English Ivy (Hedera Helix) Care Guide
The mental image of a lush, green plant overtaking the old brick wall of a centuries-old cottage is enough to make any gardener start a new English ivy plant in their home.
English ivy is a fantastic climber, using its tiny roots to grab on to any surface. It can be used to cover any surface you desire.
Of course, it can be dangerous to grow English ivy outdoors as it is invasive in many regions. But as a houseplant, hedera helix is one of the easiest to care for.
English Ivy Overview
|Common Name(s)||English ivy|
|Scientific Name||Hedera helix|
|Origin||Europe, western asia and northern africa|
|Height||Up to 98 ft, climbing plant|
|Light||Bright light, but no direct sunlight|
|Propagation||Potting soil, good drainage|
As long as you have a support structure for your English ivy plant, you can grow them in pots or baskets just fine.
The supporting structure doesn't even have to be vertical. English ivy vines can be trained to grow in any direction with just a little bit of coaxing.
Tie their vines to whatever structure you want them to follow and they will soon take it over, growing up to 50' or longer!
However, you must be patient. They grow slowly in their first year. Growth speeds up considerably in their second year, and in the third year the growth will be so fast you may not be able to keep up with it!
Types of English Ivy
While the most common is the classic Hedera helix, there are three different subspecies of English ivy:
Hedera helix helix
This variety is native to all areas of Europe. The distinguishing feature is that it doesn't have rhizomes and the fruits are a purplish-black color.
Hedera helix poetarum Nyman
Native to the Mediterranean region as well as Turkey, this variety also has no rhizomes, but the fruits are an orangish-yellow color.
Hedera helix rhizomatifera McAllister
The only difference between this variety and Hedera helix helix is that it does have rhizomes.
Many gardeners and plant enthusiasts also consider Hedera canariensis and Hedera hibermica to be subspecies of Hedera helix, but they are not. However, they look quite similar!
English Ivy Care
English ivy is pretty easy to care for and loves being in the house, so long as you place it in doorways or in a cooler spot. If you have an ugly wall or some other blemish to hide, put your ivy there! It will quickly grow and cover up any neglected area.
If you can give your English ivy cool nights and a moist environment, it will love you. During the winter, don't forget to mist your English ivy or place it in the bathroom right after you shower.
When growing English ivy indoors, they love bright, indirect light throughout the entire year. If your variegated ivy leaves turn green, that's a sign that your plant needs brighter light to keep its variegation.
It can be difficult to keep English ivy happy indoors because they don't prefer the warm air of your house, which can be low in humidity.
To combat this, keep the soil in your pot moist while your ivy plants are establishing themselves. After they're mature, they can withstand drier periods and lower humidity.
It's possible to over water these plants as well. You'll know you're over watering when the leaves turn yellow and begin to droop.
Mist your English ivy and it will love you back with lush growth. Misting an ivy will also eliminate spider mites. Aside from misting, you can raise the humidity for the English ivy by placing the pot on a tray of soaked pebbles.
English ivy likes a soil that's rich in organic matter. If you fear your soil doesn't have enough, add a few handfuls of compost to make up for what it lacks. Your soil must also drain well, but retain enough moisture to survive. If you're mixing your own soil, try mixing equal parts of peat moss, perlite, and compost.
You probably won't need to fertilize your ivy plant. But if you do, use a standard houseplant fertilizer like Superthrive and dilute it to 50% strength to avoid burning the plant. Fertilize up to once a month from March to September.
Because English ivy plants are quick growers, they love being re-potted once a year. If you decide to re-pot, do it in the early spring when they're just starting to grow.
You'll know it's time to re-pot when your ivy plant becomes root bound or you find yourself having to water too often. Put them in pots that are only slightly bigger than the existing pot, remembering to prune them well before you put them in their pot.
English ivy vines have a tendency to become long and stretched out. To prune them, all you have to do is pinch the vine off just above an existing leaf.
These cuttings can be thrown away, composted, or (my favorite): used to propagate new English ivy plants!
The simplest way to propagate a new English ivy plant is to do it from cuttings. If you are already pruning your plant, just make sure you prune off a vine that's at least 4" long.
Place the cuttings in a glass of water and stick them in the sun. Eventually you'll see white root hairs popping out. Once these roots are 1/2-1" long you can pot them in a standard pot with the soil mentioned above.
While there are some other pests that can affect your English ivy, the most common pests are spider mites.
If you can spot them early, the simplest way to get rid of them is to use a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol and wipe them off.
You can also try to alter the environment so it's less favorable to spider mites. Increasing the humidity while lowering the temperature is a great way to kill them off.
For serious infestations, you'll need to get a miticide that is specifically designed for ivy plants.
There are a bunch of diseases that can affect English ivy and are covered in detail by the Alabama Cooperative Extension, but the most common are:
Bacterial Leaf Spot
Q. English ivy produces berries...are they edible?
A. If you're a bird, go ahead! They're fantastic food for birds, but are somewhat toxic to humans. And when I say somewhat toxic, that really means DO NOT EAT them!
Q. I'm doing everything I "should" be doing and my English ivy is still dying...what's happening!
A. If you're giving your plant enough light, watering appropriately and have the right kind of soil and you ivy is STILL dying, the most likely culprit are spider mites. Look for their webbing on the underside of your leaves and treat appropriately.
Q. I have a variegated English ivy plant, but it's losing its variegation. How do I get it back?!
A. This is a common problem with a simple solution! Ivy plants will lose their variegation if not exposed to enough light. Simply move your plant to an area of the house that gets more sun. The leaves that lost their variegation won't turn back, but new leaves will be variegated.
Q. Will my English ivy survive outside in the winter? I have it in a pot.
A. As long as the soil and roots don't freeze completely, your plant should be fine. Another consideration is that green English ivy is hardier than variegated English ivy.