How to grow and care for Ivy

Ivy is renowned for its ability to thrive in almost any environment. Ivies are amazing because they can grow well in full sun and can tolerate shade. “Ivy is an excellent ground cover that can cover difficult areas like dry shade, stabilise soil, and provide greenery throughout the year,” says Chris Bonnett, gardening expert for The Express newspaper. Because they are self-clinging, you won’t need to attach anything to them for them to grow up walls or fences, making them ideal for climbing.

Ivy generally doesn’t need much in the way of soil if the area doesn’t get wet. Many ivies are hardy evergreen perennials; however, in extremely cold regions of the UK, some varieties may suffer during severe winters. Ivy can be planted year-round, but spring is the ideal time to plant for them to establish quicker. Even though ivy can be an ideal plant in most gardens, it is important to be mindful that ivies can be toxic to humans and animals so be sure to keep children and animals away from them.

Key facts

Common Names:English ivy, Common ivy, European ivy
Botanical Name: Hedera helix
Plant Type:Perennial, evergreen, climbing vine
Sun Exposure: Partial shade to full sun
Soil Type:Fertile and moist
Soil pH:Neutral to slightly alkaline
Flowering Time:Late autumn
Planting Time:All year round
Height and Spread:Variable
Difficulty: Easy
Toxicity:Toxic to humans and animals

Caring for Ivy

Ivy thrives both indoors and outdoors when planted in baskets or containers where its trailing vines can hang down. It also flourishes when planted directly into the ground. Any kept outside needs to be protected from the cold winter and the hot summer sun.


Ivies grown outside thrive in full sun to full shade. Ivy is a common ground cover for planting under trees, where most grasses may not thrive, due to its ability to grow in shade. In the summer, indoor ivies needs bright, indirect light, but in the winter, it can benefit from some direct light.


Plant this evergreen vine in soil that drains well. It can grow in poor soils and soils with a wide pH range, but it thrives in average loams. A thick layer of mulch helps keep the soil wet in dry environments. Ivies thrive indoors best in loose, well-drained potting mix.


Always check the soil before watering your ivy. These plants likes to be kept a little bit dry, so wait until the soil is dry to the touch on top before watering again. Ivies kept indoors and outdoors thrive in soil that is well-drained and evenly moist. Ivy ought not to be kept in standing water or excessively wet soil.

Temperature and Humidity

Ivy plants grow best in temperatures between 20°C and 30°C. When maintained at the same temperature and medium to high humidity, their leaves keep their constant shade of dark green. Ivy doesn’t like the wind in the cold winter or heat in the hot summer, so plan your planting accordingly. Some species of ivy can be grown outdoors in the winter in some places once they reach maturity.


It is unnecessary to feed ivy growing in the ground, however, if you wish to do so you can feed ivy during spring and summer using a 20-20-20 fertiliser (or 2-2-2 organic formula). Don’t use fertiliser or plant food if the plant is in a stressful situation, such as very hot, cold, or dry soil, or when the leaf production has stopped.

Pruning Ivy

It is not always necessary to prune ivy, but excess growth can be trimmed back at any time of year. Use clean and sharp cutting shears to trim ground cover plants in the spring to keep them manageable and discourage bacterial leaf spots. Prune into a bush shape by pinching off its growing tips in spring. Hard pruning every few years also helps revitalise the plant.

If the ivy is already climbing one of your trees, be careful when removing it. Do not rip a vine off as this can hurt the tree’s bark. Instead cut the vine there you find them coming out of the soil at the base of the tree. When cut off from the earth, the part still attached to the tree will wither and die without harming your tree.

Planting Ivy

In the ground

Plant in a hole that is the same depth as the rootball, and water well. These are self-clinging meaning that it clings to its support via tiny roots that grow along the stems. Therefore, it does not need to be trained along wires for support.

Potting and Repotting Ivy

Some gardeners choose to grow ivies in hanging baskets, letting them cascade over the sides. Indeed, considering their invasive quality, this is a very sensible way to grow the vines for their beauty without having to worry that they will spread out of control. Small ivies can be re-potted once a year, while larger plants can be re-potted every two years. Always re-pot with new potting soil to ensure adequate nutrition. Older plants that can use a boost often can be revived by simply replacing the soil in the same container.

Ivy Problem Solving

Leaf Spots

Sometimes dark spots, caused by a bacterial or fungal infection appear on the plant. They don’t affect the health of the plant. Remove any affected leaves and avoid wetting the foliage when watering.


Ivy cultivars that have variegated or unusually shaped leaves will revert to plain green. Just remove these shoots when you spot them. Variegated ivy growing indoors may lose its variegation if it is too shady.

Brown Leaf Tips

If you are growing your ivies indoors, brown leaf tips are a sign that the room is too warm of the air is too dry. If this happens, simply move the plant to a cooler spot.


Ivy can become a host to aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, and other pests, which can be sprayed off with water and controlled with insecticidal soap. One homemade remedy for aphids is the spray the foliage with a mixture of dish soap and water.

Root Rot

Typically caused by warm and humid weather and can be fatal to affected plants. Removing the affected plant is the best remedy, and the unaffected remaining plants can be treated with fungicide for protection.

FAQ’s About Growing Ivy

What does an overwatered ivy look like?

If you have overwatered your ivy, the leaves will turn brown and dry on the edges. With most plants these symptoms suggest that the plant is too dry but for ivy it is a sign that the plant roots are too dry and essentially drowning.

How do you encourage ivy growth?

To encourage the plant to grow faster, make sure to optimise all of the growing conditions as much as possible. Whilst the plant is young, keep the soil slight moist as it is using much more energy to grow and establish.

Should you water ivy from the top or bottom?

To keep the soil moist throughout, water potted ivy from the bottom where possible. This can be done by filling a tub with a little water and placing the plant inside the tub to absorb the water. Leave the plant for around 10 minutes and then check to see if the soil at the top of the plant is damp. If so, remove the pot and place back where you had it, if not wait a few more minutes before removing the plant.

Should you mist ivy leaves?

For ivy kept indoors, it is recommended to mist every few days as the air in the home is drier than outdoors. But make sure to wash the leaves with lukewarm water monthly to keep the dust off the leaves.

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Updated on April 12, 2023

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