Image of english ivy plant

How to Plant Fast-Growing Ivy to Cover Your Fence

Growing ivy is a simple way to cover or decorate an unsightly fence. One you establish this plant, it will quickly take off and cover your entire fence. Check out some of the steps below to get started.

Step 1 – Planning and Preparing

If you want to grow your ivy to cover a fence, you should plan on planting the ivy as close to the fence as you can to encourage growth upward, rather than outward over the ground. Make sure your planting area is far away enough from any walls or other areas you don’t want the ivy to grow on, as controlling ivy, especially on walls, can be difficult.

Preparing the Ground

Prepare the ground by adding plenty of soil into the compost. Turn the earth over with a shovel or fork, and work the compost in thoroughly to a depth of 4 inches for best results. For the best soil, check the pH levels.

Step 2 – Making Holes

If your ivy plants are small, space the ivy plants approximately 12-inches apart and as close to the fence as possible. If the plants are larger, make the holes and spaces between the plants slightly larger.

Then, dig a hole for each plant with your trowel, about 6-inches deep. Loosen the ivy from its plastic container, and spread the root ball with your fingers.

Step 3 – Watering the Plant

Water the hole lightly, put in the ivy plant, and then fill the hole with dirt before watering the plant in. Take care not to water the ivy leaves.

Step 4 ­– Growing the Ivy

The ivy will begin to grow quickly, but it will take about three months for the plant to become fully established. Remove the growth outward to stimulate upward growth toward the fence. After three months, fertilize the ivy every two months.

Growing English Ivy – How To Care For English Ivy Plant

English ivy plants (Hedera helix) are superb climbers, clinging to almost any surface by means of small roots that grow along the stems. English ivy care is a snap, so you can plant it in distant and hard-to-reach areas without worrying about maintenance.

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 apart, or 1 foot apart for quicker coverage.

The vines grow 50 feet long or more, but don’t expect quick results in the beginning. The first year after planting, the vines grow very slowly, and in the second year they begin to put on noticeable growth. By the third year the plants take off, and quickly cover trellises, walls, fences, trees or anything else they encounter.

These plants are useful as well as attractive. Hide unsightly views by growing English ivy as a screen on a trellis or as a cover for unattractive walls and structures. Since it loves shade, the vines make an ideal ground cover under a tree where grass refuses to grow.

Indoors, grow English ivy in pots with a stake or other vertical structure for climbing, or in hanging baskets where it can tumble over the edges. You can also grow it in a pot with a shaped wire frame to create a topiary design. Variegated types are especially attractive when planted in this way.

How to Care for English Ivy

There’s very little involved with English ivy care. Water them often enough to keep the soil moist until the plants are established and growing. These vines grow best when they have plenty of moisture, but they tolerate dry conditions once established.

When grown as a ground cover, shear off the tops of the plants in spring to rejuvenate the vines and discourage rodents. The foliage regrows quickly.

English ivy seldom needs fertilizer, but if you don’t think your plants are growing as they should, spray them with half-strength liquid fertilizer.

Growing Fence-Friendly Vines: Do’s and Don’ts

Has your fence already been damaged by vegetation? Are you in the market for a new one? If you live near West Chester, PA and the Delaware Valley, you’re in luck! Request a quote for professional fence installation.

A structure covered in vines is one of the most classic and beautiful features you can add to your backyard. Vines climbing a fence not only enhance aesthetic value but make your yard more private. Unfortunately, vines can be as destructive as they are beautiful. They’re resourceful plants that crawl up structures in order to soak up as much sun as they can, and sometimes they hold on tight and bring the structure down. You need to make sure your fence is suitable for vines and also that you’ve chosen a vine that won’t cause damage. So, if your dreams have been full of sprawling ivy, not so fast! Here are some do’s and don’ts to consider before growing vines on your backyard fence.

Vines that Aren’t Fence-Friendly

The types of vines that are most likely to be unfriendly to your fence and your outdoor living space are fast-growing, woody vines and invasive species of vines. Though many of these are beautiful, such as hydrangea or English ivy, they can destroy your fence and shouldn’t even come near it.

Woody Vines

Some woody vines are favorites of gardeners for good reason. Many of them, like wisteria or trumpet vine, bloom with bright, fragrant flowers that attract hummingbirds or butterflies. However, when these vines begin to spread over your wooden fence’s surface, they hold excess moisture against the wood. This opens the door for rot as well as fungus, bugs, and other hazards that can wreak havoc on your fence. The “wood” part of the woody vine’s anatomy can also cause a problem: the vine’s strong wooden roots can get between the slats of a wooden fence or into existing cracks and cause breakage, especially on moisture-softened wood. Rapid-growing woody vines in particular can therefore spell disaster for your fence.

Invasive Species

Many a hapless homeowner has introduced a beautiful vine to their fence, and a short time later, they ended up fighting an ongoing war with a vine that turned out to be a member of an invasive species. Invasive species of vines are often related to native species, like American bittersweet’s relative oriental bittersweet. These unwelcome cousins of naturally-occurring vines have been known to overtake entire geographic regions, choking out ecosystems and individual gardens alike. Invasive species like chocolate vine, English ivy, wintercreeper, and Japanese honeysuckle pose a hazard not only to the environment but to the appearance of your outdoor space.

All of the problems that come with growing woody vines on your fence (the moisture and accompanying structural damage) are compounded by invasive species’ tendencies to grow rapidly on every inch of available space. This includes your fence, lawn, other plants and trees, and even your house if left completely unchecked. Once they take hold of your yard, it’s likely that the only way to get rid of an invasive species is with a series of controlled burns and applications of vine-killing chemicals, both of which are likely to damage to the beloved plants and trees you actually want to keep around.

Fence-Friendly Vines

The type of fence you own determines the type of vine you can safely grow on it. Even the gentlest vines hold moisture against the parts of your wooden fence they touch. However, aluminum and vinyl fences respond well to most types of vines since they are more durable and less vulnerable to environmental damage than wooden fences.

For Wooden Fences

If you have a wooden fence, most species of vines are likely to be treacherous to your fence’s longevity. The rotting, cracking, twisting, and other structural damage that vines can cause to your wooden fence mean that most species should be kept away.

The safest vines for wooden fences are annual, herbaceous (non-woody) vines. These vines’ stems can wrap around your wooden fence but won’t cause the types of structural damage that woody vines will. You can guide these vines to grow around fence posts or along your fence’s upper support beams, which will provide them with plenty of light while keeping them away from your fence’s more vulnerable slats.

Though they should be removed at the end of the growing season, annual vines like morning glory, moonflower, sweet pea, and climbing nasturtium all work well with wooden fences. These plants are airier than most woody vines, which minimizes any moisture trapped between the plant and the fence. These vines grow readily from seed and can reach lengths of 10 to 15 feet at the peak of the season. They do not provide much privacy, but they do produce flowers that are vibrant in color and sweet in fragrance, brightening up your summer garden and attracting butterflies and birds. Gardeners who like to vary their planting from year to year will enjoy the opportunity to plant new herbaceous vines each growing season.

For Vinyl Fences

Vinyl fences, which are made of hardy, weather-resistant material, can withstand almost anything, so the structural concerns that wooden fence owners have about growing vines on their fences mostly do not apply to vinyl fences.

Because of their durability, vinyl fences are ideal for homeowners who want their climbing vines to enhance the privacy of their spaces. Coral honeysuckle or clematis are perennial vines that climb vinyl fences readily. These plants provide a lot of coverage in a short period of time, and they can usually span the height of your fence within a single growing season.

Though even the strongman-type woody vines will have little structural effect on your vinyl fence, the plant can still trap moisture against your fence, and with moisture comes a whole host of organisms from algae to bugs. Thankfully, algae growth on your vinyl fence is no big deal. Vinyl is a non-porous surface that does not permit staining, making it easy to clean your vinyl fence.

Bugs, on the other hand, could pose a problem. The moisture, delicious plant matter, and tough structure of a bushy vine may seem like a courteous invitation for bugs looking to homestead, placing the other members of your garden in danger. Make sure to check on what bugs, if any, are fans of your chosen vine and take the proper steps against bug infestation to keep the rest of your outdoor space safe.

For Aluminum Fences

Aluminum fences are perhaps the most readily-beautified of all fences. Their durability and open-lattice framework provide an excellent foundation for a “living fence.” Wisteria, climbing hydrangea, rambling roses, and other heavy, strong woody vines that might overwhelm other fences are no match for aluminum, which withstands moisture and resists rust. Even grapevines grow enthusiastically on aluminum fences. These plants can provide full coverage within a few growing seasons, adding intense color and aroma to your space. The thorny stalks of some vines like bougainvillea might even further discourage intruders!

Quick Tips for Growing Vines

  • Visit a plant nursery. Taking cuttings of random, pretty vines from wooded areas may leave you quickly rueing your decision and even your very existence if the vines turn out to be invasive. Plant nurseries do not frequently cultivate invasive species since they’re often banned from sale by state governments. However, even vines not considered invasive can overwhelm you and your garden. Nursery staff can provide you with a wealth of information about how you can ensure your chosen vine stays under control.
  • Your vines have needs, too! Carefully research your vine’s sunlight, space, and soil requirements. While some vines are relatively low-maintenance, it’s often said that some vines sleep, then creep, then leap – an apt descriptor of how it may take several growing seasons of work to help your vine reach its fullest potential.
  • Consider your alternatives. If you have a wooden fence but are dead-set on filling your garden with climbing hydrangea or wisteria, look into other methods of introducing these plants into your space without destroying your fence. Arbors and trellises often provide a good structure for flowering vines to cling to and allow you to keep your vine’s growth in check. Strategically placing these structures can also help you enhance privacy. Many people place a series of posts a few feet inside their fence line and a string wire or other supports between each post, then guide their vines along these wires. Doing so can give you the full, rich look of creeping, climbing vines without putting your fence in danger.

English Ivy plant is usually known as Hedera helix ivy. English Ivy is adored for its appealing shape and for its deep green leaves. English Ivy comes in large varieties including Gold Heart, Butter cup, Shamrock and many more. Gold heart has green and creamy yellow leaves and Butter cup has bright yellow in sunlight and pale green in shade.

English ivy is actually a type of flowering plant in the family of Araliaceae, and native of Europe and western Asia. This fast growing ivy is a rambunctious grower that trails gracefully in gardens, on house walls, tree trunks and in wild areas. They also can be grown indoors as a houseplant in containers and in hanging baskets. English Ivy grows in the zone 5 through 9.

How to Plant English Ivy

Planting English ivy is not a big task, if you know its requirements. To plant English ivy, buy it from your local nursery or grow ivy plant from its cuttings. English ivy is very easy to propagate through cuttings. Take several cuttings from the growing shoots of an ivy plant at least 4 to 6 inches long. Remove the bottom leaves and place the stems in a glass of clean water. Keep them near a window where they can get sunlight. Change the water everyday until you see the roots in it. Another method is just dip the cuttings in a rooting hormone and plant them in a planting holes.

Ivy plant is not choosy about the soil but it thrives well in a loamy soil that has a good drainage and have the capacity to hold the moisture. Best time to plant ivy is in the spring.

Growing English Ivy Outdoors

Choose a location where the plant can get bright light, it can also grow in partial shade but the growth will be very slow with pale leaves. Do not place them in a direct hot sun, you will end up killing your plant. Plant the ivy in a ground to a depth of 6 to 8 inches, ensure the soil drains well and holds the moisture. English ivy grows best in a pH of 7. Place them near a wall, tree or trellis so that the plant can climb up and grow healthy. Water them about 1 inch every week after the initial planting or water them whenever you feel the soil is dry.

Growing Ivy in Containers

English Ivy does very well as a houseplant. They look good when it spill over the edge of the containers, or in a hanging basket. Plastic pots are best to grow ivy plants as it has the ability to hold the moisture in the soil. Best soil is potting soil which is specially made for potted plants. It has a good drainage and the capacity of holding moisture. It also provides an arid environment for the roots to get oxygen. Place them near your window where they can get enough bright light. Maintain the temperature of approximately 75 degrees F during the day and 65 degrees during the night.

How to Care English Ivy

Fertilize Ivy in a growing stage with a base nutrients of 12-12-12. Do not fertilize your plant for 3 to 4 months after planting it. Water only when the soil is dry but don’t let the soil to dry hard. Allow the top of the potted soil to dry in between watering. Water less frequently in the winter. Winter growth can often be long and spindly, so cut back to strong growth in the spring. Prune the ivy plant to promote the growth and also to get the bushy look. Check your plants for any pest and disease. Do not plant any other plants near ivy, as it will take over the plant and kill them.

English Ivy plat leaves and berries contains the glycoside hederin which may cause toxicosis if consumed. So make sure to keep this plant away from children and pets. Consumption of these plant will results in gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, hyperactivity, breathing difficulty, coma, fever, polydipsia, dilated pupils, muscular weakness, and lack of coordination.

Growing English Ivy Indoors

English ivy (Hedera helix) is a versatile houseplant that can be grown in many different situations. Ivies can be grown in hanging baskets, at the base of other houseplants and in pots of their own. Ivy is often trained on trellis frames or wire topiary forms into various formal or whimsical shapes.

‘Needlepoint’ English ivy ( Hedera helix ‘Needlepoint’) grown on a pyramid frame.
Barbara H. Smith. ©2015 HGIC, Clemson Extension


While most ivies are virtually unlimited in their spread, you can easily keep them pruned to almost any size that you want when grown as houseplants. Small-leafed, slow-growing types are easier to maintain in a small pot.

Ornamental Features

Ornamental ivies have an amazing range of different foliage types. Many ivies have leaves edged, splashed or centered with silver, gray-green, white, cream, yellow, chartreuse or gold.


In the home, plant diseases are very rarely a problem. Too much or too little water plus insects and mites are the main problems. Root rot usually results from a soil mix that does not drain quickly or overly frequent watering.

Mealybugs, mites, aphids, whiteflies and scales are the most common insect pests of ivies grown as houseplants. For more information on Common Houseplant & Insect Pest, see HGIC 2252 Common Houseplant Insects & Related Pests. If the area infested is limited you can prune out those parts of the plant. Periodic washing can help prevent many pest problems. Wash plants by dunking the foliage upside down in a gallon of water to which insecticidal soap has been added. Hold the soil in the pot with a cover of foil or plastic.

Maintaining cooler temperatures and high humidity will help prevent some of the most common insect pests, but the plant will grow more slowly.

Some people develop a skin rash as a result of contact with the plant sap. Wear gloves when pruning ivies if you know that you have this reaction.


Most cultivars of ivy grow best in bright light, but not direct sun. They tolerate low to medium light, but growth is reduced and variegated forms may turn all green. To maintain the bright color of a variegated ivy, give it plenty of light. Ivies can be grown with artificial light, or near a north, east or west window.

Water ivies thoroughly, then let the soil dry to the touch to a depth of ½ inch before watering again. Although ivies prefer moderate humidity, they will tolerate normal low home levels. Raise the humidity by setting the plants on a tray of wet pebbles or perlite. Do not allow ivies to stand in water. Ivies benefit from good air circulation, and they should not be crowded.

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.

Fertilize ivies monthly while they are actively growing with a foliage houseplant fertilizer, according to the label directions. Do not use fertilizer when plants stop growing either in the heat of summer, or when temperatures are cool.

Propagation is by rooting stem or tip cuttings. Most types of ivy will root easily in water. Repot ivies when the plants become top-heavy or root bound or dry out too rapidly. The new pot should be no more than 1 inch larger in diameter than the pot it was originally grown in. Using too large a pot can cause the soil to stay wet too long and lead to root rot.

Ivy topiaries are made by planting a small-leafed ivy cultivar at the base of a sphagnum moss- stuffed wire frame. The plants are kept trained and pinned to the frame. They need to be pruned frequently to keep the shape clear. Sometimes two types of ivy will be grown on a frame to show details, such as eyes, on an animal topiary. Be especially careful to keep the upper portions of a topiary moist.

They can also be trained to different shape frames such as circles, hearts, cones, or pyramids. Choose plants with long stems and weave them around the frame. The frame may either be a pre-made one or made from heavy-duty galvanized wire. If making a frame, be sure to extend the legs of the frame the full depth of the pot to give the planting more stability.


The American Ivy Society describes ivy cultivars by leaf shape and by plant type if unusual. Leaf shapes are ivy with typical flat leaves that have 5 lobes; heart-shaped which may also be triangular, with 3 lobes; fan shaped are triangular or have lobes pointing forward; bird’s foot with narrow lobes or willow-like leaves; and curly leaves are ruffled, rippled or wavy.

Plant types include miniatures, small plants with leaves under 1inch long; oddities, which have unusual traits such as distorted or curly stems or leaves, or bushy upright growth; and variegateds, which have leaves of more than one color, or a color other than green.

There are hundreds of cultivars of this popular ivy. It is an incredibly varied group, with leaves from well under an inch to over 3 inches long and in many colors and shapes.

‘Anne Marie’ English ivy (Hedera helix ‘Anne Marie’) has medium green variegated leaves with a creamy white margin.
Barbara H. Smith. ©2015 HGIC, Clemson Extension

  • ꞌAnne Marieꞌ has medium green leaves overlaid with gray green splotches with a creamy white margin.
  • ‘Asterisk’ has narrow recurved bird’s foot leaves that resemble an asterisk symbol.
  • ‘Buttercup’ has pale green leaves in shade, bright yellow in sun.
  • ‘Caecilia’ has variegated, curly leaves that are rounded and frilled. They are light green with gray blotches and white edges.
  • ‘Calico’ has 3-lobed small typical ivy leaves with white variegated centers.
  • ‘Congesta’ is an oddity with dark green leaves that are very tightly and evenly arranged along two sides of the stem. It has an upright, bushy habit.
  • ‘Conglomerata’ is similar to ‘Congesta.’ Its leaves are a little larger and wavy on the edges.
  • ‘Curly Locks’ has large, rounded curly leaves with rippled lobes.
  • ‘Diana’ has widely spaced leaf lobes that end in long curved or hooked tips.
  • ‘Duckfoot’ forms tiny mounds of miniature duckfoot-shaped leaves.
  • ‘Fluffy Ruffles’ has small, curly leaves with frilled margins.
  • ‘Glacier’ is a popular ivy-leafed cultivar with silvery variegations and white margins.
  • ‘Gold Child’ English ivy (Hedera helix ‘Gold Child’) is one of the more popular variegated ivies.
    Barbara H. Smith. ©2015 HGIC, Clemson Extension

    ‘Gold Child’ has soft mottled green leaves with bright cream yellow margins that are larger and wider than those of other gold-edged cultivars.

  • ‘Gold Heart’ has heart-shaped leaves with a bold splash of creamy yellow in the center.
  • ‘Ingobert’ has grayish dark green typical ivy leaves with creamy margins.
  • ‘Irish Lace’ has star-shaped, bird’s foot leaves that have linear lobes with the margins rolled under.
  • ‘Ivalace’ has very glossy curly leaves that are blackish green in color with wavy, crimped margins.
  • ‘Jubilee’ is a miniature with leaves variegated gray and green, with creamy edges. The flattened branches are covered with densely clumped leaves.
  • ‘Kolibri’ is an ivy-leaf form with silver-white leaves flecked with emerald.
  • ‘Little Diamond’ has grayish miniature diamond-shaped leaves margined in white.
  • ‘Manda Crested’ Large, very curly leaves on a fast and easy-to-grow vine.
  • ‘Midget’ is a miniature bird’s foot leaf ivy with small, flat, starlike, leaves.
  • ‘Needlepoint’ is a miniature bird’s foot leaf ivy often used in topiaries.
  • ‘Parsley Crested’ has heavily crested, curly round leaves on thick upright stems.
  • ‘Sagittaefolia Variegata’ is a birds foot ivy with white-frosted foliage.
  • ‘Shamrock’ has miniature bird’s foot leaves with deeply cut, rounded lobes.
  • ‘Spectre’ is a unique clumping runner with large leaves, dappled cream and gray. The leaves are curled and twisted.
  • ‘Spetchley’ has very tiny-blackish-green, triangular leaves that are maroon when young. The stems are straight, stiff and very dark.
  • ‘Telecurl’ has showy, large ruffled leaves.
  • ‘Tobler’ has tiny lance shaped clusters of leaves.
  • ‘Triton’ has fan-shaped leaves with twisted lobes that are thickly veined. This unique form ivy is nonclimbing.

Types of Ivy Plants

Francesco Scatena/iStock/Getty Images

Indoors or outdoors, the trailing stems and glossy foliage of ivy plants create a distinctive profile, whether grown as a houseplant, ground cover, climber or container plant. Ivies with a wide variety of regional origins and huge range of individual cultivars generally share preferences for moist soil, partial shade and plenty of room to climb or trail. Their vigor, however, can lead to control problems in some growing situations.

English Ivy

claudiodivizia/iStock/Getty Images

English ivy (Hedera helix spp.) is probably the best-known and most frequently planted ivy groundcover in states across the United States. Cold-hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9, English ivy tolerates snow and ice, poor soil and occasional dry spells. Cultivars number over 500. Glossy dark-green leaves range from heart-shaped to spiky “bird’s foot,” from under 1 inch to approximately 2 inches in size. Some species are mottled or edged with white, cream or pale yellow. This vigorous grower can reach 50 to 100 feet high in time and can deprive large trees of necessary light if not kept in check. An aggressive growth habit means that English ivy is classified as invasive in 18 states and the District of Columbia.

Irish Ivy

kirstyokeeffe/iStock/Getty Images

Closely related to English ivy, Irish ivy (Hedera hibernica) shares similar growing habits and USDA zones. Sometimes confused with English ivy, it also illustrates how local growing conditions can determine whether a plant is regarded as invasive, noxious, troublesome or beneficial to the local landscape. In Washington State, for example, Irish ivy is labelled a noxious weed and controlled on public lands like an invasive plant. Homeowners are, however, free to plant it as desired and encouraged informally to keep it under control.

Persian Ivy

Valentina Matricardi/iStock/Getty Images

Persian ivy (Hedera colchica) is native to the Near East, and grows in USDA zones 6 through 9, and sometimes in zone 10 with protection from sustained hot sun. It is sometimes called “bullock’s heart” ivy because of leaf shape. More tolerant of direct sun and periodically dry soil than some other kinds of ivy, a Persian ivy plant can spread 3 to 6 feet and reach a height of 10 to 40 feet. Heart-shaped Persian ivy leaves are the largest of any ivy variety, between 4 and 10 inches long. Varieties may be solid-color, mottled or bordered with cream or white.

Algerian Ivy

smilingsunray/iStock/Getty Images

Also called North African or Canary Island ivy, Hedera canariensis is hardy in USDA zones 6 through 10. Leathery, high-gloss, five- to seven-lobed dark green leaves are supported by distinctive red-tinged stems. Algerian ivy prefers moist rich soil and has a higher tolerance for direct sun than English ivy, to which it is closely related. According to Floridata, Algerian ivy establishes more quickly and grows faster than English ivy in situations where either variety is a compatible choice.

Japanese Ivy

11247t/iStock/Getty Images

Another warm-weather ivy, native to Japan, Japanese ivy (Hedera rhombea) flourishes in USDA zones 8 and 9. A less strenuous grower than Algerian ivy, Japanese ivy reaches 10 to 12 feet in length at maturity. Stems are noticeably purplish, and the shallow-lobed heart-shaped leaves of Hedera rhombea variegata contain streaks and blotches of pure white against dark shiny green.

Nepalese Ivy

DanielPrudek/iStock/Getty Images

Native to the high altitudes of mountainous Nepal and Bhutan, Hedera nepalensis is sometimes called Himalayan ivy. It shares the general family preference for moist soil and can grow in USDA zones 7 through 10, thriving in daylong partial shade or morning sun only. Glossy leaves are diamond shaped and appear to droop a bit on stems. Vines spread to between 5 and 10 feet, while reaching a height of 8 to 10 feet.

Russian Ivy

DarthArt/iStock/Getty Images

Native to the Caucasus mountains, Hedera pastuchovii is called both Russian and Iranian ivy and sometimes included, confusingly, under the “Persian ivy” rubric. Russian ivy is marketed as perennial in USDA zones 7 and above. According to Washington State University Extension, comparisons of cold-tolerance of several ivy varieties suggested that Russian ivy can survive in USDA zone 5 with winter mulching; farther north, it should be treated as an annual.

English Ivy (Hedera helix) Houseplant Care

English Ivy Basic Plant Care

English Ivy (Hedera helix) is a very common houseplant. The evergreen, woody-stemmed plants are often seen trailing across yards and gardens, climbing walls, or encouraged as climbers along a supporting pole inside homes for a beautiful and decorative houseplant accent. Basic care for English Ivy houseplants is relatively easy. The plants require an evenly moist and relatively humid environment, consistent temperature, and an occasional pruning.

English Ivy Care: Light Requirements

Native to light woodland areas, English Ivy houseplants thrive in an environment of bright filtered to low light. Ample light helps the leaves become more colorful but filter the light to prevent excessive heat which can lead to drying and poor performance.

English Ivy plants are not greatly affected by hot and cold temperature but fluctuating temperatures can stifle performance dramatically. Keep English Ivy in an atmosphere with a consistent temperature and away from drafts, open doors, or vents. Temperatures below 40oF will cause the leaves of the plants to take on a different shade. All-green ivies turn red or purple. Maroon streaks take over yellow-leaved cultivars. Marginally variegated ivies turn pink at the edges.

English Ivy Care: Water Requirements

English Ivy (Hedera helix) plants prefer an evenly moist environment. Water the plants freely during growth. Keep English Ivy houseplants moist in the winter. Spraying English Ivy with soft water weekly will help prevent spider mites from infesting the plants.

English Ivy Care: Fertilizer Requirements

English Ivy care requires the application of a balanced (20-20-20) liquid fertilizer monthly for enhanced plant performance. Another option often preferred is to apply a quarter strength fertilizer when watering.

English Ivy Care: Pests & Diseases

Pests and pathogen difficulties may occur with English Ivy. Plant care and maintenance helps reduce these problems. Common pests affecting English Ivy plants are spider mites, aphids, mealybugs and scale insects. Red spider mites are often difficult to see without a close inspection. However, white webs formed on the plant are usually indicative of a spider mite infestation. Remove the infested leaves and treat the plant with a pesticide or insecticidal soap.

Deer are an animal pest that may be problematic for English Ivy plants. However, in humans also, ingestion of any part of the plant will cause severe discomfort. Contact with the sap or airborne hairs may aggravate skin allergies or irritate skin. Typical pathogen (fungal and bacterial) problems affecting English Ivy houseplants are bacterial spot, stem rot and fungal leaf spots.

English Ivy Care: Propagation & Potting

Maintaining healthy soil during care for English Ivy is relatively easy. Grow the plants in soil-based or soilless potting mix that allows for ample water drainage and moisture retention. Your local nursery will be able to help you select the right soil.

Root cuttings are the preferred method of propagation. Root the 4-6 inch cuttings of young (not matured) growth during the spring to autumn. More mature cuttings (adult growth) of 7-9 inches will produce a bushy “tree-ivy” type of growth but root very slowly if at all.

English Ivy Care: Pruning

Winter growth of English Ivy plants tends to be very long without bearing many leaves. Trim areas like this with lots of woody growth but few leaves. For the plant to fill out properly during growth cut the stems down to strong growth areas.

Buy English Ivy plants from a local florist.

English Ivy

Back to Invasive Plant Photos and Information

English Ivy
Hedera helix

Photo: Chris Evans, University of Illinois,

About English Ivy: An Invasive Plant in Maryland

Life cycle/information: English ivy is an evergreen, perennial vine.
Growth habit: Fast growing and invasive. Leaves are dark green, waxy, and alternate along the stem. Leaf form is variable; usually three-lobed with a heart-shaped base. Mature leaves can be un-lobed and spade-shaped. Grows as a dense groundcover (juvenile stage) and a climbing vine (adult stage). Dense foliage blocks sunlight and restricts growth of other plants. Heavy vines cause damage and death to mature trees by loosening the bark and holding moisture against the trunk, making a good environment for fungal disease and decay. Heavy vines can take trees down in wind, snow, and icy conditions. English ivy also serves as reservoir for bacterial leaf scorch, a disease in maples, oaks, and elms.

Photo:Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut,
Reproduction: Spreads by seeds and vegetative runners. Mature vines produce flowers and seeds, which are dispersed by birds.

Photo: Jan Samanek, Phytosanitary Administration,

Conditions that favor growth: Prefers semi-shady, moist soil but grows in many environments – woodlands, fields, forest edges, roadsides, and coastal areas. It also grows on and damages building façades.
What to plant instead: Groundcovers: Foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia), lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina), wild ginger (Asarum canadense) Vine: Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

Controlling English Ivy

  • Kaufman, Sylvan Ramsey & Wallace Kaufman. 2007. Invasive Plants: Guide to Identification and the Impacts and Control of Common North American Species
  • Swearingen J., K. Reshetiloff, B. Slattery, and S. Zwicker. 2002. Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas. National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Washington, DC.

Compiled by Christa Carignan, reviewed by Debra Ricigliano, University of Maryland Extension, 3/2018

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *