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Growing and Caring for English Ivy – An Essential Guide

several english ivy plants in a large planter

English ivy (Hedera helix) is a popular houseplant thanks to its attractive green foliage and easy care requirements. This climbing evergreen can lend an elegant, classic look to indoor spaces when properly maintained.

Here is a complete guide to growing and caring for English ivy in your home.

Introduction to English Ivy

English Ivy is a versatile, evergreen climbing vine native to Europe and Western Asia. It’s celebrated for its ability to grow in a variety of conditions, from full shade to full sun, and its resilience makes it a popular choice for gardeners of all levels.

In addition to its aesthetic appeal, English Ivy can provide insulation and protection for buildings and is known for its air-purifying qualities indoors.

an english ivy hanging in a planter in a kitchen

English Ivy Benefits

English Ivy offers a variety of benefits, making it a popular choice for gardeners and homeowners. It can add a touch of elegance to any setting with its lush, trailing vines, or as a climber plant.

English Ivy is known for its ability to purify air. Research has shown that it can absorb pollutants such as formaldehyde, benzene, and xylene, making indoor air cleaner and healthier.

English Ivy can also help regulate indoor humidity levels by absorbing excess moisture from the air, which can deter mold growth and create a more comfortable living environment.

Selecting an Ivy Plant

When choosing an English ivy plant, look for specimens with green, glossy leaves that are evenly spaced along trailing stems. Avoid plants with yellowing, brown, or shriveled foliage.

The plants should look full and lush, not scraggly. For indoors, it’s best to start with smaller, younger ivy plants that are 4-6 inches tall. Mature ivy vines can grow quite long and may be difficult to manage inside.

How to Grow English Ivy Plants

english ivy in a cream pot

Light Requirements

Ivy does best in bright, indirect light. When growing ivy outdoors, look for areas that receive morning sun and afternoon shade. Indoors, place the ivy near an east or west facing window. Avoid direct southern exposure, which can scorch the leaves.

Soil and Planting

English ivy thrives in an all-purpose potting mix that drains well. Add perlite or vermiculite to improve drainage. Pack the soil down firmly around the roots when transplanting to prevent air pockets.

Water the plant thoroughly after planting and whenever the top 1-2 inches of soil become dry. The plant prefers a slightly moist, but not soaked, soil environment.


English Ivy prefers evenly moist soil but is also drought-tolerant once established. Water the plants deeply once a week, allowing the soil to dry out slightly between waterings.

Overwatering can lead to root rot, so ensure good drainage. Indoor plants may require less frequent watering, especially in winter.

Temperature and Humidity

Ivy vines enjoy humid conditions. Mist the plant daily or use a pebble tray filled with water to increase local humidity. Ivy does best with average room temperatures between 60-80°F, try to avoid cold drafts.


Feed outdoor English Ivy in spring with a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer to support new growth. Indoor ivies benefit from monthly feeding with a half-strength liquid fertilizer during the growing season (spring through early fall).

Propagating English Ivy

ivy grown into a tree shape

English ivy is simple to propagate. Take 4-6 inch cuttings from the tip of the vine in spring or summer. Remove the bottom set of leaves and place the cut tip in water or moist potting mix.

New roots will sprout at the nodes in a few weeks. Once established, the new plant can be transplanted.

How to Care for English Ivy

It requires minimal care when grown indoors. Feed monthly during the growing season with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength. Prune back wayward stems to keep the plant full and tidy. Ivy can be pruned back hard in spring to control size.

Potted indoor ivies should be kept away from cold drafts and heating vents to maintain consistent temperatures.

Mature English ivy plants produce flowers in fall when grown outdoors. Small greenish-white flowers are followed by dark berries. The plant rarely flowers when kept indoors. While ivy berries are mildly toxic to humans and pets, they can provide an excellent winter food source for birds when grown outside.

Troubleshooting Common Problems

a close up of an english ivy
  • Pests: Monitor for pests like aphids, mealybugs, and scale that can infest the foliage. Treat with horticultural oil or neem oil as needed.
  • Brown leaves: Keep an eye out for brown leaves with yellow halos, a sign of bacterial leaf spot. Remove and destroy affected foliage.
  • Diseases: Common diseases include root rot, caused by overwatering, and leaf spot.
  • Fungal Infection: Ensure good air circulation and avoid wetting the foliage to prevent fungal diseases.

Interesting Facts About English Ivy

  • Ivy is one of the few plants that tolerates low light conditions, making it ideal for growing indoors. The leaves gather sunlight through larger surface areas to compensate for lower light.
  • The name Hedera comes from the Greek word for ivy. Helix refers to the vine-like growth habit.
  • It is native to Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. It’s been grown as a decorative houseplant since the Victorian era.
  • In ancient Greece, Hippocrates used ivy to prevent intoxication, while athletes wore ivy wreaths to honor Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and vegetation.
  • The sap from ivy contains glycosides that can cause skin irritation in sensitive individuals. Use gloves when handling cut vines.
  • Ivy can help filter indoor air pollution. NASA studies found it effective at removing formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene from the air.

With proper care, English ivy thrives indoors for many years. It’s an elegant plant that can enhance any living space with its cascading greenery.

Just be sure to provide the light, humidity, and care that ivy requires to maintain its health and vigor. With minimal effort, you’ll enjoy this classic vine for seasons to come.

english ivy hanging in a planter in the kitchen

How fast does English Ivy grow?

The rate at which it grows can vary based on several factors including light, soil quality, water, and temperature. In ideal growing conditions, English Ivy can grow quite rapidly. However, if you are growing it indoors, growth will be slower and more manageable, especially with regular pruning.

Is English Ivy harmful to pets?

Yes, English Ivy is toxic to pets if ingested. It contains compounds that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain in animals like cats and dogs. It’s important to keep the plant out of reach of pets.

How do you control the spread of English Ivy?

Regular pruning and cutting back of overgrown areas can help control the spread of English Ivy. Additionally, it’s important to monitor its growth and remove any unwanted shoots, especially in outdoor settings where it can become invasive.

Are there different varieties of English Ivy?

Yes, there are many varieties of English Ivy, differing in leaf shape, color, and variegation patterns. Some popular varieties include ‘Goldchild’, ‘Glacier’, and ‘Buttercup’. Each variety has its own unique aesthetic appeal.

the essential guide to english ivy Pinterest pin

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