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English Ivy

Ivy is appreciated as an evergreen climbing plant and especially for its capacity to fully cover any wall or facade, but it can also be used to cover limited wall surfaces. The ivy shoots grow away from sunlight, and it tends to climbing inside any crack or crevice in the wall, which can then cause structural damage as the shoots grow thick. Maintaining and pruning an ivy is a lot of work. Wintercreepers may be used instead for smaller wall surfaces.

(Common ivy, lat.: Hedera helix // colchica // hibernica)

Foliage of the common English Ivy

Requirements

Sunny (full sun) to semi-shaded position. Need soil rich in nutrients and humus with good water provision. Distance between plants: 2 - 8 metres.

Charateristics and Pruning

This is a self-clinger that may grow to a height of 20 metres and more. Of particular interest for façade greening are the wild- i.e., 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. Once an ivy can no longer grow further upwards, it will stop climbing with stem roots and convert to the senescent form “Arborescent,” which develops simple oval, acuminate leaves instead of lobed ones, grows as a shrub only, and is sold as a different species altogether. Flowers appear in September-- a fragrant feasting meadow for bees! Fruits come during or after winter and attract birds. Pruning is possible at any time and often necessary to restrict growth, as illustrated and described in the photos.

Climbing Aids on the Facade

For heights of 6 m and more, it is recommended to install cables to assist climbing / attaching and also to prevent the plant from collapsing... during a storm and especially if wall plaster is brittle, entire leaf mats may separate and collapse. For suitable rope systems, refer below. Easy and medium kits are recommended; for higher greening, go with heavy or even massive systems. Ivy can be woven into fences, wire nets, trellises, etc.. for a decorative touch. 

General Comments

Ivy fruit is poisonous and the leaves may irritate the skin. Ivy grows away from the light and can cause considerable building/structural damage, especially when brickwork and render have cracks into which the ivy is more than pleased to enter... eventually bursting structures with their thick-growing stems. We are often asked how to treat the remainders of the adventitious/adhesive roots on the wall when the ivy is taken off (from a façade during its renovation). The only way is to burn off / torch the plant traces and repaint the wall. Alternatively, 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...

Appropriate wire rope systems?

Please click the icon for showing the full suitability chart

Greening Facades with Ivy

The following gallery shows some more examples of facade-greening with ivy.

Ancient ivy-covered walls were also a melancholic model of Romanticism. Here a gate to the cloister of the cathedral Merseburg / Saxony-Anhalt
Here a ledge prevents the ivy from climbing further, Kroncah / Bavaria
Ivy can grow to 20m high (and higher) and, without pruning, can lift roof shingles and block downpipes.
Picturesque greening with ivy. But don't forget- regular pruning is essential!
Well maintained / pruned ivy in late winter. It is essential to cut back the areas towards the roof regularly to prevent building damage.
Well-pruned English Ivy
Ivy on a townhouse; the neighbouring houses are kept free of ivy.
Well-pruned ivy, mature form “Arborescent,” protruding about 70 cm in the front
Buildings can be completely overgrown with ivy if the ivy is left to grow
What looks like a wild 'accidental' greening can only be achieved with rigorous pruning
Even such a house greening only works with regular pruning.
With constant pruning ivy can be cultivated in small areas.
Ivy can protect walls from graffiti
Ivy “tree” at the entrance to the Museum Bergen at Ruegen / Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Such a form can only be achieved with regular trimming and/or by using the mature form “Arborescens.”
A different ivy look... Probably a mature (not self-clinging) form of H. colchica
Ivy on a house
Ivy on a house, Hiddensee / Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
Ivy on an urban villa
Ivy looks this green even in late winter!
Very old ivy with a mighty trunk on the corner of a house, mature form “Arborescens”
Greening of a retaining wall of an industrial facility, port Riesa / Saxony)
 
 
 

Greening other structures and objects with ivy

Greening other kinds of structures --  banisters, parking structures and pergolas -- is very common. This photo gallery shows some examples.

Ivy overgrowing an old pergola
Ivy covering a rubbish site thanks to rigorous pruning!
An ivy-greened pergola/arcade
Cantilevered steel trellis frames for ivy, spanned with tension wires. Regular pruning achieves and maintains the desired formal green foliage mass
Privacy screen thanks to this with ivy on a carport
This completely greened fence is a perfect privacy shield
Ivy is very suitable for greening fences, lattices, etc..
Parking structures and garages are good candidates for ivy greening
Ivy-greenery on walls in Neustadt / Schleswig-Holstein
Ivy can also grow overhangig from above, as seen on this wall in Greiz / Thüringen
 
 

Botanical Features

Have a look here at the leaves, aerial rootlets, fruits, blossoms, and different ivy-types, including the mature form Arborescens.

In our latitudes ivy is definitely evergreen and frost resistant (up to approx. 500 m above sea level)
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.
Leaves of an old ivy "arborescens" (left, with fruit formation) and young growth on the same plant
Persian ivy (Hedera colchicum) with lighter coloured and more acuminate (tapered, heart-shaped) leaves
There are some decorative, pointy-leaved ivy-varieties which grow more slowly
Pointy-leaved ivy on a wall
Ivy flowers are a haven for insects and last well into October
Birds love the ivy fruit
Ivy can form trunks like this!
Older adhesive rootlets of ivy
The adhesive rootlets leave behind traces after the ivy has been cut back or removed.

Climbing Aids for Ivy

Although ivy is a self-clinging-climber and usually climbs walls and objects alone, some sort of support / protection against falling off, etc.. is highly recommended.

Sometimes self clinging climbers refuse to climb ('stick to') some walls on their own; in these cases tape or even beeswax may help
Wire ropes will help ivy to climb this concrete wall
Simplest wire rope system as a collapsing protection (analogous to our wire rope system 8050) on a retaining wal
Vertical climbing cables support these ivy plants
Ivy is guided on vertical ropes against these glazed tiles
Medium construction style "Eco," wire rope system 8030, used to prevent this ivy from falling off the wall.
Here ivy shoots were woven into fan shaped wires between the carport posts (System 7060) and form a thick leaf mat 'screen.'
Ivy also likes to climb grid-like systems and fences
Ivy on a stainless steel mesh, side wall of a bus stop
Despite its adhesive aerial roots, ivy can tear off due to its own weight, as here-- even parts of the plaster can fall off a wall along with the ivy.
Detaching is often a result of a squall (a sudden violent gust of wind)
Not a rolled-up carpet, but a mat of ivy! Despite its adhesive roots, ivy can collapse from its own weight, as shown here... bits of brittle old plaster can also break off.
This tremendous ivy-mat fell off in 2013 due to long lasting rain and strong winds. A wire rope system would have prevented this from happening! Hessen, Germany
Same on this wall in Stuttgart: an old ivy partly fell off, then got pruned and set with a new collapse-protection (wire rope system 9040, heavy construction style
This sheet-metal prevents the ivy from growing higher on the wall.
 
 
 

Suitable wire rope supports for ivy (as protection from collapsing)

Please click on the graphic illustrations for details!

 = suitable             = of limited suitability             = unsuitable