English Ivy

OFFICIAL NAME

Hedera helix

ALSO KNOWN AS

European Ivy, Ivy

ORIGINS & CLIMATE

Eastern Europe | Temperate

ABOUT THE
PLANT

Ivy is often thought of for their ability to either give the side of your house a distinguished collegiate look or invade your entire yard. But as a houseplant, the lovely tangle of vines is a welcome addition to any collection (and much easier to manage).

HOW MANY GREEN THUMBS?

moderate, bright indirect, drought averse, great lengths, bushy or dense, cascading, climbing, shelf, hanging, palmate, variegation

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English Ivy

The basics

Water Needs

his plant prefers to stay fairly moist, but certainly not soggy sopping wet. Check the soil frequently in summer to determine if it's starting to dry out. In winter, you can be a little more lax, allowing the top inch or so to dry out before watering again.

Water

Preferred Light

Bright, indirect light is ideal for English Ivy. Very susceptible to leaf burn in long stretches of direct light. Can tolerate lower light conditions, but be sure to adjust watering and expect the plant to take on an elongated, sparse look. In addition, the variegation may begin to fade.

Light

Humidity Needs

Can adapt to average room humidity, but will appreciate higher humidity, especially in the summer or hot, dry conditions (like near a heater). Your Ivy may also appreciate occasional misting to help remove dust from their leaves and keep brown tips at bay.

Humidity

Ambient Temperature

Adaptable to average indoor temperatures, but generally prefers the cooler side (with nights dipping to around 60°F). Regardless, your Ivy will likely complain when exposed to very cold drafts or dry heat from vents.

Temperature

Toxic or Not?

Ivy leaves are mildly toxic to pets and humans. Ingestion will cause mouth and stomach irritation and possible vomiting.

Toxicity

Size Potential

Indoors, this plant's vines can grow anywhere from 6 to 20 ft depending on how you let it grow! May need to be supported with a moss or coir pole (the aerial roots can latch on for support and to take up any excess moisture).

Size

Overall Look

A young plant quickly takes on the very full look of a small shrub and begins to throw vines over the edge of the planter that can grow to great lengths. Will also grab on to a trellis or moss pole to climb if you give them the chance. Otherwise, this plant works best in a hanging planter or on a high shelf.

Format

Leaf Look

Dainty five-lobed (or palmate) leaves in a deep shade of green accented with a contrasting web of veins. Also commonly variegated, which adds an irregular halo in shades of creamy white at the perimeter of the leaf.

Leaf Shape

Pro Tip

The pooling or accumulation of water in the crevasses between leaves can quickly lead to rot. Do your best to water at the soil level rather than directly over the plant.

Pro Tip

Water

|

Keep soil just moist, but not soggy.

Water Needs

his plant prefers to stay fairly moist, but certainly not soggy sopping wet. Check the soil frequently in summer to determine if it's starting to dry out. In winter, you can be a little more lax, allowing the top inch or so to dry out before watering again.

Light

|

Bright, indirect light.

Preferred Light

Bright, indirect light is ideal for English Ivy. Very susceptible to leaf burn in long stretches of direct light. Can tolerate lower light conditions, but be sure to adjust watering and expect the plant to take on an elongated, sparse look. In addition, the variegation may begin to fade.

Humidity

|

Extra humidity appreciated in drier spaces.

Humidity Needs

Can adapt to average room humidity, but will appreciate higher humidity, especially in the summer or hot, dry conditions (like near a heater). Your Ivy may also appreciate occasional misting to help remove dust from their leaves and keep brown tips at bay.

Temperature

|

Can adapt, but doesn't like sudden change.

Ambient Temperature

Adaptable to average indoor temperatures, but generally prefers the cooler side (with nights dipping to around 60°F). Regardless, your Ivy will likely complain when exposed to very cold drafts or dry heat from vents.

Toxicity

|

Mildly toxic to humans and pets if ingested.

Toxic or Not?

Ivy leaves are mildly toxic to pets and humans. Ingestion will cause mouth and stomach irritation and possible vomiting.

Size

|

Extra long trailing vines.

Size Potential

Indoors, this plant's vines can grow anywhere from 6 to 20 ft depending on how you let it grow! May need to be supported with a moss or coir pole (the aerial roots can latch on for support and to take up any excess moisture).

Format

|

A low shrubby plant that vines to great lengths.

Overall Look

A young plant quickly takes on the very full look of a small shrub and begins to throw vines over the edge of the planter that can grow to great lengths. Will also grab on to a trellis or moss pole to climb if you give them the chance. Otherwise, this plant works best in a hanging planter or on a high shelf.

Leaf Shape

|

Deep green palmate leaves.

Leaf Look

Dainty five-lobed (or palmate) leaves in a deep shade of green accented with a contrasting web of veins. Also commonly variegated, which adds an irregular halo in shades of creamy white at the perimeter of the leaf.

Pro Tip

|

Avoid getting water in-between the leaves.

Pro Tip

The pooling or accumulation of water in the crevasses between leaves can quickly lead to rot. Do your best to water at the soil level rather than directly over the plant.

Beyond The Basics

Soil & Potting

Thrives in a rich, very well-draining potting mix—you can use a good quality potting mix labeled for indoor plants or make your own mix. You can try a 1:1:1:0.5 mix of potting mix, orchid bark, perlite, and activated charcoal. Ensure the pot has the appropriate drainage and don't forget to pour out any excess water collected in the drainage tray or cachepot.

Repotting

Try to repot every 2-3 years in the spring, especially when tending to a younger plant. Increase the pot size by about 2 inches each time or until you're satisfied with the size. It's still important to repot at this stage, but it'll be an exercise of refreshing to soil, keeping the pot size the same, and possibly doing some root trimming to restrict the plant's growth. More on repotting here.

Feeding

If you're not already planning to repot, you can fertilize during the spring and summer months. Once to every two months should be plenty. No fertilizer is necessary during the winter when plant growth naturally slows down. You can try a balanced liquid or water-soluble fertilizer—always diluted more than the recommended strength. More on using fertilizer here.

Grooming

Can be prone to legginess (or straggly, elongated growth). Regular pruning of the new growth (up to a third of the whole plant) will promote a fuller, bushier appearance. New leaves will emerge from the cut stem. Plus, you can use these stem cuttings to propagate! In addition, it's always good practice to regularly remove yellowed or dying leaves and any fallen plant debris. Ensure your scissors or pruners are sanitized to avoid spreading disease or pests. More on grooming techniques here.

Propagation

You can propagate Ivy with a vine cutting. Select a healthy looking vine and cut a section with at least a few sets of leaves. Make the cut just below the last leaf. Remove the lower leaves to ensure a clear stem before rooting. This cutting will grow roots in water or you can root directly in a moistened potting mix. Try to press only the cut stem into the soil, allowing the remaining leaves to stay exposed with good air circulation to avoid rotting. In either case, once the roots are a few inches long and you've spotting some new growth, you can properly pot up the whole plant! More on propagation techniques here.

Variants

TrOUBlESHOOTING

Why does my Ivy have patchy, pale spots?

Symptom

Larger grey or pale patches on a few leaves. The spot may look dried out and somewhat bleached.

Cause

When your plant is exposed to the hot sun, it begins to evaporate more moisture from the leaf surface than the plant can replace. Leading to bleached areas or large grey patches on leaves.

Solution

You may be pushing the limits on how much direct sun your plant can handle. Try moving it out of reach of those direct rays of sun or moving to a spot that receives only minimal direct sun in the mornings or evenings. While this should prevent further burning, the spots will not "heal", so it's up to you if you'd like to prune off the affected leaves.

More on leaf changes here.
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Why are the leaves on my Ivy wilting and yellowing?

Symptom

Multiple leaves are wilting and turning yellow—particularly the older, lower leaves. You may also notice stunted growth and mushy stems.

Cause

The most likely culprit is overwatering and initial signs of root rot. When a plant's roots sit in waterlogged soil for too long, a fungal infection can quickly take over, causing the roots to rot (turning brown and mushy).

Solution

First, ensure that your plant has appropriate drainage (both in terms of well-draining soil and plenty of drainage holes in the plant's container).

If you think you've caught the overwatering early on, you can simply let the plant dry out more than you have been. Allow the top few inches of soil to dry out before watering again. Continue monitoring and only water when needed. You may also try using chopsticks (or something similar) to poke holes in the soil to help the roots get more oxygen. And finally, you can try to "wick" the excess moisture out of the soil by placing the whole pot (with drainage holes) in a tray or container with dry soil. This new layer of dry soil should soak up some of the excess moisture from the waterlogged areas around your plant's roots.

However, if you suspect a serious case of root rot, you'll definitely need to take a peak at the roots by removing the plant entirely from their container. If there are any black and mushy roots, trim them back completely before repotting with fresh soil in a new or sterilized container.

More on leaf changes here.
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Why are the leaf tips on my Ivy browning?

Symptom

Leaves turning brown just on the edges or tips. These edges may gradually change from yellow to brown, crispy, and possibly a bit curled.

Cause

Browning just on the edges of tips is usually a reaction to low humidity. Since many of our houseplants have tropical origins, they also thrive in humid conditions. Our average indoor humidity is usually adequate, but some plants are simply more sensitive to changes in humidity than others. You may notice this more acutely when conditions are particularly dry—like when you turn on the heater in winter.

Solution

Try to accommodate your plant's needs by locating them in more naturally humid places, like the bathroom or kitchen, or grouping a bunch of humidity-loving plants together. But the only way to truly guarantee increased humidity is to get a humidifier!

Once you've addressed the problem: If the brown tips bother you, you can trim them back. Do your best to follow the shape of the leaf to help them look natural. Also, try to cut just short of the discolored edge so it doesn’t expand.

More on leaf changes here.
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Why is the variegation on my Ivy disappearing?

Symptom

Whole plant looking less and less variegated. New leaves are mostly solid green.

Cause

This is most likely due to insufficient light. While Ivy can be quite tolerant of low light conditions, they may begin to loose their variegation to compensate. Greener leaves means more efficient photosynthesis.

Solution

Improve the lighting conditions for your Ivy. These plants prefer medium to bright, indirect light. Make sure to adjust your watering to accommodate the increased light.

More on lighting here.
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