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English ivy (Hedera helix) may be better known as an outdoor plant that grows along the exteriors of English castles and up the trunks of tall trees, but the fast-growing climbing vine also makes for a charming houseplant. When grown indoors, it’s a lovely trailing plant for a hanging basket and is much easier to manage than ivy grown outdoors, which can be invasive.
In fact, English ivy is so invasive outdoors that some states, like Oregon, have outlawed the sale, transport, and even propagation of the plant. So, before purchasing or propagating a houseplant for your collection, be sure to check that it’s legal where you live. That said, we’re huge fans of the classic vine and appreciate the sophisticated element it adds.
- Botanical Name: Hedera helix
- Common Name: English ivy
- Plant Type: Perennial climbing vine
- Mature Size: 15 feet high
- Sun Exposure: Partial to full shade and bright, indirect sunlight
- Soil Type: Fertile, moist, well-draining soil
- Soil pH: 5.5–6.5
- Toxicity: Mildly toxic
Keep your English ivy’s soil just barely moist (but not soggy) at all times. These plants prefer a humid environment, so keep a spray bottle filled with cool water at the ready to give them regular misting. Since English ivy is naturally fast-growing and pretty vigorous, it needs relatively infrequent feedings. Give your plant regular houseplant fertilizer diluted to half-strength three or four times per year, but avoid fertilizing in the winter when growth is dormant. English ivy can be repotted using standard houseplant soil during any time of year.
Best Growing Conditions for English Ivy
English ivy thrives in cooler, humid climates without too much sun. If possible, choose a spot in your space that gets lots of bright, indirect light but not direct sunlight. However, English ivy can also handle part shade or full sun.
These plants do best when night temperatures are in the upper 50-degree range, with days in the upper 60-degree range. When it comes to soil, English ivy isn’t picky. You can use standard commercial potting soil.
It’s a good idea to grow English ivy in a hanging basket in a place where its trailing vines won’t try to climb and potentially damage walls or furniture.
Just as it will on a building or tree trunk outdoors, English ivy will attempt to climb walls in your home. The plant grows aerial roots along its stem to attach itself to vertical surfaces, which can cause damage to the material it’s climbing.
English Ivy Varieties
While, in theory, you could clip and propagate some vines growing outdoors to bring inside, certain varieties of English ivy are better suited for indoor growing. This is because the original species typically seen in landscapes and on stately old structures has large, widely spaced leaves that can look weak and scraggly with only a few stems in an indoor pot.
You can also grow your plant in a pot with a stake or topiary frame, which the vines will climb to create an attractive shape. Or simply make a point to keep the tips of your English ivy pinched back, which will keep tendrils from growing where they shouldn’t and promote bushier growth.
Luckily, there are dozens of attractive cultivars of English ivy bred specifically for indoor growing. Look for cultivars like ‘Needlepoint,’ with a profusion of small, sharply pointed foliage, or ‘Asterisk,’ which features five-pointed, star-shaped leaves. ‘Lauren’s Lace’ has green leaves with ruffled edges rimmed in yellow, while the leaves of ‘My Heart’ are heart-shaped with a deep green color and pale veining.
There are also variegated cultivars with multicolored leaves like ‘Little Hermann,’ whose elongated, arrow-shaped leaves feature streaks ranging from pale green to cream. ‘Nena,’ also known as variegated fan ivy, offers vines full of small green leaves in the classic ivy shape with white edging.
How to Propagate English Ivy
It’s best to take cuttings for propagation in spring or early summer, but you can root the cuttings you pinch or trim back from an overgrown plant any time of year—they’ll just take longer to root. English ivy can be propagated by planting stem cuttings into a soilless rooting medium.
You’ll need sharp, clean pruners or gardening shears; a small planter pot; rooting medium (like perlite, vermiculite, or coarse sand); optional rooting hormone; a rubber band; and a clear plastic bag large enough to cover the entire pot.
Step 1: Prepare the pot by filling it with rooting medium. Spritz or lightly water the rooting medium with water so that it’s moist but not overly wet. Using a chopstick or a pencil, poke a few holes, each a few inches deep, into the moist soil.
Step 2: Select a few healthy stems to remove for propagation. Choose stems that are woody but still flexible—not the oldest or the youngest. Cut five-inch segments, making the cut just below a leaf node (the spot on the stem where a leaf grows or has grown). Trim off the lowest leaves.
Step 3: Apply rooting hormone to the cut end of each stem, if using. Plant the stems cut-side down in the holes, and pat the soil around them gently so they’re firmly in place.
Step 4: Place a plastic bag over the pot, creating a greenhouse-like environment to hold in moisture, and attach it around the bottom of the pot with a rubber band.
Step 5: Put the cuttings in a spot with bright, indirect light, but be sure to keep it out of full sun. Check the moisture in the container regularly, and spray the soil with water if needed.
Step 6: When you see new growth on the cuttings, typically in one to two months, transplant them into their own containers with standard potting mix, and care for them as usual.
Common Growing Problems
A dry climate caused by air conditioning, forced-air heat, or even your location can create the conditions for an infestation of red spider mites. To keep these pests at bay, give the leaves of your English ivy plant a weekly washing in your kitchen sink or bathtub with a mild soap, and then rinse the leaves with cool water.
In addition to preventing an infestation before it can start, regular washing removes dust, keeping the leaves looking clean and shiny. Giving your English ivy plant enough bright, indirect light is another way to keep pest infestations down.
Is English Ivy Toxic?
They don’t call it poison ivy for nothing: English ivy can cause vomiting, diarrhea, or even neurological disorders if consumed. Luckily, it’s pretty difficult to accidentally consume it. If you have children or pets, however, make sure your ivy plant is out of reach. The most common ailment when it comes to ivy is skin irritation. If you accidentally touch the leaves, you may develop an itchy rash. It shouldn’t last more than a few days if you apply an over-the-counter cortisone cream or ointment. If you notice the rash is getting worse or not improving, call your doctor. To prevent irritation, wear gardening gloves when touching the plant.