English Ivy is a versatile plant that has a dainty demeanor that works well in pots or hanging baskets, as well as trained as a topiary or employed as a groundcover in containers occupied by large, upright houseplants. There are hundreds of varieties, including many with small, finely cut leaves, often called needlepoint ivies. Small-leafed ivies are the most popular houseplants, though dozens of other varieties deserve consideration. Ivy enjoys spending part of the year outdoors, particularly spring and fall when days are mild and nights are cool.
When planted outdoors, English ivy can become a pest by running up trees and buildings, but indoors it needs help holding onto the support. Pin stems in place when training ivy on a moss-filled topiary form. Some people develop slight dermatitis from exposure to ivy’s sap, and the leaves are poisonous if eaten.
English ivy specifications
Light: In spring and summer, moderate light. In fall and winter, bright or fluorescent light.
Temperature: Average to cool room temperatures (50–70°F/10–21°C); temperatures should be 10°F/6°C cooler at night than during the day.
Fertilizer: Feed monthly year-round with a high-nitrogen foliage plant fertilizer.
Water: Allow the surface of the soil to dry between waterings, but do not let the soil dry out completely.
Soil: Any good potting soil that drains well.
Repotting: Every 1 to 2 years, in spring or fall, when roots show through the drainage holes. Shift to a slightly larger pot, but avoid very large containers, which may contribute to problems with root rot.
Longevity: Many years; indefinitely when propagated from stem tip cuttings.
Propagation: Root stem tip cuttings in damp perlite or plain water.
Selections: There are more than 500 named cultivars, which vary in leaf shape, size, and variegation. Cultivars honored by the American Ivy Society include ‘Golden Ingot’ and ‘Duck Foot’. A variegated form of Algerian ivy (H. canariensis), ‘Floire de Marengo’, is a good choice for warmer growing conditions.
Display tips: Place ivy in pots near the edge of a mantle or other surface where the stems can cascade over the edge. Ivy topiaries are a fine accent for formal rooms and outdoor sitting areas.