Ivy plants are popular indoors and out. The lush evergreen foliage of a flowering plant like ivy helps brighten up a room, and its rapid growth can help cover areas outdoors. There are several types of ivy to choose from, so there’s sure to be something that will suit your space!
Most ivy comes from the plant genus Hedera, but other types of ivy are outside this category. Although most ivy plants look similar, they come in several shapes and sizes. Once you get one, you’ll want them all. Among them all, there’s potential for ivy houseplants or outdoor vines.
Most climbing ivy plants are invasive when they’re grown in their ideal conditions. They can climb or cover other plants and steal all the sunlight, causing the host plants to die. Ivies are considered noxious weeds in many areas throughout the US, so make sure you can grow the ivy you want in your area if you plan on putting them outside. When in doubt, stick to native plants.
Let’s look at all the types of ivy and discuss what makes each kind unique.
Azores Ivy, Hedera azorica
Azores ivy might be hard to come by, but it’s often regarded as unwanted and dangerous since it’s an invasive plant and an ivy poisonous to pets if they eat it. It’s a climbing ivy that has medium to lime green leaves that have five points each, making a rugged heart leaf shape.
Like all plants in the Hedera genus, it develops small yellow flowers and berries. Don’t eat them because they’re toxic, though they aren’t technically the poison ivy you may be aware of. Of all the ivy species, this ivy vine may be nice to look at in its native Portugal, but should probably be avoided elsewhere.
Boston Ivy, Parthenocissus tricuspidata
Boston ivy is prized among other ivy varieties for its lush green trailing foliage that won’t hesitate to cover brick buildings and plants. The foliage turns beautiful autumnal hues in the fall, making it favorable over evergreen Hedera ivies because of the pop of color toward the end of the year.
This plant species thrives in full sun but will need partial shade in hotter climates like zones 8-9. Because it grows quickly and relentlessly, it’s considered invasive in most areas. Be careful if you grow them as outdoor plants and trim them regularly. Thankfully, they prop easily from semi-hardwood cuttings.
Canary Island Ivy, Hedera canariensis
Also called Algerian ivy, canary ivy, and Coney Island ivy, this plant is native to temperate areas like zones 7-9 in the US. This evergreen plant has large, dark green leaves that look lovely as a ground cover or climbing outside. Like other Hedera plants, Algerian ivy grows quickly and can take over a space, so it’s important to keep it under control.
Algerian ivy can also cause severe irritation if you come into contact with it, so it’s wise to handle it with gloves and keep it away from children and pets. Therefore, it’s not a good ivy houseplant.
Creeping Charlie, Clechoma hederacea
Certain types of ivy plants, like creeping Charlie, also called ground ivy, are more often than not a headache rather than a plant to appreciate. Outdoors, it takes over lawns since it can spread by seed or stems that develop root nodes that are on the ground. (We have tips on getting rid of creeping Charlie ground ivy!)
However, if you grow it as an indoor ivy plant in hanging baskets, you may view it in a totally different light. It has rounded, heart-shaped green leaves with scalloped edges and pretty purple flowers. When it’s not ravaging a pristine lawn, it really is a beautiful plant. It thrives in shaded areas that receive a lot of moisture, so they’re easy to grow inside or around trees and shrubs outdoors.
Cyprus Ivy, Hedera cypria
Cyprus ivy may be another plant that’s difficult to find to add to your collection since it’s exclusively found growing naturally in Cyprus, which is an island just west of Syria. This ivy plant stands out among other species because of its unique coloration.
Green looks like an accent color because the greyish-white veins take up most of the leaf. The leaf also has a unique shape of a long, slender point. If you can add this one to your collection, it will surely become one of your favorites.
English Ivy, Hedera helix
English ivy – also known as California ivy, or needlepoint ivy – is arguably the most popular ivy collected by house plant lovers. Perhaps it’s because there are over 400 English ivy varieties to choose from! Hedera helix has been cultivated to create varieties with different leaf shapes and color patterns, so there’s likely a type of English ivy you’ll love.
Manda’s crested ivy stands out because of its light green color and curling leaves. Goldchild ivy is an English ivy that gets its name from the bright yellow edges that frame a green center. Buttercup ivy is mostly yellow and lime green, so it’s great to pair with green varieties.
English ivy is considered invasive in many areas, so it’s best suited as a house plant. If you keep it outdoors, prune it regularly so it won’t overtake other plants and tree trunks and escape your garden. This is another variety that grows easily from semi-hardwood cuttings.
German Ivy, Delairea odorata
German ivy is also called cape ivy and can be found in California along the coast or in the San Gabriel Mountains. It forms dense mats that can easily kill off any plant it covers and forms woody vines.
This ivy plant can reproduce via seeds or by sprouting roots along the underground rhizomes and stems. It’s difficult to remove once it establishes itself and is harmful if ingested, so letting it take over your yard is not the best idea. However, its bright green leaves that form a thick carpet are undeniably pretty!
Gloire de Marengo Ivy, Hedera algeriensis
This ivy may be confused with Canary Island ivy (aka Canarian ivy) since they are both sometimes called Algerian ivy. Fortunately, this species and Canarian ivy look much different than each other, so you should be able to tell which is Gloire de Marengo and which is Canarian ivy just by looking at them.
Gloire de Marengo ivy has a mottled pattern of dark green and grey-green framed by a creamy white or yellowish edge. It’s commonly kept indoors, but it can grow outside in zones 6-11.
Himalayan Ivy, Hedera nepalensis
Himalayan ivy – also known as Nepalese ivy – is native to the Himalayas, including Bhutan, India, Nepal, and parts of southeastern Asia. While you may think this area is cold, this plant is best suited for zones 7-10.
It has five points on each leaf, with the middle point being slender and longer than the rest. It’s somewhat drought tolerant, but it will have the best color when given consistently damp soil. It prefers partial shade but can tolerate full sun if necessary.
Iberian Ivy, Hedera iberica
This ivy plant is native to the temperate climates of Portugal, southern Spain, and northern Morocco. It’s unique compared to other Hedera varieties because of its three rounded points. The sides of this North African ivy tend to look circular, while the middle point is more of a point.
In the US, it’s ideal for zones 8-10 since it likes warm weather and can’t tolerate cold temperatures. It’s probably best as an indoor plant since most of the US gets cold weather during the winter months.
Irish Ivy, Hedera hibernica
Irish ivy can adapt to tolerate almost any condition, whether it’s full shade, full sun, or somewhere in between. Hedera hibernica has a specific preference for zones 7-8, so you may have to grow it as an indoor plant if you live outside of these zones.
The leaves of Irish ivy are medium or dark green and have white veins. They have three points, but the two on the side are rounded and sometimes seem nonexistent, creating a heart shape or triangular shape.
Japanese Ivy, Hedera rhombea
Japanese ivy is native to eastern Asia and thrives in zones 8-9. The leaves are deep green and are variegated with white edges. Sometimes, a large portion of a leaf will be white, and you may see an occasional solid white leaf.
The Japanese ivy plant can grow in full sun, partial shade, or dappled sunlight. This variegated ivy will grow well in a bright room inside. This Hedera ivy can cause skin irritation if you touch it, so handle it with gloves and keep it away from pets and children.
Madeiran Ivy, Hedera maderensis
Madeiran ivy grows naturally in the Madeira islands west of Portugal. It’s closely related to Iberian ivy, which is no surprise since they naturally occur as neighbors. This species has broad green leaves with yellow veins that can reach up to eight inches in width.
Compared to other ivy varieties, the leaves of this plant have a leathery feeling, and the points on the leaves aren’t pronounced, so they can take on the shape of a heart.
Moroccan Ivy, Hedera maroccana
Native to Morocco, North Africa, this ivy prefers the temperate climate of zones 7-8. It has reddish stems and glossy foliage that is sure to catch your eye. The 3-5 points on each leaf are defined and look sharp compared to their subtle siblings we’ve mentioned.
With moist soil and moderate sunlight, this ivy will grow well and develop green flowers and berries like the other Hedera ivies we’ve looked at.
Persian Ivy, Hedera colchica
Persian ivy, or Colchica ivy, is typically used as a ground cover because it can form a thick carpet under its preferred conditions. Persian ivy likes partial or full shade in zones 5-9, so plant ivy of the Persian variety underneath trees.
However, Hedera colchica can climb trees and choke them out, so you’ll want to prune the ivy growth regularly. If grown as a ground cover, you can mow this fast-growing plant with a rotary mower to control its height. The dark green leaves with white veins are wide and leathery, but they can be prone to pest problems that make them a bit on the annoying side to care for.
Russian Ivy, Hedera pastuchovii
Russian ivy is closely related to Cyprus ivy. It can be found on the island of Cyprus, but unlike Cyprus ivy, Russian ivy also grows outside of the island throughout the Caucasus region. It grows much slower than Hedera cyprus and lacks the distinctive white coloration; it’s usually solid green.
Swedish Ivy, Plectranthus verticallatus
Swedish ivy is actually native to the Pacific Islands and Australia, but it has become a popular plant in Sweden. (It isn’t even a true ivy plant, either.) It’s sometimes called creeping Charlie, but it’s not the same as Clechoma hederacea, the lawn weed that probably gives you trouble.
Confused yet? Don’t be! Swedish ivy has small glossy green leaves on a reddish vine. It’s a climbing vine but is often grown in hanging baskets because it’s so lush and bushy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I know what type of ivy I have?
A: Identifying different types of ivy can be a bit tricky since there are so many varieties. The easiest way to determine what type of ivy you have. Some Hedera species are heart-shaped, while others have distinctive points.
Q: How many varieties of ivy are there?
A: The genus Hedera, which is the classification of all true ivies, has 15 species. Each species has several different types of ivy within each. Hedera helix alone has over 400 varieties!
Q: Is there a difference between ivy and English ivy?
A: English ivy is the species Hedera helix, while other true ivies belong to the genus Hedera. They are all ivies, but English ivy is a specific species. Boston ivy and creeping Charlie aren’t true ivies, but they’re still given the common name of ivy.
Q: What kind of ivy grows on houses?
A: Most ivies can grow on houses thanks to their aerial roots, but English ivy (Hedera helix) and Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) are popular tree ivy choices.
Q: Does ivy like sun or shade?
A: Most Hedera species prefer partial shade but can tolerate full sun or full shade depending on the climate.
Q: Is outdoor ivy the same as indoor ivy?
A: There isn’t a difference between indoor and outdoor ivies. Growing ivy plants can occur in either, but their success will depend on several factors like climate, moisture levels, and sunlight exposure.
Q: What is the purple ivy called?
A: Red flame ivy, or Hemigraphis alternata, isn’t a true ivy, but it can be grown as a ground cover or in a hanging basket, similar to ivy. Strobilanthes alternata, or the purple waffle plant, is also mistaken to be ivy but has similar sprawling growth patterns.
Q: What is the best ivy for ground cover?
A: English ivy (Hedera helix) is ideal for ground cover because it can tolerate poor soil, sun, and shade and is drought tolerant. It’s considered invasive in many regions, so be sure to prune it regularly to keep it under control.
Q: Is ivy toxic to dogs?
A: The Hedera family of ivy is toxic to humans and animals. All parts of the plants are harmful if ingested, and they may cause skin irritation if you touch them.