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English Ivy

Ivy is appreciated as a persistent climbing plant especially for it's capacity to fully cover any wall for facade, but it can also be used to cover limited wall surfaces. The ivy shoots grow away from sunlight, and it will infiltrate any crack or crevice in the wall, and widen them by growing 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


Sunny (full sun) to semi-shaded Position. Soils rich in nutrients and humus with good water provision. Distance between plants: 2 to 8 meters.

Charateristics and Pruning

Self-clinger that may grow to height of 20 meters and more. 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. 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. Flowers in September, a fragrant feasting meadow for bees! Fruit during or after winter. Bird food. Pruning is possible at any time and often necessary to restrict growth as illustrated and described in photos.

Climbing Plant Growing Aid

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, because 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, for higher greenings better heavy or even massive systems. In addition, weaving the plant into fences, wire nets, trellises etc is very decorative.

General Comments

Ivy fruit are poisonous and the leaves may irritate the skin. 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 ... 

Appropriate wire rope systems?

Please click the icon for showing the full suitability chart

Greening up Facades with Ivy

The following gallery shows some more examples of facade-greenings with Ivy

Ancient greening with ivy on a gate of the cathedral Merseburg / Saxony-Anhalt
Here a ledge prevents the ivy from climbing further, Kroncah / Bavaria
Ivy can grow to 20m height and more, and without pruning can lift roof shingles and block downpipes.
Picturesque greening with ivy. However, one must not 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 damages.
Strongly pruned English Ivy
Ivy on a townhouse, the neighbouring houses kept free of ivy.
Well pruned ivy, mature form “Arborescens”
If ivy is left to grow, it will completely overgrow buildings
What looks like a wild greening can only be achieved with rigorous pruning
Same with this greenery, only works in combination with constant and rigorous pruning
With constant pruning ivy can be cultivated in small areas
Ivy can protect walls agains graffiti
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”.
A different ivy look... Probably a mature (not self-clinging) form of H. colchica.
Ivy on a house
Ivy-greening of a house, Hiddensee / Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
Ivy on a urban villa
Ivy is evergreen, this picture was taken in winter!
Ancient ivy on the corner of a house, mature form “Arborescens”
Greening of a retaining wall of a industrial facility, port Riesa / Saxony)

Greening objects with Ivy

Greening up objects with ivy is very common, such as banisters, parking structures and pergolas. This picture gallery shows some examples.

Ivy overgrowing a pergola
Ivy covering a rubbish dump thanks to rigorous pruning!
Greening with 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.
Privacy shield with ivy on a carport
This completely greened fence is a perfect privacy shield
Ivy is very suitable for greening fences, meshes etc
Parking structures can also be greened with ivy
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

This photo gallery shows leaves, aerial rootlets, fruits, blossom and different ivy-varieties

In our latitudes ivy is definitely evergreen and frost resistant (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 branch ("arborescens") on the left side with fructification and juvenile stage on the same plant
Persian Ivy Hedera colchica with lighter coloured and more acuminate leaves
There are some decorative, spiky ivy-varieties, which grow not so strong
Spiky ivy on a wall
Ivy flowers are a haven for insects and last well into October.
Birds love the ivy fruit
Ivy can build stems like that
Older aerial rootlets of Ivy
The aerial rootlets leave behind imprints of there formal existence when beeing ripped off

Climbing aids / Trellises for Ivy

Although Ivy is a self-clinging-climber and usually climbs walls and objects alone, often some sort of support like protection agains falling off etc. is highly recommendet

Sometimes self clinging climbers refuse to climb on some walls on their own, therefore tape or even beeswax may help
On this concrete-wall wire ropes shall help ivy to climb
Simple collapsing protection, similar to wire rope system 8050 on supporting wall
Vertical climbing cables support those ivies
On those slabs ivy is guided on vertical ropes
Medium construction style "Eco", wire rope system 8030, used to prevent 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 and visual screen.
Ivy also likes to climb grid-like systems and fences
Ivy on a stainless steel mesh, side wall of a bus shelter
Partly fallen off ivy greenery, due to its own weight, sometimes even parts of the plaster can fall off a wall with the ivy
Often ivies fall of due to squalls
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.
This tremendous ivy-greening fell off in 2013 due to long lasting rain and strong winds. a wire rope system would have prevented this from happening!
Same on this wall in Stuttgart, an old ivy partly fell off, then got pruned and treatened with a new collapsing-protection, Wire rope system 9040, heave construction style
This sheet-metal prevents the ivy from growing higher on this wall

Appropriate trellis systems for ivy (as a protection from collapsing)

Please click on the graphic illustrations for details!

 = suitable             = of limited suitability             = unsuitable