildings. English ivy is among the most notorious, but you could also have Virginia creeper or Boston ivy growing up your home. Unlike other vining plants, such as wisteria and bittersweet, that climb by twining around an object, ivies climb by producing aerial roots or little, suction cup-like pads along their roots and stems that “grab” onto surfaces in order to climb them.

Ivies have long been said to damage mortar and bricks as they climb, but this isn’t necessarily so. For the most part, ivy damage can be attributed to mortar that was already in poor shape prior to the ivy’s presence. Ivy roots can penetrate into small fissures and cracks in the mortar, but they aren’t strong enough to make new cracks of their own. Once those small, existing cracks have been invaded by ivy roots, they expand and that’s where the damage comes from.

If your home was recently constructed or the mortar and bricks are in good shape, no significant damage should occur. In fact, a handful of studies at Oxford University found that ivy actually helps protect buildings. Researchers there found that the presence of ivy protected structures from water damage and helped insulate them from both cold and hot temperature extremes.

Ivy can, however, easily damage old bricks, wood, stucco and even vinyl siding. The roots easily find siding seams and small cracks in stucco, growing into them and causing damage. With stucco, when ivy is pulled off, the stucco may be pulled off as well.

Ivy is occasionally responsible for moisture issues with older homes because covered exterior walls can hold moisture in. It’s also sometimes blamed for insect and rodent damage, though termites cannot climb up ivy to invade a house. Carpenter ants, however, can climb ivy to find damp wood to feed on.

All of this means that there are both pros and cons to leaving the ivy grow on your home. You’ll have to make the call for yourself. But, if you do decide to remove the ivy, use caution when doing so. Pulling large, established ivy vines off of buildings could also pull out any broken mortar or loose bricks.

I recommend cutting the ivy vines off at their base and letting them die in place. Over the course of a season or two, the vines will dry up and naturally fall away from the house, limiting any potential damage their removal could cause.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio with Doug Oster. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden,” “Good Bug, Bad Bug,” and her newest title “Container Gardening Complete.” Her website is jessicawalliser.com. Send your gardening or landscaping questions to [email protected] or The Good Earth, 622 Cabin Hill Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601.

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    The Right Type of Ivy to Plant Near a Wall

    May 27th, 2010

    There is one mistake you really, and I mean really, don’t want to make in your landscape. You absolutely do not want to plant the wrong type of ivy for the wrong reason. Very bad things can happen.

    First a word on vines…

    Vines climb through a variety of methods, and it is important for you to know what they are and how they work.

    1. Mechanically This is where a vine twists or turns around some support or framework naturally. Through a natural process the vine senses a nearby structure, and wraps around it. Examples of this type of vine include kiwi and clematis.

    2. Tendrils Some vines grip mechanically, but through special growths called tendrils that grow out of the vines. They reach out seeking supports and then wrap around them. Examples of this type include grapes and cucumbers.

    3. Suckers Some vines grip surfaces with suction cup like devices that adhere, even to flat surfaces. This category includes boston ivy.

    4. Roots Some vines have roots that dig into surfaces to secure them, most ground cover vines work this way. Examples include english ivy, sweet potatoes.

    So, about ivy

    The two main types of ivy people grow are boston ivy and english ivy. If you allow english ivy to grow up a wall it will do so, and it will use roots, and the roots will dig into your wood, masonry, stone, or concrete, and tear it apart eventually like water expanding in a crack or a tree’s roots lifting a sidewalk. It can destroy the side of your building, a very costly mistake. English ivy is a ground cover, a great ground cover, but do not let it climb on things you want to preserve. If it you let it climb a tree it’ll also tear off the bark and kill the tree. It is evergreen though, which is why people may be drawn to it.

    Boston ivy on the other hand looks great climbing up walls, my wall in the picture has a yellowish cultivar climbing up it, which I chose to be different and because it was shady I thought it would brighten up the wall to use a lighter colored plant. Because boston ivy uses suckers it doesn’t really damage what it climbs on, though it can hurt painted surfaces. Boston ivy is not evergreen, it will turn pretty colors and drop leaves in the fall, the trade off of having it not destroy your walls.

    When you’re at the garden center and looking at ivy they’re not labeled as such, and many people have made the mistake of training english ivy up a wall, including yours truly many years ago, don’t make the same mistake.

    Posted in: Gardening ”

    1. Joseph Tychonievich Says:
      May 27th, 2010 at 9:01 am

      Good points! I’m growing a stunning variegated boston ivy up my fence, and just love. I want to cover my whole house in it as well!

    2. Emma Watson Says:
      May 27th, 2010 at 11:28 pm

      Thanks a lot for those tips. We have just bought a small old weekend house and I am planning to cover at least one wall with ivy.

    3. Amy @ As Seen on TV Says:
      May 30th, 2010 at 2:10 pm

      This was very helpful. I just purchased a new home and wanted to grow some ivy by my front entrance. Definitely not buying English ivy.

    4. Garden People Says:
      June 18th, 2010 at 2:54 am

      I have lots of walls to cover. I did start out with Clematis but it does not provide as much cover as ivy. Great article thanks 🙂

    5. Scentsy Wickless Candles Says:
      June 22nd, 2010 at 10:06 pm

      I think it is also important to recognize another vine that I mistakenly purchased thinking it would have the same appearance as the beautiful Boston Ivy. It is the Virginia Creeper, which should be avoided at all costs. Although it is a rapid grower and covers an area quickly it can get very invasive.

    6. Al Braun Says:
      June 28th, 2010 at 8:34 am

      If you’ve planted the wrong climber, then what? I’ve been trying to get rid of some vinca that just won’t go away.

    7. Marta Ratajszczak Says:
      August 21st, 2010 at 3:19 pm

      “Because boston ivy uses suckers it doesn’t really damage what it climbs on, though it can hurt painted surfaces. ”

      A well-preserved wall shouldn’t be in trouble because of this. However, once you want to get rid of the vine, it will certainly need repainting, the suckers are nearly impossible to remove!

    8. Anne Wareham Says:
      August 22nd, 2010 at 2:30 am

      I have grown English ivy on our house walls for 20 years: it keeps the walls warm and dry and the roots are in the ground (there are no roots on ivy above ground).

      Have to keep it out of drains.

      It is problematic as ground cover because it is impossible to kill once established….

    9. Barbara Bilyeu Says:
      June 17th, 2011 at 5:01 pm

      Ahhh, reminds me of my horror story. I planted ONE English Ivy start at the base of the fireplace years and years ago. It looked wonderful climbing the side of the house….until it grew down the fireplace – up through the wall (a plant with no bowl) and separated the roof from the house and the house from the fireplace. Then the fun of repairs and trying to kill it. It was a NIGHTMARE and how our marriage made it through that mistake I will never know. Never English ivy ANYWHERE.

    10. mary rogers Says:
      October 20th, 2011 at 9:50 am

      We have a brick house and carriage house with a lot of tall walls. This is too much hard surface. We have planted english ivy anf love the effect. It does involve some effort as we keep it cut away from the gutters and the roof line and around windows, etc.. I am thinking of planting crossvine as it is supposed to stay green in zone 6 in the winter.

    11. Joseph luchkowec Says:
      April 18th, 2012 at 5:46 am

      question on English Ivy, if wood furring strips are used will the Ivy adhere to the wood or the verticle concrete surface?? can pressure treated wood be used??

    12. Joe Burns Says:
      September 30th, 2012 at 8:42 pm

      I don’t have a house yet that I can grow ivy on or around it, but I do have a question:
      Could I use a trellis or lattice type structure to keep English Ivy off the walls of my home, but still allow me the same benefits?

    13. BILL WATSON Says:
      February 3rd, 2015 at 2:10 pm

      I GREW UP IN A BRICK HOUSE, THE FRONT FACADE WAS COVERED IN ENGLISH IVY. WE TO SPENT TIME CUTTER IT AWAY FROM THE GUTTERS, DRAINS AND WOOD.

      MY GRANDFATHER HAD A WORKSHOP IN THE BASEMENT OF THE HOUSE HE USED WHEN HE VISITED. ONE DAY HE TOOK ME TO THE BASEMENT AND SHOWED ME A ONE INCH, TWENTY FOOT ALBINO IVY ROOT GROWING THE MASONRY WALL.

      WE CONTINUED TO PRUNE AND CONTINUED TO GROW THE IVY ON THE FRONT OF THE HOUSE UNTIL IT WAS SOLD THIRTY YEARS LATER.

    14. sally and craig wiggins Says:
      April 12th, 2015 at 2:26 pm

      We have a very high new brick home which would be beautiful with ivy on it.We apparently planted a lot of the wrong kind of ivy and it did not stick. we used plastic things to guide it but it never gripped the brick. We think we may have gotten one batch of Boston ivy because in one small area, it sent out tendrils and did adhere to our home. So if we want it to adhere and not do damage, we need to plant Boston and if we want a ground cover, we can keep our English?

    15. Garry floyd Says:
      March 18th, 2016 at 8:08 am

      Hey I was wondering if somebody knows of a confederate jasmin or carina jasmin…. .I need to know where to get it or how to grow it

    16. Rachel Says:
      July 6th, 2016 at 3:07 am

      We have just purchased a house with very exposed south and west facing walls (UK). I was going to plant a virginia creeper to soften the look a bit and am also looking for something evergreen to climb and give insulation… not Comon Ivy by the sounds of it! What’s the difference between Boston Ivy and Virginia Creeper? Someone said not to plant in the ground but I know they won’t grow the same way in pots or troughs… Any ideas welcome!

    17. DHD Says:
      July 16th, 2016 at 9:57 pm

      Do not plant English Ivy. It is invasive in the USA and illegal in many states.

    18. R.C. Norwood Says:
      December 31st, 2016 at 11:07 am

      I have read about a smaller Boston ivy called parthenocissus henryana that sounds preferable for me, but I don’t know where to find it.

    19. John Says:
      June 12th, 2017 at 5:44 pm

      Don’t try Boston Ivy on brick! It will crack it! The vines grow in between the bricks and unless you are diligent in cutting it back the vine will crack the brick!

    20. Yvonne Says:
      May 21st, 2018 at 2:38 am

      John I’m 100% sure what you had was NOT a Boston Ivy. Boston’s don’t try to grow into bricks they have little gecko like feet that sticks to the brick it will not grow into the brick. We had one covering our whole house, it wouldn’t even grow under the loose stone roof shingles where birds would even go under to make nest’s. It grows over into the sinlight. Boston ivy is the most gentle climber of all climbers in my opinion.

    21. Jen Says:
      June 20th, 2018 at 6:04 pm

      According to the article ABOVE, Boston Ivy is fine and manageable. It’s the English you don’t want. I talked to my landscape architect that made all the decisions on planting. He said the same thing. We have it on a brick wall between ours and a neighbor’s house.

    Leave a Response

    Top of page…

    Having plants winding their way up your outside walls can look very pretty but the actual damage some plant life does to your wall could make some people think twice in allowing the plant to grow in the first place.

    By no means are ALL climbing plants bad for your house, some can genuinely provide benefits which we look at in a minute, but some climbing plants are very aggressive in the way they anchor themselves to your walls and, if left unchecked, could eventually cause serious structural problems.

    It’s worth noting that it’s not all doom and gloom if you have, or you would like, plants trailing up the outside walls of your house, so what plants are usually best, and what ones are best avoided?

    What climbing plants to avoid, and why

    The sort of plants to avoid having trailing up your wall are often the ones that have “suckers” or little mini branches like spikes, that burrow under the paint or pebbledash, into the render of the wall for a foothold. Ivy is a prime example.

    Millions of these penetrations into the wall can mass to one big incursion into the exterior wall surface and it doesn’t take a professional gardener, or a surveyor, to tell you that plants entering the fabric of the building will suck natural moisture in walls and undermine adhesion of the parts of the wall that make up bricks and blocks etc,

    Basically if you want a plant climbing up the wall of your house, choose carefully, as the wrong choice could end up weakening the wall.

    These destructive climbing plants are often known as “self clingers”.

    There are many different species but as I don’t run a gardening website, here’s a few to look out for and avoid.

    • Campsis, also called trumpet vine.
    • Hydrangea petiolaris, which is a climbing version of this plant.
    • Trachelospermum.
    • Pileostegia viburnoides
    • Parthenocissus.

    What other damage can a climbing plant do?

    If it is a large plant with a very thick “trunk” or base, and its base is very close to the wall, the roots can dig deep down, very close to the house and in some cases, can cause settlement or undermine the foundations, meaning shockingly expensive repairs.

    Wall damage by climbing or trailing plants

    Roofs are also vulnerable and plants should NEVER be allowed to grow to the height of the eaves.

    This is because as they can start to enter the roof space and dislodge tiles, crack timbers, and the holes the plant makes can encourage vermin, bats, insects and all sorts of creatures to make their home in your roof!

    How to enjoy climbing plants without ruining the house.

    The basic function of a climbing plant is the fact that it locks itself to the wall as it climbs, so to avoid that damage, it is necessary to provide some sort of frame for the plant to climb, and lock on to, instead of the wall.

    Trellis is ideal for this, however take note that if your house is covered in plant life, out would make it very tricky to get someone to paint the house walls for example.

    Another way of encouraging climbing plants in an non-invasive way is to affix mesh such as “chicken wire” to the exterior walls and let the plants gain purchase by wrapping their leaves or roots around the mesh and not burrowing into the wall itself.

    What Ivy would we recommend?

    Well, I have to say, from my own experience, I would suggest a Japanese creeper, also known as Boston Ivy, like in the photo below.

    This is Boston Ivy, or sometimes called Japanese creeper.

    Boston Ivy is fast growing and although the suckers do not actually penetrate into the wall, they must be kept away from growing up to the roof level as they can dislodge gutters and roof tiles.

    The photo above shows the creeper in Autumn, and dropping leaves.

    It will eventually have no leaves and that is when it should be pruned.

    During the summer the creeper grows very quickly and the leaves are a rich green colour, but come the Autumn, they turn a lovely red, as you see in the photos!

    These creepers are safe as long as you control them, and they are very popular in Germany and Austria for some reason!

    Something to note: Many creepers, the above included, attract swarms of bees in the late summer!

    The wife and I thought there was a bees nest or something, but no.

    They don’t bother you, they concentrate on the plants and harvesting the pollen, which you will find the detritus of that, on the floor after a few weeks.

    With climate change and the widely reported decline of pollinating insects, the Ivy above could be a welcome addition to nature too.

    Painting exterior walls after ivy removal

    As we mentioned earlier, a wall covered in plant life might look nice but it can have drawbacks if you want the walls underneath repaired or painted at some point.

    When ivy is removed from a wall it often leaves behind the suckers which are horrendously difficult to remove and often if it is a rendered wall, anyone trying to paint it with normal paint, will NOT get rid of the “shadow” left on the wall by the suckers.

    Quite often these marks have to be removed using a blowtorch and scraping tool.

    What climbing plants would enhance rather than harm my home?

    Your local garden centre would actually be your first port of call, you would be surprised at some of the advice and help a good garden centre will give.

    After all, you could even obtain plants from there that will enhance your home but NOT cause any damage, so it is in the shops interest to be very knowledgeable about the most suited plants for you.

    Although we are not gardeners (!) from asking around some of the more green-fingered members of my family, I would suggest the following plants would be a positive addition to the exterior walls of your home.

    • Parthenocissus quinquefolia – Virginia Creeper
    • Climbing rose plants (preferably helped by a trellis)
    • Firethorn
    • Japanese creeper (Boston Ivy)
    • Clematis
    • Hydrangea
    • Sunflowers. Seriously! Ideal for a bungalow or single story home.

    How to have wall damage cured after removing invasive climbing plants.

    The best thing to do is to call in an expert such as NEVER PAINT AGAIN who can professionally repair plant-damaged exterior walls, to British standards, and then apply a weatherproof protective external wall coating which will damp proof the house, restore any damage and make the exterior walls maintenance free.

    The teams can also work with you to save any plants removed from the wall, for you to fix trellis to the wall once the exterior wall coating has fully dried, and you will not get any more problems with intrusive and destructive plant life on the outside walls of your house.

    To speak to us about renovating your exterior walls, call us on 0800 970 4928

    but please note we do NOT offer an Ivy removal service (!) we are not gardeners. Thanks

    The concept of the living wall has enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity in recent years. What was once a design novelty at fancy flower shows has gone mainstream, and most major urban developments now seem to have at least part of their surface coated in a matrix of panels filled with growing substrate, allowing plants to colonise their surface. But, much as I love these technological marvels, there’s a far simpler, more cost-effective way to clothe buildings in a living cloak of green: plant some ivy.

    Every time I walk past an incredibly complex watering system being installed and scores of workers on cranes hauling huge panels, I think to myself: “None of this is necessary!” Ivy is a cheaper, easier and far less risky option, and provides many of the same environmental and economic benefits as newfangled substrate-filled panels.

    This includes its proven ability to cool buildings in warm weather, both passively by shading its surface from the sun’s rays and actively by the loss of heat as water evaporates from their leaves. According to some studies, this can be as much as 28% on a west-facing wall on a hot summer day.

    What’s more, evergreen climbers can have the opposite effect in winter, acting as an insulating layer preventing loss of heat from the building. In one study, temperatures on an ivy-clad wall were 3C warmer in winter and 3C cooler in summer compared to bare brickwork. A small difference that can have a big impact on energy use.

    Green walls also capture tiny particulates from the air that have been associated with a wide range of health problems, and constantly draw carbon dioxide from the air around them by photosynthesis. Not to mention the wildlife value they supply by providing nesting sites and a nectar source, or the simple fact that a view of a leafy green tapestry beats bare bricks every time.

    One reason why this simple solution is not taken up by more homeowners and property managers is the fear of plants such as ivy damaging brickwork. But contrary to popular belief, studies suggest that sound masonry is unaffected by these plants, whose aerial roots only penetrate existing cracks. In fact, if the wall is well maintained, the insulating effect of the foliage from the freeze and thaw cycle can protect it from damage. Likewise, the dense leaf cover and water-absorbing aerial roots of climbers may help keep walls marginally drier, despite being popularly thought of as a cause of damp.

    In these situations, the main issue is preventing the vigorous new growth from choking drains and guttering and damaging paint finishes. Fortunately, recent research has shown that simply using an anti-graffiti paint is effective in preventing the roots from attaching to brickwork, meaning it is cheap and easy to paint on buffer zones to confine plant growth to exactly where you want it.

    So if you have a boring bare wall outdoors, do one thing this autumn, get out there and plant some ivy.

    Email James at [email protected] or follow him on [email protected]

    We’ve all heard the ugly rumors: Ivy and other climbing plants will ruin the façade of your home. But according to landscape architect Kim Hoyt and a 2010 report by English Heritage and the University of Oxford, that’s not always the case. In reality, it depends on where your house is and what the exterior is made of. Hoyt often tells her clients that if the plant is growing on masonry where there’s good sun exposure, there shouldn’t be a problem. Climbing vines are more likely to cause issues on wood siding and in damp climates; plants like Boston ivy suction onto surfaces with adhesive pads, allowing them to go up and under the wood, trapping in moisture and eventually rotting the façade.

    In short, it’s absolutely okay to leave the magical greenery crawling up your walls alone as long as the conditions are right. And it won’t just look beautiful—the English Heritage report states, “We now have strong evidence that ivy reduces the threats of freeze-thaw, heating and cooling and wetting and drying (and associated salt weathering) through its regulation of the wall surface microclimate.”

    Just came to the realization that your residence isn’t the best spot for a climbing vine? Hoyt assures us there are other ways to achieve a similarly verdant, old-world look. Your best bet: Grow vines up a screen or metal armature placed in front of an exterior wall to fool the eye from afar.

    With the case of the climbing plants closed, here are a few of our favorite exteriors brought alive with lush foliage.

    Boston ivy warms the front façade of the 15-room home in Los Angeles’s Rustic Canyon that actor Dennis Quaid shares with his family.

    Erhard Pfeiffer

    Ivy covers the façade of Victoria Hagan’s Georgian-style house in Connecticut.

    Francesco Lagnese

    Climbing vines camouflage a Manhattan apartment building’s mechanical tower. The rooftop terrace, designed by Dufner Heighes, boasts its own weatherproof kitchen for alfresco entertaining.

    Nikolas Koenig

    Kiwi vines climb up the rear of Martha Stewart’s Maine residence; the terrace and naturalistic landscaping were designed by Jens Jensen in the 1920s.

    Pieter Estersohn

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