English Ivy – Hedera helix

ivy - hedera helix

Hedera helix
Common name : English Ivy
Family : Aralicaeae

Hedera helix is a vigorous self clinging climber or ground cover with 3-5 lobed triangular, glossy leaves 4-6cm long.

There a hundreds of cultivars, with almost infinite variations in leaf colour and shape but most with some form of variegation. H. helix may be contrasted with larger leaved species such as H. canariensis or H. colchica.

A plant with a purpose, H. helix tolerates a wide range of conditions, including the toughest of all – dry shade.

It prefers moist, well-drained humus rich soils, preferably slightly alkaline. The more brightly variegated cultivars prefer more light and therefore do better in partial or dappled shade or even full sun. Most cultivars are hardy to -10 degrees C.

Grown on walls, fences and as ground cover, H. helix is a useful backdrop or setting for other plants and can lift dark or shady corners with its glossy leaves and variegated forms.


H. helix has a tendency to weediness. It should therefore be pruned to stay within the confines of the growing area. This will prevent adult, arborescent growth which produces the berries which are spread by birds.

When used as a ground cover, care should be taken to prevent spread beyond the desired area as it roots easily. This was a problem I had with this garden when I first moved into it.

Water freely in growth and and apply a general purpose fertiliser monthly. Ideally, keep moist in winter.

Pests etc

Two spotted mites, scale insects and leaf spot may be a problem.


Propagate with semi ripe cuttings or by layering.


Brickell C (ed), 1998, the Royal Horticultural Society A to Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants Dorling Kindersley, London.

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