English ivy is a versatile plant that functions as both a ground cover and a vine. Its evergreen foliage provides interest year round. This plant can grow aggressively and it considered invasive in some areas.
This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.
All Common Names:
Tree or Plant Type:
- Ground cover,
- Mixed border,
- Large plant (more than 24 inches),
- Low-growing plant (under 6 inches)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily),
- Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7,
- Zone 8,
- Zone 9
- Moist, well-drained soil
Season of Interest:
- Early winter,
- Mid winter,
- Late winter,
- Early spring,
- Mid spring,
- Late spring,
- Early summer,
- Mid summer,
- Late summer,
- Early fall,
- Mid fall,
- Late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
Size and Method of Climbing (vine); method of spreading (ground cover)
As a ground cover, English ivy is a low growing plant, just a few inches high. It is a trailing-rooting ground cover. Trailing-rooting ground covers have trailing stems that spread out from a central root system. These stems spread out horizontally over the ground and can root where they come in contact with the soil. New shoots will be formed at the point where rooting occurs.
As a vine, it can grow 60 to 80 feet. It is a clinging vine, climbing by use of aerial rootlets. Clinging vines attach themselves directly to a surface by means of holdfasts (adhesive discs) or by small aerial roots. This type of vine grows best on a flat surface, such as stone, masonry walls and wood.
Grows in full sun to full shade, but plants exposed to full sun in winter may experience winter damage.
Moist, well-drained soils. Fairly salt tolerant. Tolerates both alkaline and acid soils.
Disease, pests, and problems
Prone to leaf spots (both bacterial and fungal), aphids, mealybug, scale and mites. Spider mites can be a serious problem on English ivy.
English ivy is an aggressive plant and is considered invasive in some areas.
Native geographic location and habitat
Native to Europe and Russia.
Leaves are simple, alternate and evergreen. The shape varies depending on whether the plant is in the juvenile phase or the adult phase. Juvenile leaves are 3 to 5 lobed and is the typical shape seen. Adult shoots have leaves that are more oval or rhomboid in shape. When used as a ground cover, English ivy tends to produce only juvenile shoots. When it climbs vertically it is more likely to produce adult phase leaves.
Flowers are produced only in the adult phase (see leaf description above.) The flowers are green and held in round clusters that are easily spotted, but not particularly ornamental.
Fruit are black berry-like drupes, produced only when the plant flowers (adult phase). Seeds are spread when birds eat the fruit and disperse the seeds. Fruit should NOT be eaten by humans.
Cultivars and their differences
Wilson English ivy (Hedera helix 'Wilson'): A hardy cultivar.