English Ivy

Hedera helix // colchica (Persian Ivy)

Ivy is a popular climber because it is evergreen and excellent for greening entire walls...

Requirements

Sunny (full sun) to semi-shaded Position. Soils rich in nutrients and humus with good water provision.

Well maintained / pruned ivy in late winter. It is essential to cut back the areas towards the roof regularly to prevent building damages.
Ivy can grow to 20m height and more, and without pruning can lift roof shingles and block downpipes.
Severely pruned ivy
Strongly pruned English Ivy
Well pruned ivy, mature form “Arborescens”

Growth and Leaves

A self-clinger. Of particular interest for façade greening are the wild ie non-hybridised species and juvenile forms, which are generally good climbers with clinging stem roots and, in  moderate climates (Zone 6a and up), are reliably evergreen.

The native form Hedera helix is a particularly reliable climber, while Hedera colchica is only reliable in optimal positions. The Irish Ivy Hedera helix “Hibernica” is  particularly vigorous, but also less reliable in developing clinging stem roots. Hedera helix “Woerner” is known to be especially frost resistant. Once an ivy can no longer grow further upwards, it will stop climbing with stem roots and convert to the senescent form “Arborescens”, which develops simple oval, acuminate leaves instead of lobed ones, grows as shrub only and is sold as a different species altogether.

Ivy leaves of the senescent form “Arborescens” (left, with fruit) and in their juvenile stage (right) on the same plant.
There are also decorative, acuminate leaved ivies with a weaker growth habit
Variegated ivy form, probably of Hedera colchica
Ivy “tree” at the entrance to the Museum Bergen at Ruegen / Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Such a form can only be achieved with regular trimming or / and by using the mature form “Arborescens”.
Persian Ivy Hedera colchica with lighter coloured and more acuminate leaves

Flower and Fruit

Flowers in September, a fragrant feasting meadow for bees! Fruit during or after winter. Bird food.

Growth Support Systems

For heights to 10m and more, it is recommended to install cables to assist climbing /  attaching and also to prevent the plant from collapsing, because during a storm and especially if wall plaster is brittle, entire leaf mats may separate and collapse. For suitable rope systems refer below.  Light and  Medium, if necessary also Heavy Duty Support Systems. In addition, weaving the plant into fences, wire nets, trellises etc is very decorative.

Pruning

Possible at any time and often necessary to restrict growth as illustrated and described in photos.

English Ivy
Sweeping wire frames made from steel elements for ivy, and spanned with wire cables. Regular pruning achieves and maintains the desired formal green foliage mass as seen on the photo.
With ivy one can create beautiful, evergreen pergolas
Pruning and tearing off ivy will leave traces of the adventitious roots on the walls.
Here ivy shoots were woven into fan shaped wires between the carport posts (System 7060) and form a thick leaf mat and visual screen.
Here a window sill prevents the ivy from climbing further

General Comments

Ivy grows in a strongly light-shunning manner and can cause considerable building damages, especially when brickwork and render have cracks into which the ivy can grow and blast them apart with increasing stem girths. We are often asked how to treat the remainders of the adventitious roots after ripping down the plant from a façade during its renovation. The only way is to burn off / torching the plant traces and repaint the wall. Alternatively, to prevent such damages one can use horizontal climbing barriers such as projecting window sills (Photo) or if necessary, install metal sheets at a designated height to prevent the ivy from climbing any further, at least temporarily until the next pruning ... Poisonous fruit!

Evergreen ivy as a symbol of eternal life is an integral part of churches and cemeteries. Unfortunately, due to this “graveyard” character, many people don't like ivy.
Not a rolled-up carpet, but a mat of ivy: despite the adhesive roots, ivy can collapse through its own weight, as shown here - bits of brittle old plaster can also break off and possibly cause injuries to people.
Ivy is very suitable for greening fences, meshes etc
A different ivy look... Probably a mature (not self-clinging) form of H. colchica.
Picturesque greening with ivy. However, one must not forget: regular pruning is essential!
Ivy on a townhouse, the neighbouring houses kept free of ivy.
Ancient walls, overgrown with ivy – melancholic symbol of romanticism
Ancient ivy on the corner of a house, mature form “Arborescens”
In our latitudes ivy is definitely evergreen and frost resistant (to approx. 500 m above sea level)
Ivy flowers are a haven for insects and last well into October.
Birds love the ivy fruit
Ivy pergolas achieved with rigorous formal pruning
If ivy is left to grow, it will completely overgrow buildings
Ivy can also grow cascading down
Ivy on a stainless steel mesh, side wall of a bus shelter
Ivy overgrowing an old pergola

Suitable growth support systems for Ivy (protection from collapsing)

Please click on the graphic illustrations!

 = suitable   = moderately suitable = unsuitable