Last Updated on October 19, 2023 by Plant Mom Care
Hedera helix, or English ivy, is from the ivy genre of the Araliaceae family and is indigenous to Europe and West Asia. A widespread, clingy evergreen vine, it grows on walls of buildings, fences, and tree trunks.
It’s a hardy plant, and tends to grow enthusiastically, gaining popularity as an ornamental, but has been labeled as invasive in Australia, the US, New Zealand, and British Columbia, and other areas of the world. When it is established in a place, it is extremely hard to regulate or exterminate and tends to overwhelm other plants, shrubs, and trees.
It insulates as well as provides protection from the weather, keeps soil dry, and prevents walls from getting wet, but can soon become a problem if not controlled correctly. It grows energetically and its roots that grow along the stems are difficult to get rid of, damaging walls, invading and blocking drainage gutters, and damaging roof tiles.
It can also serve as a habitat for rodents and other creatures. Hence a lot of thought should be given before deciding to create a green facade for your home since it will be rather tedious and difficult to remove.
It can grow up to almost a hundred feet high along suitable surfaces, also growing on the ground when there are no vertical surfaces around it. It can grow in a variety of soils, preferring damp, shaded areas, and doesn’t like too much exposure to sunlight.
The leaves are alternate, about 4 inches long. The yellow-green flowers blossom in summer with plenty of nectar, an abundant food source for birds, bees, and a variety of insects. The fruit range from purple/black or orange/yellow berries and ripen in winter, a key food source for birds particularly in winter. Each berry can have 1 – 5 seeds that are spread by birds.
Ivy is widely grown as an ornamental, frequently planted to cover walls of buildings in Europe due to its ability to cool interiors in summer, while protecting buildings from dampness, temperature variations, and exposure to bad weather.
This plant grows well under moderate light and bright, indirect light during winter. If it is a struggle to provide a sufficient amount of light for the plant because maybe your home doesn’t offer ideal lighting conditions as there are only a few windows, you can use grow lights instead. This Ivy can grow well with fluorescent light as with regular sunlight.
Insufficient light can make the ivy become gangly and promote disease and pests. Variegated plants will lose their variation and turn dull green in low light. In contrast, however, leaf burn can result from direct sunlight.
Water thoroughly, letting the soil become almost dry between watering. Ensure that the pot has good drainage as the plant does not like damp roots.
It can tolerate lots of humidity but also does well in average room humidity levels of 40%. Mist the plant regularly to boost humidity and deter spider mites from infesting the plant.
It prefers rather cool temperatures of 52 to 71°F in the day and even colder temperatures at night. Some varieties are documented to have survived winter temperatures of almost -30°F. Protect the plant from drafts as it doesn’t bear this well.
The English Ivy is not picky here and accepts any type of potting soil as long as it drains well.
Repotting the English ivy is best done when the weather turns warmer. It is recommended to use a larger pot.
Although it is an energetic grower, repotting once in 1-2 years is sufficient. Repotting is required when the roots fill the pot.
This is very easy to do. Take a 4 or 5 cutting from a mature stem, cutting off below a leaf node, keep at least 2-3 and remove the rest. Cuttings can either be rooted in water or perlite.
The cuttings can be planted in a pot of fresh soil when the roots get to about an inch long.
It can be fed once a month in the warmer months with an all-purpose liquid fertilizer at the recommended dose. Don’t fertilize the plant in winter.
You will have to prune the plant regularly to make sure it is in good shape and growing well, trimming off sickly or under-developed vines at the same time because it is an aggressively growing vine. Pruning helps encourage bushier plant growth.
English Ivy Common Problems
It is a rather hardy plant that can thrive even if neglected, although there are some problems that can affect it.
If the plant has plenty of drooping leaves, over-watering might be the culprit. Review the watering schedule and water it less.
English ivy is often prey to spider mites and aphids. Both these pests can be controlled and eradicated by spraying the plant with water and insecticidal soap 1-2 times a week for a month. Neem oil can be used instead of soap.
Regular misting will prevent a pest infestation as these pests tend to thrive in low humidity conditions. Isolate the plant, trimming off infected stems and leaves.
Brown leaf tips could be due to either growing conditions being too warm or low humidity. Please note that the plant prefers colder temperatures. Also, regularly misting the plant will give the plant the benefit of a boost of humidity now and then.
If your variegated plant is not getting sufficient light, the leaves begin losing variegation and turning dull green. All variegated plants usually require brighter light than their normal cousins.
Diseases that can affect the ivy are bacterial black or dark brown leaf spots appearing on the plant foliage and root rot damaging the root system.
Unfortunately, the only remedy is to get rid of the infected plants. Root rot is usually due to warm and humid conditions and is fatal to infected plants. As with leaf spots, eliminating the plant is the best solution.
You might notice certain parts of the plant are growing much better than other parts – this is due to the plant not getting evenly distributed light. Prune off the affected parts and move the plant to a better location or adjust the lighting conditions, particularly if you are using grow lights.