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How To Grow And Care For English Ivy

23 de mars de 2024

Native to Europe, English ivy (Hedera helix) is a widespread, evergreen ground cover that thrives in the shade. This plant is popular for its attractive foliage and rapid spread, which helps it fill areas faster than other ground covers. Typically, it sports dark-green leaves with three to five lobes, but many variations exist. Some selections feature variegated foliage with leaves edged in white or yellow. Other forms flaunt heart-shaped, deeply cut, rounded, or diminutive leaves. While beautiful, this invasive species is toxic to people and pets.

Plant Attributes

Common Name:  English Ivy, Common Ivy
Botanical Name:  Hedera helix
Family:  Araliaceae
Plant Type:  Perennial, Groundcover, Vine
Mature Size:  90 ft. long, 1 ft. wide
Sun Exposure:  Partial, Shade
Soil Type:  Loamy, Moist, Well-drained, Fertile
Soil pH:  Acidic (5.5 to 6.0)
Bloom Time:  Fall
Flower Color:  Yellow, Green, White
Hardiness Zones:  Zones 4-13 (USDA)
Native Area:  Europe
Toxicity:  toxic to dogs, toxic to cats, toxic to pets, toxic to people

English Ivy Care

English ivy is a dark green, glossy-leafed plant that grows rapidly as a groundcover or is a beautiful trailing plant grown in containers or hanging baskets. Care for this plant by protecting it from harsh weather conditions, including intense heat and winds. 

English ivy spreads along the ground on an open surface, rooting as it forms a solid mat about four to eight inches high. However, aided by tenacious aerial rootlets, English ivy will climb any object it encounters—house, wall, or tree. English ivy will cover the trunk and main limbs when climbing a tree, blocking sun exposure. It can shade out so many leaves that the tree dies due to a lack of photosynthesis. 

English ivy is considered invasive in many states throughout the South, along with other areas. This plant will climb and spread without interference to stop it from extending beyond its intended growth area.


English ivy thrives in the shade, so planting this as a ground cover under trees or in areas with indirect sunlight will not stop it from spreading. During the winter, English ivy can grow in partial direct sunlight. Not enough sun exposure hinders growth and variegation.


When growing English ivy in containers, use a potting mix with plenty of drainage holes. English ivy grown as ground cover can tolerate various pH levels, but loamy, fertile, and well-draining soil is best. Amend the ground soil with mulch to help retain moisture.


English ivy needs well-draining soil, so wait until the top half-inch of soil is dry before watering again. Do not oversaturate the ground, and provide plenty of drainages. Reduce watering by half during the winter.

Temperature and Humidity

English ivy needs moderate humidity, so use perlite or a tray of wet pebbles to encourage it in container plants. This plant thrives in regions ranging from 50°F to 70°F during the day and tolerates temperature drops to 5°F at night. Depending on the environment, bring English ivy indoors during the winter before the first frost or use a layer of mulch to help insulate the roots.


Use a monthly fertilizer during English ivy’s growing season. Every two to four weeks during the spring and summer, add a balanced 20-20-20 fertilizer diluted to half strength. Stop fertilization during periods of excessive heat during the summer or after the temperatures drop in the winter.

Types of English Ivy

There are several English ivy varieties, but here are a few to know:

  • Hedera helix «Glacier»: An ivy with gray-green leaves edged in silvery white. 
  • Hedera helix «Needlepoint»: An elegant climber with dark green leaves and distinctive three to five sharply pointed lobes. 
  • Hedera helix «Buttercup»: A hardy trailing vine or ground cover containing three to five glossy leaves lobes.
  • Hedera helix «Gold Heart»: An ivy with heart-shaped leaves with creamy yellow coloring in the center. 
  • Hedera helix «Little Diamond»: Small, diamond shapes foliage with gray leaves and white borders.


Prune English ivy anytime throughout the year, but preferably in early spring. Use sterilized pruning shears to trim ground cover and remove diseased foliage by pinching off leaves. If growing English ivy near a tree, gently remove the vines from the soil instead of the bark. By cutting tree-climbing vines at the tree’s base, the vines above will die.

Eradicating ivy on the ground means carefully timed weed-killer applications. Spraying in the summer or fall does no good because a waxy coating on the leaves prevents absorption. You must spray English ivy in the spring when the new leaves are bright green and lack the wax.

Use pruning as a way to shape and control ivy. Remove unwanted ivy by removing the roots and discarding them in the trash. 

Propagating English Ivy

English ivy propagates through stem cuttings. Use the cuttings created when pruning or make a selection when ready. Here’s how to propagate English ivy:

  1. Cut a four-to-five-inch cutting with at least three or four leaf nodes using a clean pair of scissors or pruning shears. 
  2. Place the cuttings in a moist potting mix or clean water. 
  3. Keep cuttings in bright, indirect sunlight until roots emerge. 
  4. After roots develop, move the plants outdoors to use a ground cover or a container for trailing plants.

Potting and Repotting English Ivy

Transplant English ivy when the plants are root-bound or dry out too quickly. Choose a container at least one inch larger in diameter and fill it with moist, potting soil. English ivy can handle transplanting every one to two years, depending on its size. Ensure you choose a container appropriate for the root size because too much soil will take too long to drain, causing root rot to develop. 


Prepare English ivy for the winter by soaking the soil in mid-to-late fall, helping to provide moisture for the plant throughout the colder season. Avoid getting the foliage wet, and prepare the ground before the first frost. After watering, add a two-to-three-inch layer of mulch—chopped leaves or wood chips—surrounding the plant’s roots. Depending on the region, adding a burlap covering over the plant can help prevent damage from strong winds or freezing conditions.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Adult English ivy plants flower and produce blue-black berries filled with seeds. When birds eat the berries, their droppings contain the seeds, which causes seedlings to sprout in the area. The invasive nature of this plant causes this to be an issue if left unchecked.

English ivy is susceptible to many pests, including aphids, spider mites, and mealybugs. Prevent spider mite infestations by growing English ivy in an area high in humidity. Treat all pests by spraying the foliage with soapy water or using a neem oil or insecticidal soap. If heavily infested, pruning can help eliminate some of the problems. 

Some diseases that impact English ivy include leaf spots and root rot. Leaf spots occur when a bacterial or fungal infection is present, but avoiding wet foliage can help prevent it from developing. In addition to leaf spots, English ivy may appear brown if grown indoors in an environment that’s too warm and if the air is too dry. Root rot is preventable when maintaining proper care, including avoiding oversaturated soil and treating it with a fungicide.

Common Problems With English Ivy

While generally problem-free, English ivy still has some problems to know about to avoid them from occurring:

Drooping Leaves

Overwatering and underwatering English ivy can cause drooping leaves. Make sure the top few inches of soil are dry before watering again. When English ivy is overwatered, it causes the stem to decay, while underwatering causes foliage to wrinkle. 

Leaves Turning Yellow

When English ivy turns yellow, this signifies that the plant is receiving too much direct sunlight. Don’t plant English ivy in areas that receive afternoon sun exposure in regions with harsh summer climates. When caring for English ivy in containers, adjust its placement depending on the time of day. Overwatering also causes leaves to turn yellow or brown, so maintaining a balance between watering and sun exposure will help protect the English ivy.

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