Content Detail

English ivy is a versatile plant that functions as both a ground cover and a vine. Its evergreen foliage provides year-round interest. This plant can grow aggressively and is considered invasive in some areas.

  • Family (English) Ginseng
  • Family (botanic) Araliaceae
  • Tree or plant type Ground cover, Vine
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Low-growing plant (under 6 inches), Large plant (more than 24 inches)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily), Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Road salt
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, late winter, early spring, mid spring, late spring, early summer, midsummer, late summer, early fall, mid fall, late fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Creeping, Vining
  • Growth rate Fast
  • Planting considerations Aggressive

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.

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is native to Europe and Russia.

Leaf description:

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 typically three to five lobed. 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. 

Flower description:

Flowers are produced only in the adult phase. The flowers are green and held in round clusters that are easily spotted, but not particularly ornamental.

Fruit description:

The fruit of English ivy are black berry-like drupes, produced only when the plant flowers in its adult phase. Seeds are spread when birds eat the fruit and disperse the seeds. Fruit should NOT be eaten by humans.

Plant care:

English ivy will grow in full sun to full shade, but plants exposed to full sun in winter may experience winter damage. It prefers moist, well-drained soils, is fairly salt tolerant, and tolerates both alkaline and acidic soils.

Pests, diseases and tolerances:

English ivy is prone to both bacterial and fungal leaf spots, aphids, mealybug, scale, and mites. Spider mites can be a serious problem on English ivy. It is an aggressive plant and is considered invasive in some areas.

Thorndale English ivy (Hedera helix ‘Thorndale’):

This variety is a very hardy cultivar with larger, deep green leaves.

Wilson English ivy  (Hedera helix ‘Wilson’):

This is a hardy cultivar with small leaves, good for smaller gardens.


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