Thursday, August 5, 2021

How To Grow Ivy (Hedera spp.) Indoors

Ivy is one of the most adaptable plants that can be grown indoors. For some plant enthusiasts, indoors might be the best place for it.

A matter of perspective

Let’s face it. Ivy can be a wonderful ground cover, or the bane of one’s existence. It depends on perspective. When I refer to Ivy, I’m speaking of the Hedera species. These include Algerian Ivy (H. algeriensis, aka H. canariensis), Persian Ivy (H. colchica), English Ivy (H. helix), Irish Ivy (H. hibernica), Nepal Ivy (H. nepalensis), Russian ivy (H. pastuchovii), and Japanese ivy (H. rhombea). Of these, the first three species are most readily available. Within the species, there are several varieties each.

What’s good about it?

Ivy is known for glossy green foliage, few maintenance requirements, drought tolerance, climate adaptability, deer resistance, pest resistance and ground cover potential. It’s hard to kill. Ivy does what a ground cover is supposed to do; it covers ground. For those reasons, English Ivy was brought from Europe by early settlers. Though it’s ubiquitous, it’s not native to these shores.

What’s not good about it?

That Hedera is such a tough plant – i.e. it’s hard to kill – along with its ground cover potential can make it undesirable. But let’s get this straight; English ivy does not kill trees. It is not parasitic. However, the sheer weight of ivy in a tree that is dead or dying can certainly bring it down.

Enjoy ivy indoors

If you want to enjoy the best of ivy’s attributes and avoid its liabilities, grow it indoors as a houseplant. It’s not difficult to do if you meet its basic needs.

  • Bright light. Hedera species need plenty of light, though not necessarily full sun. Windows facing any direction will work, though you might want to draw your plants away from direct sun. Not that ivy can’t take it outdoors, but plants grown indoors tend to lose some of their ability to withstand harsh sunlight. If grown in too little light, plants tend to get “leggy.”
  • Appropriate moisture. Ivy does not like wet soil. If soil is constantly wet, your plants will rot. Allow your plants to dry between watering. The pot should provide excellent drainage.
  • Fertilizer. Use a slow-release or water-soluble fertilizer once per month during the growing season, e.g. spring through summer. Follow label instructions.
  • Good hygiene. Remove dust from foliage with occasional wiping or brief showers. This will also help prevent any pests that might come along. If grown outdoors, occasional rains will wash dust and insects from the leaves. When grown indoors, you’ll have to do the part.

There are very many varieties among the Hedera species. Characteristics include variegation, fancy leaves, and even slower growth rates. Check for some of them. You can also inquire of the American Ivy Society for some of the more unusual varieties.

Indoor ivies are very decorative as topiaries or trailing from containers. The smaller, fancy-leaf varieties such as H. helix ‘Ivalace’ are best for topiaries. Growing ivy indoors can become a very rewarding hobby for those of us who just can’t get enough of plants.

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