How to successfully grow English Ivy – a classic houseplant

The English ivy is one of the easiest houseplants there is to grow in your home. It is a trailing vine that can be trained and shaped onto a trellis or topiary form, or left to hang over the pot and trail to the floor, or trained to climb a support on the wall. My introduction to the ivy was, as a young child, my grandmother had an ivy that she kept on a plant stand underneath her pole lamp. That ivy loved the heat and the extra light from the pole lamp and climbed that pole to the ceiling. As a result, the ivy has remained one of my favourite houseplants.

The English ivy is actually an outdoor, evergreen vine that is native to most of Europe and western Asia. It is not native to North America but does grow outdoors, as an evergreen perennial, in the more temperate areas of Canada and the United States.

Place your English Ivy in a location with a consistent temperature and away from drafts, open doors, or vents. It prefers bright but filtered light. Which means an area that receives light most of the day but not direct hot sunlight. I find that a west or east facing window is best. But with that being said, ivy can also grow well in an area away from the window as long as it has adequate supplemental light such as overhead lights or a lamp. I have ivy successfully growing in both my home in the window area and at my office, which does not have any windows, only artificial lighting.

Ivy plants prefer an evenly moist environment, so water the plants regularly enough to ensure a moist but not soggy soil. Misting regularly or spraying the English ivy with water, weekly helps to prevent spider mites from infesting the plants. The application of a balanced (20-20-20) liquid fertilizer once monthly helps to ensure great growth and leaf development. As always follow the instructions carefully when fertilizing.

For the most part, you may not see any pests and pathogens on your ivy, but sometimes out of the blue, the plant seems to suddenly start to decline (dropping or yellowing of leaves). Most often this is caused by an infestation of red spider mites. Red spider mites are often difficult to see without a close inspection so I lift the plant to the light and search for small and subtle white webs formed on the plant, which often look more like dust accumulation than a full spider web. Spider mites are easily treated with first a good showering with water and then an application of insecticidal soap. A couple of applications may be necessary. Good housekeeping of regular misting and removing any dead debris from soil surface go a long way in preventing mites. Other common pests affecting the ivy include aphids, mealy bugs and scale insects and can usually be removed using the same method as for spider mites.

Browning of the edges of the leaves often indicates a time when you allowed the soil to get too dry between waterings but on the flip side too much water can cause leaf drop, yellowing of leaves and/or stem and root rot. Ivy benefits from a good pruning when the vines gets really long but has only a few leaves along the stem. Cut back to the flusher growth as required. Also feel free to trim as required to train and shape for trellis or topiary designs.

The Gardening Guru loves the English ivy for its ease of care, prolific growth and its versatility for its location in the home or office. Available in endless varieties with different leaf shapes and/or lobing, and with or without variegation, the ivy is a great houseplant to try.