Ivy is just about everywhere—growing in parks and around office buildings, in front yards, and all over college campuses. And while ivy looks beautiful filling in landscaping or climbing up a wall, specific types of this vigorous vine can also be grown indoors. These types have been bred for more compact growth habits, smaller leaves with tighter spacing, and unique coloring or leaf shapes.
Since they're such aggressive—sometimes even invasive—growers, ivy plants are very hardy, able to withstand full sun, partial shade, or even full shade (although the coloring of variegated types will fade without sufficient light). They like to dry out between waterings, making them relatively drought tolerant. Many ivies are also evergreen, keeping their lush foliage all year long. Here are some of our favorite types of ivy to grow, both hardy outdoor varieties and compact indoor cultivars, too.
English ivy, or Hedera helix, is the iconic ivy we see growing on walls and as ground cover outdoors. Left unchecked, it's a vigorous grower and climber, with vines reaching up to 100 feet long. In fact, English ivy can be so invasive that it's sometimes listed on invasive species lists—so be sure to check with your local extension office to make sure it's okay to plant outdoors where you are.
Despite its typical pestering nature, English ivy has been bred into dozens of compact houseplant varieties with charming coloring, cute leaf shapes, and more tightly spaced leaves that work better for container growing. When growing English ivy cultivars as a houseplant, give the plant lots of bright light and allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings. It's also a good idea to give the leaves a shower every once in a while to remove dust.
Despite its common name, Swedish ivy (Plectranthus australis, also known as Swedish begonia and creeping charlie) is not actually related to English ivy or other ivies in the Hedera genus. Instead, this fast-growing trailing vine is native to Australia, Africa, and India. In addition to the green variety, variegated types of Swedish ivy feature green leaves with white margins.
Display your Swedish ivy in bright, indirect light, but keep it out of harsh sun. Allow the soil to dry out before watering, and take care to fertilize the plant minimally to prevent it from outgrowing its pot too quickly. Since the plant doesn't respond well to pinching or pruning back overgrowth, simply cut off tip cuttings and root them to make a new plant if it's leggy or potbound.
Glacier ivy (Hedera helix 'Glacier') is just one of the many types of variegated English ivy bred for indoor growing. However, it can also be planted outdoors as ground cover, where its shades of green and cream can provide a backdrop for brightly colored plants and flowers. While this plant can survive in shady conditions outside, it does best with at least six hours of sunlight per day.
Use a well-draining potting soil and allow it to dry out completely between waterings. Keep pets away from the foliage, which can be toxic to cats or dogs if consumed. This, in addition to its elegant trailing leaves, makes Glacier ivy an excellent candidate for hanging baskets and high shelves.
This type of English ivy, Hedera helix 'Needlepoint', is named for its leaves, which have three to five lobes that have been bred to taper to long, thin points. This unique leaf shape gives it a pleasantly open, angular texture, adding variety amongst a display with lots of other plants. It also makes for a particularly attractive trailing plant or hanging basket. This hardy, relatively drought-tolerant plant can also be planted outdoors as ground cover or as a climbing vine near a wall, fence, or trellis.
Most common varieties of ivy are evergreen, keeping their lush color year-round. But Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) is different. This vigorous climber changes color with the seasons, shifting from deep green to yellow, orange, red, and finally deep maroon in the fall. This makes it a prized ornamental plant for yards and public spaces like college campuses.
Boston ivy grows best in full sun and is an unfussy, drought-tolerant plant. Prune back aggressive vines as needed in wintertime, taking care not to pull the vines from walls, which may damage the surface beneath.
Native to North African and the Canary Islands, Algerian ivy (Hedera caneriensis or Hedera algeriensis) is an ideal outdoor ivy for warm-weather climates. This species typically features solid green leaves. However, variegated types, like 'Gloire de Marengo' (H. canareniensis variegata), which has dark and pale green-splotched leaves with creamy white borders, are also available.
Ensure that this plant has a rich, well-drained soil and enough water to stay evenly moist. Even without a trellis or other support, it climbs up walls easily. Prune it back regularly to keep growth contained.
Like English ivy, Irish ivy (Hedera hibernica) is an aggressive outdoor grower that's considered invasive in some areas. Because of this, it should be planted outdoors with care and pruned back regularly. While Irish and English ivy look very similar, Irish ivy's leaves tend to be larger, and its veins are light green, not white. The leaves also have a sweeter smell when crushed than English ivy's. This plant is more invasive than its English cousin, and in fact, much of the widely spreading ivy seen growing in yards and on buildings is actually Irish ivy.
Another variety of English ivy bred to be grown as a houseplant, Hedera helix 'Bettina' is a compact, upright cultivar with just a hit of cream or white edging on moss-colored green leaves. While it can be grown as ground cover outdoors, Bettina ivy is an ideal type of ivy to keep in a small space, such as on a desk or counter.
Regular pruning will keep its vines contained. Water the plant when the top inch or so of the soil has dried out, and give it bright, indirect light. If you do want more vigorous growth, fertilize the plant twice a year with standard houseplant fertilizer diluted to half-strength.