Caring for English ivy | Hedera helix

Is your home missing a hanging, vining plant? We’ve got just the thing for you! We love the popular Pothos and silver Philodendron, but why not go for something different for a change? Caring for English ivy (also known as Hedera helix) is a breeze and it’s an amazingly fast growing vining plant. The perfect way to add some green to those bare spots higher up!

Keep reading for everything you need to know about Hedera helix care and growing this plant in your own home.

Name(s) (Common, scientific) English ivy, common ivy, Hedera helix
Difficulty level Intermediate
Recommended lighting Some full sun
Water Let dry out a little
Soil African violet soil

Hedera helix natural habitat

English ivy is native to central and northern Europe and western Asia. Once it was brought to Western countries by colonizers, its hardiness allowed it to easily thrive in the wild. This, combined with the plant’s vigorous growth, has made it an invasive species in the US, Australia and other places.

When left to grow uncontrolled outdoors in its natural habitat, this plant can vine to heights of 100 ft (30 meters). These heights are achieved with the help of the plant’s aerial roots, which very firmly attach it to almost any surface.

English ivy (Hedera helix), a common houseplant.

Hedera helix light and temperature

Light

English ivy prefers medium to high light. If you live in the Northern hemisphere, it’s best to find a cozy spot for it in an east or south-facing window that gets plenty of sun.

However, you still have to be mindful with caring for English ivy, since especially the variegated variation is prone to having any white on its leaves scorched if exposed to too much sun. The harshest afternoon rays are best avoided; you could use a sheer curtain to block them out.

Too little light will cause the plant’s leaves to lose their patterns. Fortunately, if you introduce more light (even if it’s artificial) the variegation can come back! Basically, it’s a bit of a balancing act for this plant when it comes to lighting, though once you get it right, it’ll reward you with vigorous growth.

Temperature

Since it’s a hardier species, English ivy isn’t as sensitive to changes in temperature like some other houseplants. It can handle pretty drastic changes with only minimal effect on its health and growth.

If you want your English ivy to live its best life, aim for consistent indoor temperatures, though. If possible, keep it a little on the cool side (in the 60s Fahrenheit or mid-teens Celsius). It did originate from relatively cool regions, after all!

While humidity is not a huge factor to consider with English ivy care indoors, the plant still likes some humidity.

Trailing English ivy plant in front of wooden desk

Hedera helix soil and planting

Soil

When it comes to soil for this plant, it isn’t picky and can thrive in just about anything. However, caring for English ivy is easier in rich, loose soil with good drainage.

If you want to help the soil remain rich and airy, you can use equal parts peat moss, perlite, and topsoil. This allows the soil to retain some water but lets the excess drain freely, to avoid the roots sitting in a soggy medium. It also allows plenty of oxygen to reach the roots.

Tip! Don’t want to bother mixing your own soil? Pre-mixed African violet soil has all the characteristics that English ivy also loves.

Planting

  • While English ivy can be planted both indoors and outdoors, it is an invasive species banned in some areas. For example, it’s banned in the United States throughout most of the Pacific northwest because of the threat it poses to native species.
  • Although many places allow for English ivy care indoors, be sure to check local regulations to avoid trouble (and further hurting the local ecosystem).
  • When it comes to planting English ivy indoors, you can be as creative as you want, which is why this plant is so popular! You can keep plants in hanging pots, train them to climb wire topiaries or trellises, or even let them attach to your interior walls.
  • Although some brave people do the latter, it’s not recommended since, once the vines stick, they’re hard to remove off surfaces. In most cases, you’ll need to scrape the vines off your walls and repaint. If there are any cracks in your walls, the vines will seek them out and potentially cause even more damage.
  • For repotting, these guys do well with a new pot that’s one or two inches larger every year or two. Just fill it with some fresh soil and you’re good to go!
White shelving unit with houseplants including Hedera helix (English ivy) in a basket planter

Watering Hedera helix

Watering is a difficult one to explain for any houseplant because it varies from climate to climate and household to household. In areas and households with higher humidity, for example, you won’t need to water your English ivy as much. As such, it’s impossible to give you a premade watering schedule, but we can tell you how to figure out it’s time to water your plant.

You won’t need to water your English ivy too much since it likes to be kept on the dry side. To know when it’s time, just poke your finger one or two inches into the soil. If it’s still a bit moist to the touch, you don’t need to water. If the top layer is completely dry, then you can give the plant a nice drink.

Propagating Hedera helix

One of the best things about English ivy propagation is that it’s very easy. Since they’re always putting out vines, you can simply trim these and turn the cuttings into new plants. When propagating English ivy, choose young vines with plenty of leaves.

A cutting ideally includes a few leaves and/or growth nodes, which can sprout roots or leaves. Once you’ve obtained your cuttings, you can place them in a decorative vase with water. Alternatively, they can be placed directly into moist soil or sand to grow new plants.

Tip! To help with the growing process, if you really take things seriously, you can opt to dip the cuttings in a growth hormone and keep a plastic bag over them to trap in humidity. In about 6 to 8 weeks, you should see enough growth to be able to safely repot.

Hedera helix fertilizer

English ivy do well with a dash of fertilizer during the spring and summer growing season. Since less is often more, you can do half or even a quarter of the recommended amount of standard liquid houseplant fertilizer and dilute it.

For English ivy care indoors, you will likely only need to feed the plant once a month or so.

English ivy in the interior of the living room. Selective focus
© stock28studio on Adobe Stock.

Problems with Hedera helix

When caring for English ivy, spider mites tend to be the number one problem you’ll deal with (aside from under- or overwatering issues). If you notice webbed spots on your leaves, it’s likely spider mites calling your plant home. They love this species’ thin, papery leaves.

These pests thrive in dry environments, so you can try to ward them off by upping the humidity and misting/wiping down your plants more often as part of your regular care routine. In fact, you can even give the whole plant a good hose down in the shower or using a garden hose!

If an infestation appears to be getting out of hand you can try insecticides or homemade solutions, such as mixtures made with neem oil and mild liquid soap, to control the situation.

Buying Hedera helix

Since there are so many cultivars, there’s an ivy for everyone. You might be able to find this one in your local plant store or garden center. Alternatively, you can easily buy English ivy online. If you prefer the variegated version, you’ll find that here.

Do check your local regulations first since it’s illegal to buy and sell English ivy in some areas!

Is Hedera helix toxic to cats and dogs?

According to the ASPCA, English ivy is unfortunately indeed toxic to cats, dogs, and horses. Its sap, leaves, and berries are toxic to us humans, too, so this is one plant to definitely keep out of reach of children and pets! Luckily, as mentioned before, it does great as a hanging plant. Tuck it away nice and high to keep curious hands and paws at a distance.

Signs of English ivy poisoning include diarrhea, vomiting, excessive salivation, difficulty breathing, and abdominal pain.


If you have any more questions about caring for English ivy or if you want to share your own experiences with this beautiful vining plant, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Happy planting! 🌿

Cover photo © stock28studio on Adobe Stock.


6 thoughts on “Caring for English ivy | Hedera helix”

  1. Buenos días, mis helix están perdiendo muchas hojas y se ven como secas, también hay que admitir que siguen creciendo hojas nuevas pero me preocupa verla perder tantas hojas… Se secan como desde fuera de la hoja, no desde el nervio. No entiendo porqué está pasando esto. Que haya notado no les falta agua…

    Reply
    • Hola! El problema más común con esta planta son los ácaros, has echado un vistazo para ver si hay alguna infestación? Es fácil de ver, porque dejan telarañas pequeñas. Si no es eso, es difícil decirte qué puede ser sin ver la planta, pero algunos problemas comunes son: exceso de agua, falta de humedad, calidad baja del agua del grifo. Espero que logres averiguarlo, tengo que decir que es una planta que le resulta difícil a mucha gente.

      Reply
  2. My Ivory plant is dying in the middle I’m really good and growing plants I cannot understand how to grow it it keeps dying on me is it normally turned up at the end thank you

    Reply
    • Hey! It’s really difficult to tell you anything about what might be going on over the internet without seeing the plant, knowing how you’re caring for it and where it’s growing. Is it dying as in rotting, or losing leaves? What you could do is send a request to become a member of the Houseplant Central Facebook group and post some photos there alone with more info. That way me and other houseplant enthusiasts can take a peek for you. 🙂

      Reply

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