Algerian ivy (Hedera canariensis or Hedera algeriensis) belongs to the ginseng plant family (Araliaceae) and is a close relative of English ivy (Hedera helix). Native to the Canary Islands, North Africa and Portugal, Algerian ivy prefers the warm weather found in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8b or 9 through 10 or 11. This vigorous, hardy vine typically resists pests, but foliage-feeding caterpillars occasionally attack the plant.
Algerian ivy is an evergreen vine that features distinctive pink to red stems and big, leathery, three-lobed leaves. The foliage emerges as a shiny, light green, but matures to a lush, deep green color. Younger vines produce fall-blooming white flowers, while older vines bear inconspicuous clusters of yellow-green blossoms that give way to bluish-black berries. Although primarily used as a large-scale groundcover, older vines can become very woody, occasionally taking more of an erect shrub form.
Caterpillars occasionally enjoy feeding on Algerian ivy foliage, with the colorful omnivorous looper (Sabulodes aegrotata), or inchworm, inflicting the worst damage. The tiny looper larvae start out light yellow but mature to large caterpillars with yellow, pink or light green bodies and golden-yellow heads. After feeding for 4 to 6 weeks, the caterpillars roll ivy leaves together with a silk webbing to form a sheltered place to pupate. Adult, tan to orange moths emerge from the case one week to one month later. Adult females lay egg clusters beneath the ivy leaves, with new larvae hatching in about one week.
Caterpillar feeding activity can seriously damage Algerian ivy plants, particularly in the spring when looper populations increase. The tiny larvae feed on leaf surfaces, leaving just brown membranes wherever they chew. Mature caterpillars feed quite heavily, chewing all the way through ivy leaves. The loopers frequently skeletonize foliage, leaving just the leaf veins behind. Large caterpillar populations can quickly defoliate your ivy, which weakens the remaining plant tissue and even could kill the entire vine.
Naturally occurring predator and parasitic insects often help control caterpillar populations. Avoid using a broad-spectrum pesticide that also kills the spiders, damsel bugs, lacewings, flies and wasps that prey on looper larvae. Spraying an application of Bacillus thuringiensis can help control newly hatched looper larvae. Pick off any larger caterpillars you see inching along your vine. Prune out and destroy any infested ivy foliage to prevent spreading these pests to other landscape plants.
Algerian Ivy Care
Keeping your Algerian ivy healthy helps protect it from caterpillar damage and makes it more likely to recover if an infestation should occur. This vine prefers moist, fertile soils, but it tolerates various soil conditions just as long as the site has good drainage. Plant your vine in partial to full shade for optimal health and growth. This cold- and heat-sensitive ivy needs a protected location if your area experiences temperatures below 30 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter or above 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer.
Because it spreads so rapidly, plant Algerian ivy only in very spacious areas. This vine becomes very hard to remove once established, forming thick, dense mats that quickly smother other vegetation and cover any available soil. Because of these characteristics, many states have placed Algerian ivy on their invasive plant species lists. Check with your local agricultural extension agency to find out the status of this vine in your area.
- Arizona State University: Hedera Canariensis
- Floridata: Hedera Canariensis
- University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service: Hedera Canariensis
- California Invasive Plant Council: Ivy Species
- University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program: Omnivorous Looper
- University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program: Foliage-feeding Caterpillars
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