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English Ivy           Hedera


Hedera are of the Ginseng, Araliaceae family and are native to Europe.  This is a vine with three or five lobed leaves of which there are many, many varieties and most grow quickly.  It is very easy to care for, many are tolerant of shade, will cascade down, serve as a groundcover in a large planter, can be trained as topiary or climb if given support, all of which makes it a very popular houseplant or office plant.  Hedera helix is the most famous and is commonly called English Ivy.  The Ivy’s leaves can be a beautiful forest green or variegated with white, cream or yellow ranging from miniature varieties with ½”(1cm) leaves to full size plant with 2” (5 cm) – 8” leaves (20 cm) in length with the vine growing to a length as long as allowed.  The leaves can be flat, curly, crinkly, leathery or glossy.  There are also hearty varieties that can overwinter outside in zones 5-9.   As a bonus it will clean your air and is best suited for people with asthma and allergic conditions.

Light and Temperature

The English Ivy prefers medium light, 4 or more hours of indirect but bright light, and will tolerate low light but if you have a variety with a variegated leaf it will need more light and not direct sun.  The green variety will do well in an east or west (if not too hot) facing window and all varieties like it rather cool.  If only artificial light is available provide 4000 lumens or 400 foot candles, at least.  If your variegated variety is putting out green leaves you can snip them off and put your plant in more light so the new leaves will emerge with the variegation you desire.  If the location is too warm you can help with raising the humidity.  Too dry air will encourage pest infestations.  A cool, 50°F (10°C) at night and 60°-65°F (15°-18°C) during the day is ideal for most varieties.  A cool location with air movement, not drafty, and medium light is ideal.  English Ivy can tolerate temperatures of 35° (1°C) without injury.


Water when the soil is dry about 1” (2.5cm) down throughout the growing season from early spring until late fall.  Keeping the soil moist at all times may rot the base of the plant.  Then cut back to letting the soil dry down several inches, nearly to the drying out point, during the rest period from late fall until early spring.  Water the soil and not the leaves.   Mist often with clear water or set your plant on a pebble tray to deter pests if the humidity is low.


3 part humus, 3 parts compost and 2 parts sand is a good mix for an ivy.  You can supply more nutrients and provide a lighter soil if you add 2 parts small bark fines.  A soilless mix would be 1 part sphagnum peat, 1 part perlite and 1 part vermiculite.


Use a diluted, balanced fertilizer every week or two through the growing season.


Flowers do not normally occur on plants grown indoors.  In the woods clusters of small, yellow-green flowers will appear in late summer.  Fruits are black and seeds are spread by the birds.


Re-pot every 2-3 years or when you see roots coming out the bottom of the pot.  Use fresh medium as houseplants will use nutrients you may not be able to supply just with food and the soil can sour with tap water.  This will keep the soil fresh and your plant growing optimally.


It’s very easy to propagate an ivy, best done during the growing season from early spring through summer.  One method is to snip off a leaf or a vine of several leaves and put the leaf node(s) into a moist rooting soil secured with a paperclip(s).  You could tip layer by putting a pot of rooting soil near your plant and place one or more leaf nodes over the soil and secure with paperclips.  This can remain connected to the mother plant until you are sure the new pot has roots of its own and then cut to separate.  Another way is to cut off a vine of several leaves.  Leave 4-5 leaves at the end but remove 3-4 leaves.  Put the end you removed leaves from straight into a pot of moist rooting soil with the nodes (bump where the leaf met the vine) covered.  You could also place this bear end into water to root, later putting the cutting in soil after you see that roots have formed.  Keep things warm and they will propagate in no time.  You can cover with plastic to create a mini greenhouse effect for quicker and assured root growth.  Be sure to give your plant fresh air daily and keep a close eye on it so it does not get any direct sun.

Pests and Problems

You may see mottling of the leaves indicating an attack of Spider mites or the brown bumps of Scale.  Both pests can be attracted to English Ivy, especially if the room is warm and dry.  An occasional gentle shower will help deter pests.

Pale leaves may indicate too much light.

Variegated leaves will lose some of their color and be more green if too little light.


To keep your English Ivy bushy, prune shoots back in the spring.

Take it to the office, it thrives in florescent light.

English Ivy can be suited to hydroponics.

English Ivy will help remove toxins like formaldehyde found in some household cleaning products.  Carpeting, dry cleaning, or other home furnishings also release contaminants that may irritate your respiratory tract, sinuses or give you headaches and your plant is a welcome pollutant filter that will improve the quality of your indoor air.

All parts of this plant are poisonous if eaten or chewed by pets or children.


Hedera helix ‘Itsy Bitsy’ has a tiny leaf

Hedera helix ‘Curlilocks’ is a bushy plant that has leaves that curl, wonderful indoors

Hedera helix ‘Glacier’ has 3 leathery lobes and a variegation of gray-green, silver, and cream and a pink edge, an excellent small leaved indoor variety

Hedera helix ‘Hahn’s Selfbranching’ is a close mat of stems and leaves, an excellent indoor ivy, also for dish gardens

Hedera helix ‘Harald’ is a small-leaved 1-3” (4-7cm) white and green variation, very durable houseplant

Hedera helix ‘Manda’s created’ had jade-green leaves with a rosy edge, an excellent small houseplant

Hedera helix ‘Manda’s Needlepoint’, is a very graceful little, bushy, needle-narrow leaved excellent houseplant

Hedera helix ‘Patricia’ is a dense, leathery, 5-lobed and curved leaved plant, will grow fairly well indoors -preferring a cool location

Hedera helix ‘Silver King’ is a small variety with gray-green leaves edged with white, is a slow grower, likes is warmer than some and good light

Hedera helix ‘White Knight’ has small white-variegated leaves, suitable for unheated rooms

Hedera Helix ‘Melanie’ has leaves edged with light purple and crimped, suitable for unheated rooms

Hedera helix ‘Merion Beauty’ is a dense plant with a small leaf, not the best variety for indoors

Hedera canariensis arborescens variegata or ‘Algerian ivy’ or ‘Canary Island Ivy’ native to North Africa and the Canary Islands, has leathery, bright green leaves, likes a lot of light and can tolerate sun, a very nice indoor or outdoor plant

Hedera canariensis ‘Gloire de Marengo’ has leaves which extend on red petioles (stems) and has a mottled gray-green leaf with a white edge, a very nice indoor or outdoor plant, easily trained as a climber, or a tree form and can withstand some draft

Hedera colchica ‘Dentato Variegata’ has lightly lobed leaves variegated with creamy white 8” (20cm) long leaves, an excellent indoor plant

Hedera colchica ‘Sulphur Heart’ has leaves variegated with golden yellow

‘Sagittifolia’ has an arrowhead look with an elongated central lobe.

‘Ivalace’ has curled, crimped leaves that look lacy

‘Goldheart’ has 3 lobes and a large, irregular central blotch of creamy yellow and a dark green background

Hedera algeriensis has large leaves with shallow lobes up to 6” wide


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