How to Grow English Ivy & Care Guide

English ivy (Hedera helix) plants are excellent climbers, attaching to practically any surface via little roots that sprout along the stems.

English ivy care is simple, so you can plant it in remote and difficult-to-reach regions without anxiety.

Growing English Ivy Plants

A dark spot with organically rich soil is ideal for growing English ivy. Add compost if your soil is deficient in organic matter.

Plants should be separated by at least 1 foot (31 cm) for faster coverage, but ideally by 18 to 24 inches (46 – 61 cm).

The vines can reach a length of 50 feet (15 meters) or more, but early success is unlikely.

The vines grow slowly the first year after planting, but quickly the following year.

By the third year, the plants have fully established themselves, quickly colonizing nearby trellises, buildings, fences, trees, and everything else in their path.

These plants are not only beautiful but also practical.

English ivy can be grown as a screen on a trellis or as a cover for unattractive buildings and structures, obscuring them from view.

As a groundcover that thrives in the shade, the vines are a great alternative to the grass under a tree.

Growing English ivy indoors requires containers with a stake or other vertical framework for climbing or hanging baskets where the plant can cascade over the sides.

You can also make a topiary out of it by cultivating it in a container with a curved wire frame. In this setting, variegated varieties truly shine.

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How to Care for English Ivy

The maintenance of English ivy is simple. Be sure to give them plenty of water so that the soil is always somewhat damp until the plants are well-rooted and thriving.

These vines flourish in humid environments but can survive in dry ones after they’ve established themselves.

Shear off the tops of the plants in the spring to reinvigorate the vines and deter mice when planted as a groundcover. Vegetation is quick to re-grow.

It is unusual for English ivy to require fertilizer, but if you notice that your plants aren’t flourishing, try giving them a light misting of diluted liquid fertilizer.

Please take note that English ivy is a non-native plant in the United States and is classified as an invasive species in several of those states.

Before planting it outside, be sure to contact your regional extension service.


Trim ground cover plants in the spring with clean, sharp shears to keep them manageable and prevent the spread of bacterial leaf spot.

Also in the spring, pinch off the ivy’s growth tips to encourage a bushier appearance.

Every few years, you should give your plant a good, firm prune to help it thrive.

Be cautious if you want to cut down a tree that English ivy has already climbed.

If you want to avoid damaging the tree’s bark, you shouldn’t just yank a vine off.

Instead, sever each vine just above the point where it emerges from the ground at the tree’s trunk.

The portion of the vine still rooted in the tree bark will eventually wither and die if it is severed from the ground below it.

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If you’re looking for an organic solution to get rid of the plant, this removal method is your best bet, but it will take some time.

In order to completely weaken the plant, you will need to go back every year and prune off the fresh growth.

As of this point each spring, no further shoots will emerge.

Propagating English Ivy

If you take stem cuttings when you prune your ivy, you can use them to grow brand new plants by following these simple instructions:

  • Only 4 to 5 inches in length of healthy stems should be used. Keep the snipped-off pieces submerged in water until roots form.
  • Plant the stems in a container or outside. Plants used as ground cover spread by rooting at the nodes; you can dig up and replant rooted stems to propagate more of the plant or to use in a different garden site.

Potting and Repotting English Ivy

Some green thumbs like to cultivate these plants in hanging baskets, where they can trail gracefully down the edges.

Indeed, this is a highly practical technique to cultivate the vines for their aesthetic value without worrying that they may spread uncontrollably, given their invasive nature.

Small ivy plants need to be repotted once a year, but larger plants can go two years between reporting.

Always use fresh potting soil when repotting to prevent malnutrition.

Replacing the soil in an older plant’s existing container is a simple way to give it a new lease of life.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Pests such as aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, and others that infest English ivy can be easily removed by spraying the plant with water or treated with neem oil or insecticidal soap.

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Aphids can be treated at home by spraying the plant’s leaves with a solution of dish soap and water.

Ivy is susceptible to bacterial leaf spot and root rot, two common diseases.

Spots of black or dark brown emerge on the leaves of infected plants.

The only surefire way to save the plants is to uproot them.

Spraying a mixture of water and vinegar (10:1) on any surviving plants can help.

Root rot is often the result of overly warm and humid conditions, and it can kill plants quickly.

Once again, elimination is the panacea. Fungicide can be used to save what plants are still healthy.

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