Common Ivy (Hedera Helix) – Complete Care Guide

English Ivy (Hedera Helix) in a hanging pot

Common ivy – sometimes called English ivy, European ivy, or just flat out ivy – is a very hardy vine that grows throughout the world, natively in Europe as well as Western parts of Asia, but can also be found indoors pretty much everywhere on planet.

One of the coolest features of common ivy is that it is very much a “set it and forget it” kind of plant that doesn’t need a lot of babysitting – though you will want to keep your eye on any overly aggressive expansion in your home.

With a bit of tlc, and a bit of regular upkeep you’ll be able to enjoy what many considered to be one of the most beautiful ornamental plants there are. All you need is just a bit of simple information like we’ve put together below for you to have a successful time with this plant.

Common Ivy – An Overview

As highlighted above very briefly, common ivy is known by a variety of different names – each of which are used to describe three different specific sub species:

Helix

The helix sub species of common ivy is usually found throughout northern, central, and western Europe and can be immediately recognized by its purple and black fruit that grow on the ivy branches themselves.

Poetarum

The poetarum sub species of this ivy grows mostly in southeast Europe and Southwest Asia (in Italy, the Balkans, and in Turkey most often) and is almost identical to the helix sub species with one major exception – it has orange and yellow fruit instead of the purple and black color found in other parts of Europe.

Rhizomatifera

Finally you have the rhizomatifera sub species of common ivy, a sub species that does have rhizomes (compared to the other two that do not). This variety has purplish black fruit like the helix sub species and is almost exclusively found in the southeastern region of Spain.

How Much Light Does Common Ivy Need

As a general rule, ivy is going to appreciate a bit of medium light more than anything else – though it will do exceptionally well in bright light, provided that the temperatures don’t get crazy.

Ivy will still grow reasonably well when lowlight conditions are created, but you’re going to see a much slower rate of growth and a lot less vibrant green colors from your ivy as well. 

Long-term exposure to lowlight conditions will actually poison your plant, however, which is why you want to make sure that you are moving it into spaces filled with light every now and again if it’s going to live primarily tucked away in your home.

If you’re common ivy as a bit of white variegation on the leaves you’ll want to keep it out of direct sunlight while still making sure he gets plenty of ambient light at the same time. Too much direct sunlight will end up washing out the vibrant green colors, turning your leaves yellow and then brown, and can actually burn your plant, too.

close up of ivy

Ideal Temperature For Your Common Ivy

Ivy does well in a lot of different temperature conditions, as evidenced by the fact that it grows pretty much anywhere and everywhere on the planet (within reason), but it really prefers temperatures that are a little bit on the cooler side of things most of the year.

If your indoor temperatures stay between 50°F and 75°F most of the year it’s not hard to keep your common ivy happy and healthy. Get colder than that in the ivy is going to go dormant. Go hotter than that and your ivy is going to really start to struggle, really start to slow down, and will die off a lot faster than you might have expected – especially if you mix high temperatures with bright direct sunlight.

Interestingly enough, like every other variety of ivy out there this version of the plant is going to do exceedingly well when humidity levels are on the higher end of the scale.

Ivy doesn’t really love super moist soil (something that we get into in just a second) but it is going to do really well when moisture levels in the air around your plant are pretty saturated.

You May Also Enjoy:  What Do Plants Do At Night?

A quick way to increase the humidity in these localized areas (right around your ivy) is to add a couple of pebbles to a saucer and then fill it with water – placing the saucer right next to your plant, sending the localized humidity levels through the roof while helping you avoid “sweaty” feeling spaces during the summer.

ivy on a wall

Soil For Your Common Ivy

This plant is going to be happiest when it is planted in really fertile soil that has a lot of drainage. Ideally the soil should be able to hold a bit of moisture (but not too much moisture), and be really dense in nutrients.

It’s not a bad idea to go with loose potting soil that has a bit of rock included within, just to increase the overall drainage properties and to make sure that you don’t get a lot of compaction each time that you water your plants.

Keeping the soil moist is a good idea but it’s really all about making sure that the humidity levels around the vines are quite high.

If the temperatures are going to get really high indoors it’s a good idea to make sure that you protect the soil in the root system with a bit of extra mulch. The same way that you would other heat sensitive houseplants – doing everything in your power to make sure that the soil isn’t going to dry out too quickly. 

Fertilizing Common Ivy

Some people swear by “feeding” all of their houseplants with a bit of fertilizer every now and again, a couple of times a year, but when you have something that grows as aggressively and as wildly as common ivy you really don’t have to add anything extra into the mix to get great results.

If you do want to give your ivy a jolt in the early spring, just to sort of wake it up late spring and early summer, you might want to feed it a little bit. Most of the time, though, that’s going to be more than overkill. A time release fertilizer or a weak liquid fertilizer can be spritzed on common ivy that’s struggling to take off, though.

If your ivy has been exposed to a lot of high heat, hasn’t been watered enough, or is showing obvious signs of stress it’s not a bad idea to throw in a little bit of plant food, too. 

ivy in a stone pot

Watering Your Common Ivy

The last thing you want to do when it comes to watering these plants is let the soil get dry and brittle, but you also don’t want to overly saturate the soil that your ivy lives in, either.

Make sure that the soil stays nice and damp (without anything pooling on the surface) and try to shoot for and even watering schedule that maintains this kind of balance as often as possible. Ideally you want to be using the right water for your plants, which tends to be bottled as it’s packed full of minerals.

If you’re able to strike that perfect sweet spot throughout the summer you’ll enjoy a brilliant red and orange foliage in the fall that just wouldn’t have impossible if your ivy was less than healthy because of poor watering habits throughout the rest of the year.

Again, humidity up near the vines and in the leaves is where you’re going to want to focus your attention when it comes to watering things. The soil should stay moist and damp, but jacking up the humidity in localized areas around your vines will go a long way towards keeping this plan nice and happy.

Repotting Common Ivy

As far as repotting is concerned, you’ll only ever have to repot smaller ivy plant into a fresh batch of soil every year or every other year. This isn’t something that you’ll have to go crazy with, either – but if you have an older plant that is kind of lagging behind you can rejuvenate it by planting it with fresh soil treated with a bit of fertilizer.

It isn’t going to take long for ivy vines to really cement themselves in their new container and start expanding, either. Remember to keep a close eye on your vines after you have repotted them (for at least the first week or two, anyway) as you want to get out in front of any aggressive growth that you need to curtail and cut back.

common ivy with dark red leaves

Pruning

Young ivy should be left to its own devices (for the most part) to really grow and establish itself, hooking onto a framework that you set up and sort of encourage without too much pruning, though.

You May Also Enjoy:  Can You Freeze Fresh Herbs?

As soon as the ivy has established itself, though, it’s time to start keeping things in check – sometimes pretty aggressively. If you want your ivy to stay nice and bushy, pinch off any of the tips that are really starting to reach and grow.

Every couple of years it’s not a bad idea to give your common ivy a bit of an extreme haircut, really hacking things back in a way that might even seem a little bit overboard. This will rejuvenate and refresh older plant quite a bit, though while encouraging new healthy growth. It ends up being a very, very good thing!

Propagating Common Ivy

You won’t have any trouble at all propagating common ivy even if you don’t have a lot of experience doing this with other plants, simply because of how aggressive and how resilient ivy is as a general rule of thumb.

For starters, your ivy is going to absolutely love getting trimmed on a regular basis just to sort of keep things fresh, keep things healthy, and to keep your plant rocking and rolling.

Secondly, those trimmings don’t need a lot of jump starting to turn into their own ivy networks. All you have to do is take cuttings (between five and 6 inches long is all you need, really) that you’ve made and dump them into some water.

After a couple of days a little bit of a root system will have established, and from there you can move everything over into a pot filled with loose potting soil. A couple of days after that – maybe a week, maybe 10 days, but usually no more than that – you’ll start to see these vines establish themselves, root, and then take off like a rocket ship.

F.A.Q’s

Here are some of the questions we frequently get from friends, family and all the rest! Check them out to see if yours is there, if not, leave a comment and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Will My Common Ivy Flower?

You aren’t going to see a lot of flowering when you are dealing with healthy common ivy, but you will be able to enjoy a pretty spectacular transformation in the fall (when temperatures start to get low) that turns these gorgeous vines a reddish, orangey, golden kind of color that is really something to see.

Plenty of people grow common ivy all year just to enjoy the month or two that they get with this transformation, and it’s not hard to see why. If you have ivy in your home the space itself changes dramatically with this color shift, creating a new atmosphere during the transition from green to gold and red that is a lot of fun to enjoy and experience firsthand.

How Well Does Common Ivy Do Indoors?

Ivy isn’t going to have a tough time growing well indoors, which really shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise – especially if you have seen grow wild outdoors.

We’ve mentioned a couple of times throughout this guide that ivy absolutely goes crazy every opportunity it gets, aggressively expanding, taking over spaces, and really doing well when it is a bit shaded from direct sunlight, too.

Indoors you’re going to have a lot more control over the soil, the watering schedule, the temperature and humidity levels, the lack of competition that this plant has over nutrients and space, and can always provide a bit of shade and cover from direct sunlight.

All of that results in a picture-perfect recipe for ivy to thrive!

Is Common Ivy Dangerous?

Though it’s hard to imagine any houseplant being “dangerous” in the traditional sense, you might be surprised to learn that a lot of our favorite houseplants pose potential health risks all while we sit there and babysit or fuss over them, doing everything in our power to keep them happy and healthy.

You May Also Enjoy:  What Food Is Good For Aloe Vera Plants? (Eggshells, Bananas, Tea, Coffee & More...)

Common ivy isn’t anywhere near as dangerous or as toxic as a lot of other really popular houseplants, though ingesting the leaves or the vines of English ivy will give you (the very least) a pretty serious stomachache and may even cause vomiting or diarrhea.

Pets should be kept away from ivy growing in the house as well. Their stomachs aren’t designed to eat this kind of plants, either, and you might end up with a pretty expensive that bill on your hands if they have an opportunity to crunch on this plant when you aren’t looking.

Aphids and spider mites grow inside of ivy plant on a pretty regular basis, before the most part they are going to be completely harmless – though they can become a bit of a nuisance. The trouble is some of these pests can jump from your ivy to your other houseplants and wreak havoc on all the hard work you’ve done to get these plants thrive.

Bacterial leaf spotting and root rot can take hold in ivy pretty quickly, forcing your hand to have to cut and trim the infected areas away from the rest of the healthy plant ASAP to avoid a total takeover. You’ll want to destroy those plants (burn them in the backyard whenever possible) to help make sure that these diseases do not spread to other plants, too.

If you do have any issues with those bacterial problems it may be a good idea to make a solution of one part vinegar mixed with 10 parts of water in a little spritz bottle so that you can spray all of your houseplants down to give them a bit of protection.

The mixture isn’t strong enough to do any real damage to your plant but will absolutely devastate the bacterial infections that could have spread like wildfire throughout your houseplants collection – something you’ll want to jump out in front of before it becomes a big problem.

Where Is It Found Outside?

Over time common ivy has been exported to pretty much every corner of the world that can support this kind of plant life, with a natural range that now stretches from the West Coast of the United States all the way through Europe into Iran and the northern parts of Turkey.

Highly aggressive and always looking for ways to expand it’s not at all uncommon for this vine to grow by leaps and bounds in very short stretches of time – usually using smaller trees and younger trees to act as its framework before inevitably choking those plants off and stealing any of the nutrients that they would have used themselves.

It doesn’t take a lot of time for a dense framework of ivy to establish itself and when that happens natural habitat can be devastated. Large swaths of ivy only can grow pretty quickly, choking out anything else that would have grown in its place – ruining the biodiversity of outdoor spaces which is why states in the US like Washington and Oregon have outlawed it entirely.

Indoor Uses For Common Ivy

It’s also commonly planted on purpose around homes and on commercial properties to add a bit of decorative flair.

Like any other self climbing vine, common ivy works well as a natural façade that requires very little maintenance. It is common ivy, after all, that gave the ivy League colleges their nickname – and it’s ivy that fills the outfield walls at Wrigley Field (home of the Chicago Cubs) and helps make that stadium a true legendary landmark.

It’s possible to grow common ivy on a much smaller scale of course, especially if you’re interested in growing it indoors.

If you do go down this direction, though, it’s important to keep ivy away from windows that it could creep through (destroying the window in the process). You want to discourage this kind of “bad behavior” from this plant as much as possible while recognizing that you’ll need to keep your eye on things so that the ivy doesn’t grow out of hand.

Leave a Reply

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