Tag: ivy

How to Choose Ivy for Your Zone

I would like to plant ivy at my grandmother’s house with the objective of covering one wall and then using another type for a lattice. What kind of ivy is suited for the outdoors as well as heat and drought? I would like varieties with light-green leaves, that is, apple-green leaves, not dark-green leaves as the English ivy. Caracas, Venezuela

First, let me say how nice it is to receive a question from a gardener from South America. It is evidence that the love of gardening can be shared across languages, cultures, and climates!

From what I understand Caracas has a mild climate with an average high of 80 degrees F and an average low of 70 degrees F. The rainy season runs from May through October, but it is fairly dry the rest of the year.

Ivy prefers partial shade and soil that is humus rich, fertile and moist but well drained. Given the climatic conditions of your region, it should thrive, but you may need to provide water during the dry months. Water thoroughly and then wait until the soil dries to water again.

Before I get into the details of selecting an ivy for your garden it is important to understand that here in the United States traditional English ivy, Hedera helix, has been classified as invasive. Invasive plants are those that take over surrounding habitats, choking out the native flora. English ivy spreads by seed and little pieces that break off and root in the ground. So to avoid creating a nuisance for yourself, I recommend that you stay away from traditional English ivy. Many of the newer cultivars are variegated or pointed leaf forms and are much better behaved, and, with good gardening practices, you shouldn’t have to spend too much time cutting back.

`Lady Frances’ is a great non-invasive alternative to traditional English Ivy. This variety has white and light green variegated leaves and grows well on a fence, wall, or climbing up a tree trunk and as a ground cover. ‘Lady Frances’ is well suited for hanging baskets and shade as well. You can grow it inside in a space that gets some natural light. Once a year, you should plan on trimming it a bit. ‘Lady Frances’ is winter hardy in Zones 5 and up.


Ivy Damage

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.