Ultimate English Ivy Guide

22 Oct 2021

English ivy is an excellent climber that not only can grow on trees and walls outdoors but can make a beautiful hanging plant indoors too. This woody vine can be quite finicky, so we’ll tell you exactly how to care for it and grow one inside your home.

Main Characteristics

Hedera helix is the English ivy’s scientific name, however, it’s also known as common ivy and European ivy. It’s also classified as a woody vine and can attach itself to almost any surface.

This popular hanging plant belongs to the Araliaceae family and is native to Europe, Scandinavia and Russia.

Let’s start off by discussing the stunning English ivy varieties, below.


Check out the seven popular English ivy varieties.

  • ‘Glacier’ English ivy: Its 3 pronged gray-green leaves are framed with a stunning silvery-white edge.
  • ‘Needlepoint’ English ivy: This plant has vibrant green leaves and is deeply lobed. Its emerald green leaves are finished off with a soft glossy appearance. It has slightly lighter-green veins as well.
  • ‘Anne Marie’ English ivy: It has shallow gaps in between the lobes and is complemented with delicate-looking veins and creamy edges.
  • ‘Goldenchild’ English ivy: Its leaves have yellowy edges that are slightly softer and it has a silver-colored vein.
  • ‘Ivalance’ English ivy: This variety’s leaves are a waxy, emerald-green color and slightly curly.
  • ‘Tripod’ English ivy: Its name comes from the fact that it has 3 long pointy lobes. The leaves are a dark green color with light green veins.
  • ‘Golden curl’ English ivy: This variation’s leaves are also curly but they’re a lemon-yellow color covered in dark green patches.


The English ivy has two major beneficial features; its medicinal value and air purifying qualities. We’ll discuss these more in-depth below.

Medicinal Properties

The hedera helix has been used to treat various respiratory conditions like asthma, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It’s also used as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiarthritic.

The two components of the English ivy; triterpenoid saponins and flavonoids improve gut health and are great at fighting off bacteria.

A tiny amount of the leaves can be used in a tea and the sap can be diluted to create an essential oil, however, be careful when doing so because the leaves can be toxic when ingested in large doses.

Air Purifying

The common ivy is an amazing air purifier, it was actually rated among the top 10 air purifying plants by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

It removes various toxins from the air such as benzene, formaldehyde, xylene and toulene.

English Ivy vs. Poison Ivy

People often get confused between the English ivy and poison ivy because they look quite similar. Below are the main differences between the two.

  • The English ivy remains a lush green color throughout the year, while poison ivy begins to turn into a reddish color during autumn and its leaves fall off.
  • Poison ivy’s leaves have a more waxy appearance compared to English ivy.
  • English ivy also has 3 to 5 lobed points and is usually a dull green color.

How Big Does It Get?

If you grow the ivy horizontally as a ground cover it can grow up to 6 to 8 inches (15.2 – 20.3cm) tall and 15 feet (4.5m) wide.

When the ivy is grown as a climber it can reach a height of 80 feet (24.3m).

How Fast Does It Grow?

The common ivy typically grows 9 feet (2.7m) a year at least two years after being planted. During its first year, it will grow extremely slowly.

How Long Does It Live?

Typically, the English ivy can live for between 5 to 10 years when grown indoors, however, as an outdoor climber, it can survive for 100 years or longer.

Fun Fact: The oldest recorded outdoor English ivy was 400 years old.

Is It Poisonous to Cats, Dogs and People?

Yes, the English ivy is indeed toxic to both people and pets.

Pets’ Symptoms

When your cat or dog ingests the leaves or berries they may develop a rash, vomit or experience diarrhea, hypersalivation and your poor furry friends will have a stomach ache.

Contact your vet for advice if these symptoms prolong over a period of time.

Humans’ Symptoms

If you or your child comes into contact with the ivy’s sap you’ll experience the following symptoms:

  • Skin irritation
  • Itchiness
  • Blisters
  • A red rash

When ingesting either the berries or leaves you may start to vomit, experience abdominal pains, hallucinate, salivate more, and experience diarrhea.

These symptoms should surpass over time, however, if they’re persistent contact your doctor.

English ivy - size, lifespan, toxicity, growth speed (infographics)

English Ivy Care

All houseplants require some good care and the English ivy is no different. We’ll make sure to fill you in on all that you can do to grow a thriving ivy.

How Often to Water It

The common ivy prefers to be grown in evenly moist soil but it mustn’t be too soggy. When watering the ivy, check that the top inch (2.5cm) of the soil is dry to touch.

To ensure that the soil does not become waterlogged or too dry, check up on it every few days and decide whether it needs to be watered again.

Additionally, when watering the plant make sure to let all the water drain out and empty the saucer a few minutes after watering it.


The ivy prefers its soil to dry out slightly in between waterings, therefore, it needs good drainage. Just like ponytail palm, the English ivy should never sit in saturated soil or soggy conditions so make sure that the pot has plenty of drainage holes.

You can also add in a thin layer of gravel or pebbles to allow for the water to drain out easily. Try using a clay or porous pot to allow the water to evaporate quickly, this way your plant’s roots won’t become rotten or damaged.


Before we get into trimming your ivy, you need to clean your pruners or shears. It’s important to sterilize the blades in order to prevent spreading any bacteria or diseases from one plant to another.

When you trim the vines, it’s best to do so during the springtime. You may want to prune the ivy to maintain a manageable size or shape. Ideally, you should give your ivy a heavy pruning every 2 to 3 years to maintain its health.

If you notice that there’s any dead or unhealthy foliage, simply trim these sections off. You may also want to keep an eye on your ivy and cut back any vines near your walls as they can latch on to the wall and damage it.

Top Tip: By pinching off the tips of the ivy you can create a bushy look.

How to Transplant It

Eventually, your English ivy will outgrow its home and you will need to repot it in a bigger container. Typically, this will be done about once a year when the ivy becomes top-heavy or root-bound.

When choosing a new pot make sure that it’s 2 inches (5cm) larger than the current container. We’ll tell you exactly how to repot your English ivy below.

A guide to transplanting an English ivy:

  1. Fill a new pot one-third of the way with new potting soil.
  2. Gently remove the ivy by turning it upside and knocking on the bottom of the pot. You’ll need to catch the rootball before it hits the ground.
  3. Loosen and untangle the roots before planting the ivy in its new pot.
  4. Make sure to plant the rootball in the center of the pot so that it is at least 1 inch (2.5cm) below the container’s rim.
  5. Add any soil required to fill in around the plant.
  6. Water the ivy thoroughly and place it back in its original spot.


Sunlight Requirements

English ivy flourishes in bright sunlight, however, it needs to be placed in a home where it will receive indirect sunshine, just like the sago palm. This houseplant cannot tolerate direct sunlight as its leaves will burn and become scorched.

If the ivy does not receive enough sunlight, it will lose its beautiful variegation.

Best Soil

Just like the peace lily, the hedera helix prefers loose, well-draining soil. It can cope with a wide range of pH levels in the soil but it needs to be aerated.

Ivy thrives in moist soil so try adding a layer of mulch to lock in moisture. If you do this then you will need to adjust your watering schedule as it won’t need to be watered as often.

Additionally, you can use a general all-purpose potting mix and add in some vermiculite, perlite, peat moss or sharp sand.


Hedera helix requires regular and consistent feeding. Ideally, you should fertilize it once a month during spring, summer and autumn. You shouldn’t feed the plant during the wintertime as it isn’t actively growing and salts will build up in the soil.

The best type of fertilizer is a liquid, water-soluble one with a ratio of 20-20-20.

If you’re concerned that too many fertilizer salts have built up in the soil then simply flush the potting mixture. Find out how to flush your ivy below.

  1. Place your container under a gentle stream of water for 5 minutes.
  2. Allow the excess water to drain out through the holes at the bottom of the pot.

Pot Size

Just like with the air plant, you have a great many options when growing English ivy. You can grow it in a hanging pot/basket where its vines flow over the edge, or you could grow it around a wooden or wireframe. You could even allow it to climb along practically any surface that you choose.

The one thing to keep in mind when growing the English ivy in a pot is that it has to be 2 inches (5cm) wider than the rootball’s diameter.


Hedera helix prefers temperatures between 60 to 65°F (15.5 – 18.3°C) during the daytime. At night it can tolerate temperatures ranging between 45 to 50°F (7.2 – 10°C).

The ivy won’t survive being exposed to cool winter temperatures or to extreme heat during the summertime.


The English ivy thrives in a humid environment but it can tolerate the average home’s humidity level. If you live in a particularly dry area then you should try out the following methods to increase the humidity level surrounding your plant.

  • You can place a humidifier near the plant.
  • Try placing other houseplants around your ivy.
  • Place the pot on a tray filled with pebbles and tepid water.
  • Spritz the English ivy’s leaves with room temperature water.
  • Fill a bowl with lukewarm water and place it next to your houseplant.

Outdoors vs. Indoors

The English ivy grows in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 9. We previously mentioned that the common ivy prefers bright sunlight when grown indoors, however, outside it will thrive in partial or full shade.

The temperature is important when deciding whether or not to grow your ivy outdoors because it cannot cope with extreme temperature fluctuations, and during winter it needs to be brought indoors if you live in a cool region.

When growing your ivy outdoors, you will need to consider whether or not it’s even legal to do so. In some countries and states across America, it is illegal to grow the English ivy as it’s classified as an invasive species.

English ivy - care, water, light, pot, temperature, fertilizer (infographics)


The English ivy blooms pretty white-green or yellowy-green flowers in autumn. They’re formed in clusters and eventually give way to dark blue berries that birds absolutely love to nibble on.

You can encourage these umbrella-shaped blooms by fertilizing the plant regularly and making sure that it receives plenty of sunshine when grown indoors.

How to Grow It

There are many ways that you can grow English ivy. You can propagate it in soil and water, and you are able to plant its seeds.

Check out our step-by-step guides to multiplying your common ivy collection.

English Ivy Propagation

You can propagate English ivy cuttings in soil and water, and you can divide its rootball. Make sure to propagate the common ivy during the spring or summertime so that it can root by the time winter sets in.

In Soil

You can propagate stem cuttings and divide the rootball in soil. Always use a moist, well-draining and light potting mixture.

How to Plant Cuttings
  1. Use a sharp, sterilized blade to cut a vine that is 4 to 5 inches (10 – 12.7cm) in length.
  2. Dip the cut area in rooting hormone.
  3. Prepare a pot of fresh potting soil and plant the cutting 2 inches (5cm) deep in the pot.
  4. Use your fingers to firm the soil around the cutting.
  5. In 2 to 3 weeks the cutting should have rooted, and you can repot it when necessary.
  6. Care for the ivy as you would a mature plant.
Rootball Division
  1. Slide the ivy out of its container and remove the excess soil by gently shaking the roots.
  2. Look for areas of division and slice the rootball. Separate the rootball by carefully untangling the roots and pulling the divisions apart.
  3. Take out a new container and fill it one-third of the way with soil, then plant the division. You will need to add in extra soil to fill in around the division and cover its roots.
  4. Water the ivy well and allow it to drain out.
  5. Find a sunny home for your ivy and care for it as you normally would.

In Water

When you propagate stem cuttings in water, check that the water is clean. This may require you to change it every few days before any bacteria or algae build-up.

  1. Use a clean pair of scissors to cut a 4 to 5 inch (10 – 12.7cm) long vine.
  2. Dip the bottom inch (2.5cm) in some rooting hormone.
  3. Place the cut end around 1 inch (2.5cm) deep in a jar of cool water. Make sure that no leaves are submerged in the water.
  4. Once the roots have developed, you can transplant the cutting in some moist soil.

Planting Seeds

The best time to grow an English ivy from seed is during the springtime, and make sure that the seed-starting soil you use is high in nutrients.

Follow the steps below:

  1. Fill a shallow container with a moist seed-starting soil mixture, and place one seed in the pot.
  2. Press the seed gently into the soil and mist it with tepid water.
  3. Cover the pot in clear plastic to lock in all the warmth and moisture.
  4. You can remove the plastic wrap when you notice some new growth emerge from the soil.
  5. You can then repot the seedling when necessary. Transplanting the seedling is only necessary when it is about to become root-bound.

How to Revive

Below, we’ll explain what issues you may face when growing English ivy and most importantly how to revive it.

Brown Leaf Edges

Usually, when you see a plant’s leaves are brown and dry, you may think that it needs more water. When it comes to English ivy, this is not the case. Brown edges mean that you’re actually overwatering your ivy.

The leaf becomes brown and dry as the roots cannot deliver the nutrients necessary as they’re completely saturated.

You will need to repot your plant immediately, cut back any damaged foliage and water it in a few days’ time. Make sure to tweak your watering schedule as to not damage the houseplant further in the future.

Root Rot

This fungal disease is caused by overwatering your ivy. When the soil becomes saturated, the roots drown and turn a brown-black color. The stems become soft and mushy, and the leaves develop brown or black spots.

You will need to remove the plant from its container, cut back any damaged roots or leaves and repot it in dry potting soil.

In the future, always check that the soil is dry before you water the ivy to prevent this from occurring again. You may also want to make sure that the soil you use allows for adequate drainage.

Why Are Its Leaves Turning Yellow?

There are three major culprits for this are; improper watering, inadequate drainage, and a lack of nutrients.

Improper Watering

Keep in mind that this ivy requires some moisture but it is sensitive to overwatering. If the soil is too dry then deeply water the ivy and adjust your watering schedule.

If the potting mixture is saturated then you will have to refrain from watering the plant for a couple of days and only water it again once the soil is dry.

Lack of Drainage

Once the soil becomes soggy and overly moist your plant will start to yellow. Always check that the pot has at least three drainage holes and that the saucer is emptied.

You may want to add in some perlite or vermiculite to improve the soil’s ability to drain water effectively.

Lack of Nutrients

The common ivy may be lacking the following nutrients in its soil; nitrogen, iron and magnesium. This is pretty simple to rectify as all you need to do is fertilize the plant more frequently.

Final Thoughts

This finicky ivy can make for a great hanging ornament and decoration in your home and patio. Always be careful that this sneaky ivy doesn’t attach itself to your walls or surfaces that it could damage.

Apart from its ability to grow on nearly every surface, it’s a stunning plant that will brighten up your home with its lush green leaves throughout the year.

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