Hedera helix, Hedera canariensis – Ivy

There is a wide variety of ornamental ivies such as Hedera helix and Hedera canariensis. They are attractive climbing plants with variegated or glossy green leaves. Most are quite hardy and easy to care for, but a few need specialized care. Follow the instructions given on the plant label.

Ivies combine excellently with other foliage plants and are very tolerant of variable light and temperature conditions. H. canariensis will achieve magnificent proportions if re-potted when necessary.

Hedera helix2


  • Growing season 16-21 °C (61-70 °F)
  • Minimum winter Frost free

Soil: A soil-less compost.

Where to position: In a light sun-free position. H. helix tolerates some draughts and temperature changes, but the variety H. canariensis is more delicate.

Watering requirements: Tepid water. Keep soil moist and springy – only just moist in winter. Spray weekly in hot weather.

General care: Feed at two or three week intervals with weak fertilizer. Avoid over-feeding or the plant may become too lush. Ivy hangs, trails and climbs well and is at its best in the company of contrasting foliage plants.

Rest: No marked rest period; no special routine. Guard against over-watering, especially in cold weather.

Pests and diseases: Generally disease-free, but scale insects sometimes produce sticky brown patches on the leaves. Spray with diazinon or malathion when the small insects are seen crawling over the plants.

When it looks sick:

  • Dry browned leaves : Can be sunscorch. Move it to a less sunny spot. It could also be under-watering. Check soil condition; keep it moist.
  • Leaves flag and tend to fall : Almost certainly over-watering. Allow plant to dry out and then water to keep a moist soil condition.
  • Aphids and scale insects : check.

Hedera (ivy) is a vigorous, evergreen climber which clings to walls by means of aerial roots, with little pads on the ends. These do not harm the wall, but the weight of vegetation in old ivy can pull down supports. Old ivy plants which have reached the top of their supports cease to produce the aerial roots, but change to an adult form of the plant with flowers and fruits. H. helix is the common English ivy, with plain dark green leaves. Hardy and vigorous, it can grow as high as 30 m (100 ft), although at this sort of length it is usually growing horizontally – along roofs or wall tops, for example. Other species are H. colchica (Persian ivy), growing to about 7.5m (25 ft), and H. canariensis (Canary Island ivy), which is not as hardy as the others.

Cultivars of all these species are available, with variegated leaves, including mixtures of yellow, cream, silver and white. They are known by various different names, some confusing to the non-expert, and the safest and easiest way of getting the variations you want, since the plants are evergreen, is by looking before you buy. General care: Ivies are very tolerant of soil and site conditions, but a sunny wall encourages them to produce the best colour variations in their leaves. Plant out in the spring. They need some encouragement to start them up a wall – spraying the wall with liquid manure works best. Propagation: From cuttings, taken in summer and put into pots with a 50-50 peat and sharp sand mixture, or by layering at any time. But if you want climbing plants, take your material from the juvenile shoots with aerial roots. If you propagate from the adult growth, the plants will become ivy trees.


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