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English Ivy Hedera helix

Other plants called English Ivy:

Previously known as:

  • Hedera communis
  • Hedera poetica
Phonetic Spelling
HED-er-ah HEE-licks
This plant has medium severity poison characteristics.
See below
This plant is an invasive species in North Carolina
Description

This plant is problematic and alternatives should be considered.  Please see the suggestions in the left-hand column or this video created by Charlotte Glen as part of the Plants, Pests, and Pathogens series.

English ivy is a high-climbing evergreen vine in the Araliaceae (ginseng) family. In North America, English ivy is widespread in urban and disturbed forests and is commonly associated with other nonnative species. 

When planted in the landscape, it is an invasive, weedy, and aggressive plant and other groundcovers that do well in the partial or light shade should be considered. Once established, it is nearly impossible to eradicate and is one of the worst invasive weed problems in North Carolina. It aggressively spreads into native forests, where it smothers tall trees as well as the forest floor, preventing native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees from sprouting.

When grown outside, the plant prefers partial to full shade and rich, acidic, loamy soil. However, it will tolerate a range of soil conditions and will grow in full sun, although full sun may burn the leaves in the winter. Established vines are hardy and drought and salt tolerant. This plant is frequently browsed by deer.

Cuttings taken from the adult part of the plant develop into a shrub form and, taking into consideration its invasive nature, the plant can be used as an exterior ground cover, in planters or low walls, or stream banks and difficult areas. The plant grows in two stages. The juvenile stage is the climbing/spreading stage producing thick green leaves on non-flowering stems with adventitious roots. The adult stage is the shrubby non-climbing stage in which stems do not spread or climb, but do produce clusters of greenish-white flowers in early fall followed by blue-black berries. The fruits are ornamental, appearing as a bunch of "grapes", but poisonous when ingested.

Note that the 80-foot height potential for this plant listed below reflects an outside plant. It is safer, and more common, to grow it as a houseplant.  Exterior plants typically belong to var. hibernica, which is used as an interior plant in hanging baskets, tall planters, or as grafted standards on X Fatshedera lizei stock. These cultivars are commonly from a different variety, not as cold-hardy, with smaller leaves. Smaller-leaved cultivars are often used for topiary shapes, houseplants, or small area ground covers.

 

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: As mentioned, the plant is invasive and the rapid growth of the climbing vines can cause structural problems. The plant is subject to aphids, mealybugs, caterpillars, mites, loopers, and scale. Watch for leaf spots, canker, bacterial leaf spot, stem rot, and powdery mildew. Climbing vines around homes easily crawl into unintended areas, curl around gutters, and damage painted surfaces, loose mortar or aluminum siding if growth is not closely monitored.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscapes:
Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Part Sun-Part Shade Gardens Mountain Ridge Top Garden - East Lawn and Lower Drive Border Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Front Shade Garden
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Arborescens'
    will not climb, but grows as a 3 foot shrub
  • 'Arborescens Golden'
  • 'Baltica'
  • 'Bulgasia'
  • 'Buttercup'
  • 'California'
  • 'Glacier'
    triangular leaves, gray and green and white margins
  • 'Gnome'
    Petite, slow-growing
  • 'Gold Child'
  • 'Midas Touch'
    green variegated with gold, 8" tall by 8' wide, less invasive
  • 'Treetop'
    Adult form growing as compact shrub, leaves mostly unlobed
  • 'Variegated'
'Arborescens', 'Arborescens Golden', 'Baltica', 'Bulgasia' , 'Buttercup', 'California', 'Glacier', 'Gnome', 'Gold Child', 'Midas Touch', 'Treetop', 'Variegated'
Tags:
#evergreen#invasive#poisonous#drought tolerant#interiorscape#apvg#cpp#aggressive#deer browsing plant#glossy leaves#fantz#perennial weeds#evergreen vine#problem for cats#apvg-vg#problem for dogs#problem for horses#contact dermatitis
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Arborescens'
    will not climb, but grows as a 3 foot shrub
  • 'Arborescens Golden'
  • 'Baltica'
  • 'Bulgasia'
  • 'Buttercup'
  • 'California'
  • 'Glacier'
    triangular leaves, gray and green and white margins
  • 'Gnome'
    Petite, slow-growing
  • 'Gold Child'
  • 'Midas Touch'
    green variegated with gold, 8" tall by 8' wide, less invasive
  • 'Treetop'
    Adult form growing as compact shrub, leaves mostly unlobed
  • 'Variegated'
'Arborescens', 'Arborescens Golden', 'Baltica', 'Bulgasia' , 'Buttercup', 'California', 'Glacier', 'Gnome', 'Gold Child', 'Midas Touch', 'Treetop', 'Variegated'
Tags:
#evergreen#invasive#poisonous#drought tolerant#interiorscape#apvg#cpp#aggressive#deer browsing plant#glossy leaves#fantz#perennial weeds#evergreen vine#problem for cats#apvg-vg#problem for dogs#problem for horses#contact dermatitis
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Hedera
    Species:
    helix
    Family:
    Araliaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Historically, English ivy was used as a topical agent for its antifungal and antimicrobial properties.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Root Cutting
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Europe, Scandinavia east to Russia
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Play Value:
    Wildlife Food Source
    Climbing Method:
    Clinging
    Tendrils
    Edibility:
    Leaves and berries are toxic to humans.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 20 ft. 0 in. - 80 ft. 6 in.
    Width: 3 ft. 0 in. - 50 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Ground Cover
    Houseplant
    Poisonous
    Vine
    Weed
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Ascending
    Climbing
    Creeping
    Prostrate
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    High
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    more than 60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4b, 4a, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8b, 8a, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b, 12b, 12a, 13a, 13b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Blue
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Aggregate
    Berry
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Conspicuous cluster of black berry-like drupes.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Umbel
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Flowers small, greenish-yellow, 5-parted. An umbel or compound umbels. Only occur on mature branches.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Variegated
    White
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Palmasect
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Lobed
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Evergreen, 3-5 palmate lobes with palmate venation when juvenile, ovate to rhombic on mature/adult branches borne well off the ground; leaves dark green above and lustrous, prominently whitish-gray becoming lighter green with age borne adjacent to major veins. Leaves are typically 4 inches long × 2.5 to 5 inches wide.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Green
    Surface/Attachment:
    Exfoliating
    Bark Plate Shape:
    Round
    Bark Description:
    Usually not visible under leaf cover unless plant is climbing a structure or tree.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Buds:
    Smooth/Hairless
    Stem Bud Terminal:
    Only 1 terminal bud, smaller than side buds
    Stem Cross Section:
    Round
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Description:
    Produces adventitious roots for climbing. Individual English ivy plants may have both juvenile and adult stems. The juvenile phase typically forms the ground cover. Juvenile English ivy begins to climb when vertical structure is available (e.g., trees, shrubs, buildings, utility poles), and vertical stems transition to the adult phase.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Houseplants
    Attracts:
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Drought
    Heavy Shade
    Salt
    Problems:
    Contact Dermatitis
    Invasive Species
    Poisonous to Humans
    Problem for Cats
    Problem for Dogs
    Problem for Horses
    Weedy
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Medium
    Poison Symptoms:
    Contact with plant cell sap causes severe skin irritation with redness, itching, and blisters. Ingestion of berries causes burning sensation in the throat. Ingestion of leaves can result in delirium, stupor, convulsions, hallucinations, fever and rash, vomiting, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, and diarrhea. Foliage is more toxic than berries. English ivy contains allergens that may affect humans.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Triterpenoid saponins and polyacetylene compounds
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    Yes
    Poison Part:
    Bark
    Flowers
    Fruits
    Leaves
    Roots
    Sap/Juice
    Seeds
    Stems