Ivy is an excellent choice for the beginner gardener. It’s one of the most popular types of indoor plant in the world. It’s hardy, resilient, and grows through adversity -- what more could a novice gardener need?
But while people often refer to many different varieties of ivy under this one blanket name, there are many more nuanced details. The best way to grow this plant will also depend on your climate, available light, and schedule.
If you’ve never grown plants indoors before, ivy is an excellent choice to start. Because it tolerates many mistakes and survives for a long time, it’s easy to grow successfully. Ivy is also one of the most versatile plants around. You can place it in a pot on a desk, hang it from your ceiling, or grow it in an outdoor terrace.
First, this guide will break down the specific features of all of the most common different strains of ivy. While they all share the same general characteristics, certain aspects may differ between various cultivars.
Afterward, we’ll discuss some essential characteristics of ivy as a whole. Then, we’ll reveal some beginner tips on how to grow and care for ivy in your own home. These tricks apply to all types of ivy -- no matter which strain catches your eye, you can build it in nearly the same way!
Types of Ivy Houseplants
Most people can instantly recognize ivy when they see it. But did you know that there are countless varieties of this common houseplant available? Below is a list of some of the most common types. We’ve also included the essential characteristics of a few strains to help you tell them apart.
English ivy is by far the most popular type of ivy to grow in your house. It’s hardy and resilient, and it features appealing green leaves in a triangular shape. Different kinds of English ivy feature different variegations, including dots and rings of cream, white, and other colors.
Persian ivy is another popular choice for home gardeners. It’s even more durable than English ivy -- this plant can survive extended periods in direct sun and won’t falter without water. Persian ivy sports heart-shaped leaves. These leaves may feature patches or lines of white and off-white colors. The leaves of Persian ivy are also huge.
While it’s sometimes grouped with Persian ivy, Russian ivy is a different type of ivy that grows in both warm and cold weather. Though it matures best with sunlight exposure and regular watering, it can survive in much colder conditions than many other ivy varieties.
Japanese ivy prefers warm weather. While its leaves are similar in shape to those of Persian ivy, they’re much smaller and less pointy. Japanese ivy’s most distinctive feature is its purplish stem. Some plants may feature white spots against the rich green background.
Features of Ivy
All varieties of ivy are known for their delicate leaves and spindly vines. Ivy comes in many different colors, ranging from green to cream, white, yellow, and even some brown, gray, and black. It’s possible to find specialty ivies that contain any range of these colors -- the options are practically endless!
Most people buy the ivy plant that catches their eye. More often than not, this is due to its variegation. Variegation is a technical term that describes the unique coloring patterns on each ivy plant. All types of ivy have a particular base shade, but different strains may show streaks, dots, or lines of other colors on top of that base.
Ivy strains also vary significantly in size. Certain types make great desk plants; they fit comfortably in small pots and don’t expand to take over your entire space. Other varieties are much faster growers, and will cover your walls if left unattended! Before you decide on any one type of ivy, it’s essential to consider how much space you can allow for it to grow.
Ivy leaves are generally triangular. The specific size and shape vary between cultivars. Some strains have bulbous, less defined leaves, while others are thinner and far more pointy. Some leaves are also much smaller than others. You can find ivy leaves that range from the size of small coins to ones that cover your full palm.
Similarly, ivy vines may differ in size. Longer varieties may have thinner vines, though it varies depending on each species. Larger leaves and vines cause the ivy to weigh more and may make it droop as it extends beyond its plant. If you don’t like the drooping look or want the leaves to stand up on their own, you should look for a variety of ivy with smaller leaves and lighter vines.
Apart from being easy to care for, ivy has some other positive effects. One significant benefit of the plant is that it purifies your air. Having an ivy plant in your house can help keep your air clean and free from toxins. The plant absorbs carbon dioxide, which can relieve excess buildup from your home. It also releases oxygen to help you breathe more easily.
Unfortunately, ivy plants can also be prone to pest infestations. To prevent any issues -- or counteract any outbreaks if they do arise -- you’ll need to learn how to care for your ivy properly. Read ahead to find out some essential tips!
How to Care for Ivy
As we mentioned above, ivy is not a delicate plant to grow. It adjusts well to a variety of different surroundings and will remain alive even when access to light or water is sparse. However, just because ivy is a hardy plant doesn’t mean you should mistreat it! With just a few quick tips, you can keep your ivy plant in the best possible shape.
Light is the most important factor to care for your ivy properly. Ivy does best in medium to bright light. Placing your ivy plant in a room full of sunlight or other natural light is a good idea. That said, you should keep the plant out of the direct sun if you can -- the overexposure can harm the plant in the long term.
It’s essential to make sure that your ivy gets enough light. If your ivy needs more light, you should be able to see the signs easily. When left in the dark or shade, ivy plants lose their natural variegation. The plants also look dull and dreary, particularly the leaves. If the spots and streaks on your ivy plant begin to fade and disappear, get it some more light!
In some instances, ivy plants that don’t sink naturally may also droop without enough light. Getting your plant back into brighter light is the quickest and easiest way to perk it up.
Water is another vital feature for any plant, and ivy is no exception. Properly caring for your ivy requires you to water it consistently. Ivy plants don’t need too much water, so you should take care not to overwater the pot.
To water your ivy, wait until the soil on top of the pot is dry to the touch. If you can feel a lot of moisture, you should avoid watering the plant until more absorbs. You should also take care to ensure that your ivy plant drains well. If your pot doesn’t feature adequate drainage, you may be overwatering your plant and not even know it!
Pots with poor drainage can cause water to pool at the base of the plant, near the ivy’s roots. The roots are one of the most delicate parts of the plant, and it’s important not to damage them! Find a pot with holes in the base or use a soil that doesn’t absorb too much water. Small rocks and pebbles studded throughout the mulch can also facilitate more natural draining.
If your ivy is in a hanging pot or has grown outside of the container, don’t worry! You need to water the roots of the plant to ensure it gets enough liquid to survive. Ivy plants are robust and can survive for a long time even without proper watering. As long as you make an effort to water your plant consistently, it should survive without any problems.
Ivy, like many other plants, needs fertilizer. During the spring, summer, and fall, you should aim to fertilize your plant’s soil once each month. A nitrogen-heavy fertilizer will work best to keep your plant healthy and growing. You should also buy a fertilizer that’s water-soluble to help it incorporate more effectively into your plant’s existing soil.
Winter is a different matter altogether. Ivy plants go dormant during the winter and don’t need as much water, light, or fertilizer during that time. Fertilizing your ivy plant during the winter may actually harm it! If there’s snow on the ground and not much natural light, hold off on feeding your ivy. As a rough guideline, you should stop around November and begin fertilizing the plant once again in March.
The length of ivy’s dormant period may also depend on your local climate. In certain areas where temperatures and sunlight remain nearly the same for the entire year, the dormant period could be much shorter or barely exist.
If you’re wondering whether or not to fertilize your ivy plant, you should find a local botanist or gardener and talk to them. They’ll have more specialized knowledge and will be able to tailor their advice to your specific strain of ivy and the weather in your area.
Pests and Washing
As we mentioned above, ivy plants are also susceptible to pest infestations if not correctly maintained. Many small bugs love to hide out in the vines and leaves of ivy plants. Washing your plant is the most common method to prevent bug infestations from taking root. If bugs are covering your plant, a good wash will rinse most of them off.
To wash your plant, place it under a showerhead or spray jet on your sink for a couple of minutes and let the water run. While you don’t want to batter the plant beyond recognition, the water streams should be forceful enough to rinse any dust and bugs off of the plant.
Dealing with a major infestation can be a pain, but it’s not the end of the world. If your plant is crawling with pests, hold it yourself while you wash it and bring it up close to the water source. Turn it around and make sure that the water hits every surface of the plant. The extra care will help remove more bugs without damaging the plant.
Ivy is an excellent option for beginner and advanced indoor gardeners alike. Follow our tips and tricks here to keep your ivy looking healthy and beautiful!