How to Grow English Ivy, According to a Professional “Plant Mom”

Beautiful inside and out.

A wall of fall
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There’s a certain whimsical quality to English ivy. When its long vines drape over fences or spread across the sides of homes, it sets a scene that looks like the beginning of an enveloping story. And when English ivy is planted indoors, it’s just as intriguing. The sight of its symmetrical leaves pouring down from a hanging pot, for instance, feels playful—like the kind of imaginative detail a kid would want in an otherwise empty corner.

English Ivy Plant
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“English Ivy is a beautiful plant,” Joyce Mast, the resident Plant Mom at Bloomscape, says. “It’s also known as Hedera Helix, it’s native to Northern Europe and Western Asia.”

If you’re looking for greenery that has undeniable personality, whether it’s climbing outdoors or hanging indoors, this plant is it. Here's how to make English ivy a lasting character in your book.

What You Should Know Before Planting English Ivy

Known as evergreen perennials that have sprouted since ancient times, English ivy has long been used as a textural element on natural and man-made surfaces. If it is set to grow horizontally, it can spread at least 15 feet wide and eight inches tall. And if it’s prepped to grow vertically, it can stretch more than 50 feet high.

“English Ivy thrives best in bright, indirect light,” Mast continues. “Its variegated leaves will become more pronounced and stunning with brighter light levels.”

Ivy growing out of plant pot on wooden table
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But if you don’t have sunny conditions to grow English ivy, don’t worry. The plant also does well in shade, which is why it’s named for England—a country that isn’t exactly known for sunny weather. Keep in mind, too, that this plant prefers humid conditions and consistent temperatures to keep its dark, verdant shade as vibrant as possible.

Growing English Ivy Outdoors and Indoors

“English ivy is a vigorous ground-cover plant,” Mast says, which is why it is a classic choice for spreading across gardens. It’s important to note, though, that planting and caring for it requires diligence, since the ivy can quickly take over the whole of a backyard. Use basic houseplant food to feed it biweekly in warmer months, and then fertilize it monthly in the cooler months. Also, be sure to prune the leaves regularly by cutting “below the leaf node” to keep its size as big as possible, Mast adds. That’s especially true if the ivy climbs up a tree trunk, since it can cause unnecessary weight and block sunlight.

Window Amidst Ivy On House
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As for growing ivy up a wall, it’s best to be prepared. While it’s true that English ivy looks whimsical as it grows below a roof—and is equally stunning when attached to a pergola or trellis—it can also put a lot of weight on these structures. Holdfasts can help the ivy better adhere to a wall, but may also cause the surface to deteriorate or crumble if the ivy ever needs to be removed. The potential harm it can cause to homes has sprouted red flags for those who aren’t willing to take the risk, but the views could be worth it if you’re willing to put in the initial research and ongoing work.

The safest option, even if it may not be the most imaginative, is to grow English ivy in a pot, especially one that lets its leaves cascade over its edges. “It’s best to plant English Ivy in a pot that is either wide and shallow or a pot that can hold its roots,” Mast adds. “The roots do not burrow down deep into the soil, so if the soil is too deep it will not thrive.” Mast recommends misting the ivy up to three times per week, and washing it with lukewarm water every month to keep dust at bay.

“Ivy prefers to be kept on the drier side, so only water when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch,” she adds. “Make sure you water thoroughly, and that there is no standing water left in the saucer.”

With this advice, Mast hopes that English ivy will soon become a staple in your outdoor or indoor garden—as long as you follow her directions. “It is relatively easy to care for,” she says. “My biggest tip for being a successful Ivy plant owner is not to overwater. If you need to give your plant friend some extra love, mist it, don’t water it.


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