How to Grow and Care for Ivy Plants
Ivy is one of the most commonly grown ground cover plants in the world.
It is also widely used as a climber to cover walls, fences and trellises.
Species of Ivy
When they think of ivy, most people think of traditional English Ivy (Hedera helix), however the number of varieties of Ivy is enormous. Ivy species range in form from the huge 6-8 inch leaved Algerian Ivy (Hedera canariensis) to the tiny foliage of the hybrid 'Itsy Bitsy' or heart leaf ivy (H. 'scutifolia').
The leaves may me crinkled as with the variety 'Curlilocks', or variegated types like 'California gold' (yellow, gold, and green) or Hedera helix 'discolor' (green and creamy white).
Growing Ivy as a House Plant
Several types of ivy are also suitable for growing as a house plant, and can be used as a hanging plant, topiaries, or espaliered on a small trellis.
As a house plant, Ivy grows best where they get four or more hours a day of direct sunlight, but it will grow fairly well in bright indirect light.
Keep the soil evenly moist and feed with half strength, all purpose (10-10-10) fertilizer once a month.
Ivy prefers to be kept on the slightly cool side, night temperatures of 50° to 55° and day temperatures of 68° to 72° are ideal.
Overcrowded plants can be repotted during any season. For best results they should be grown in a mixture of 1 part sterile potting soil, 1 part peat moss or leaf mold and 1 part sharp sand.
To induce bushiness, pinch off stem tips.
Growing Ivy in the Garden
Plant ivy in partial to full shade in well-drained garden loam enriched with peat moss, compost or leaf mold.
Ivy can be propagated by cuttings, which are only partially successful, or by layering (pin a section of the stem to the ground, where it will root, after which you can sever the new start from the parent plant.
|Ivy growing in full sun tends to winter-burn, so it is particularly important to have them planted in the shade in Zones 4-7 where winters are very cold.
Set Ivy plants out in the garden in the spring, planting English Ivy 12 inches apart and Algerian Ivy 18 inches apart. It is important to be sure that the plant and the soil are well watered prior to setting them.
If the plant is to grow up a wall, put them as close as possible to the base of the wall. New plants should be pruned to 6" and then not fertilized for the first 3-4 months.
Once established, feed Ivy plants every other month with an all purpose (10-10-10), preferably organic, fertilizer during their growing season.
Regular pruning 2-3 times a year will promote fuller growth, but the plants can be trimmed at any time there are bare spots.
Growing Ivy as a Ground Cover
As a ground cover plant, Ivy is invaluable because of it's ability to discourage soil erosion. As the Ivy vine grows, it sets roots into the soil deeply and densely, and creates a network of roots which binds the soil, helping to prevent erosion and slippage on slopes. Ivy has the ability to climb almost any vertical surface, clinging by means of aerial roots. Once established Ivy plants will rapidly cover any wall or fence with
lush evergreen foliage.
Propagating Ivy Plants
Dividing Ivy Plants. As with most perennials, you can divide the ivy clump by cutting through the mass using a sharp knife or your shovel, or just pull the root ball apart with your hands. Remove any dead or sickly portions and then simply replant.
Softwood Cuttings. If time is not a consideration you can take softwood cuttings about 6 to 8 inches in length, remove the lower 2-3 leaves and insert the cutting into some damp sand or vermiculite. Keep it in a warm spot, and the roots should develop fairly rapidly (anywhere from 10-20 days) giving you a new plant.
Tip Layering. If you intend to keep the plant in the same general area, you might want to layer the stems by just pinning the stem to the soil. The new roots will develop soon, and you can clip the stem between the old and new plant, after which you can remove the parent plant.
Diseases and Pests that Affect Ivy
Most diseases that affect Ivy can easily be controlled by following sound gardening practices and with prudent and careful pesticide applications.
Bacterial leaf spot and stem canker begins as light green spots which later turn brown or black. The leaf stalks become black and shriveled. Avoid high temperatures, high humidity, and wetting the foliage.
Several different fungi can attack and cause leaf spots. Infected leaves can be easily picked off and destroyed.
Watch for spider mites, mealybugs, aphids, scale and white flies....
Spider mites are very small and are very hard to see without a magnifying glass, but heavy infestations can cover the leaves with very fine webbing
quickly. The plants gradually lose their green color and appear dusty or speckled. Submerging the plant in a solution of mild soapy water is often succesful in combatting spider mites. You can also use insecticidal soaps or use a house plant insect spray according to label directions.
Mealybugs look like white puffs of cotton. They suck plant juices and heavy infestations will coat the leaves with sticky honeydew. Mealybugs can be tough to eradicate. They have a waxy covering which tends to repel liquids. I would suggest (and prefer for safety's sake) that you dab each individual insect with a Q-tip dipped in alcohol. Systemic insecticides and some house plant insecticides are sometimes effective, but be certain that it is appropriate to use them on Ivy plants. Always read the entire label of any pesticide or other chemical, and only use when it is absolutely necessary. You must be vigilante in rechecking your plants every 2 weeks or so to be sure that you have eliminated every trace of these bugs or you will quickly be facing the problem all over again.
Aphids are small flea size insects which suck plant juices. They are usually found at the leaf axis or stem tips. A serious infestation will coat the leaves with sticky honeydew, which may then develop a black, sooty mold. Aphids can be green, white, pink or black, and are often accompanied by ants who farm them. Aphid are easily controlled with diligent use of rose dust or other suitable commercial remedies.
Scale insects are usually light brown or tan. They have hard shells and attach themselves to the stems or undersides of the leaves. Sprays are usually not effective since the shell protects the insects.
Heavily infested plants should be discarded immediately.