I have ivy growing on the side of my brick house. I’ve often been told that this is bad for my home. Is this true?
Ivy has a reputation for being an aggressive grower and can be alarming to some when it begins to grow on buildings. But I wouldn’t really worry unless it was growing on a building of wooden construction. The leaves can harbor a lot of moisture and cause the wood to rot. However, with masonry there is not as much cause for concern except when the little aerial roots get into the joints between the stone or in your case, bricks.
Ivy also takes a bad rap when it comes to trees. Ivy’s aerial roots are just there to attach to the tree, they don’t draw any nutrients from it. The ivy actually takes its food from the soil just like the tree does.
Ivy becomes a problem in trees when it is allowed to grow out of control. This is especially true with English ivy (Hedera helix), which is considered an invasive ornamental. The vine’s weight and the wind resistance it creates can make the tree more vulnerable, particularly during storms. Infested trees are also more susceptible to bacterial leaf scorch, which English ivy tends to harbor.
Because English ivy is a potential hazard for native plants I only use it in controlled environments in areas where it is not a problem and recommend that it is not allowed to run rampant. Always check with your local Cooperative Extension before planting it or go to the National Park Service’s web site at http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/. They have a nice map that shows which states are troubled by this plant.