English ivy (Hedera helix), a fast-growing climbing vine, is known for spreading over buildings and trees, but it also makes a charming indoor houseplant. When grown indoors, it makes 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 when grown outdoors that states such as Oregon have outlawed the sale, transport, or propagation of the plant across the board. Before purchasing or propagating a houseplant for your collection sure to double check that it’s legal where you live.
Types of English Ivy
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.
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 cute and heart-shaped, colored deep green with pale veining.
There are also variegated cultivars with multicolored leaves like ‘Little Hermann,’ whose elongated, arrow-shaped leaves feature pale green to cream streaks, while ‘Nena,’ also known as variegated fan ivy, offers vines full of small green leaves in the classic ivy shape lined with white edging.
Best Growing Conditions for Your English Ivy Plant
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.
Just as they will on a building or tree trunk outdoors, English ivy in your home will attempt to climb walls. The plant grows aerial roots along its stem to attach itself, which can cause damage to the vertical surface it’s climbing.
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.
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 plant pinched back, which will keep tendrils from growing where they shouldn’t and promote bushier growth.
How to Care for Your English Ivy Plant
Keep your English ivy plant’s soil just barely moist, but not soggy, at all times. English ivy 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 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.
A dry climate caused by air conditioning, forced-air heat, or your area’s climate can create the conditions for an infestation of red spider mites. To keep these pests at bay, it’s a good idea to give the leaves of your English ivy plant a weekly washing in your kitchen sink or bathtub with a mild soap, 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.
How to Propagate Your English Ivy Plant
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. While ivy roots easily in water, water-rooted cuttings are more difficult to transplant and may result in a lower success rate.
How to Propagate English Ivy Via Stem Cuttings
You’ll need sharp, clean pruners or gardening shears, a small planter pot, rooting medium (like perlite, vermiculite, or coarse sand), and clear plastic bags large enough for a container to fit into.
Rooting hormone is optional but helps to increase the success rate.
Step 1: Prepare the containers 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 stems. 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 that they are firmly in place.
Step 4: Place a plastic bag over the container, creating a greenhouse-like environment to hold in moisture, and attach it around the bottom of the container with a rubber band.
Step 5: Put the cuttings in a spot with good bright, indirect light, but be sure to keep it out of fill 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.