How to Keep Ivy Plants Alive

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If you don't train ivy, it will completely cover walls and fences.
If you don't train ivy, it will completely cover walls and fences. (Image: Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images)

English ivy is the most popular ivy grown in the United States, with over 400 named varieties. You may have seen English ivy growing up stone or brick walls of homes and other buildings. Ivy grows outdoors in a wide range of ways, including on fences, posts, walls, in containers and as groundcover. Indoors, ivy makes attractive plants in window boxes, vases and hanging baskets. Knowing how to care for and keep your ivy plants alive will provide you with years of low-maintenance, decorative greenery.

Things You'll Need

  • Fertilizer
  • Garden pruner
  • Edger (optional)
  • Artificial lighting (optional)

Outdoor Care

Keep your ivy healthy by using just a small amount of fertilizer once in the spring and again in the fall. Apply fertilizer in the summer also in the first year of your ivy planting. Use a fertilizer with 15-5-15 or 12-4-8 analysis listed on the container. If you have sandy soil, use a controlled-release fertilizer. Liquid or granular fertilizers work ideally in soil containing clay.

Prune your ivy with a garden pruner and edge ivy groundcover by hand or with an edger. Pull up any disconnected ivy vines growing beyond the ivy bed.

Selectively cut and strip ivy growing on your walls, leaving enough vine to create a line pattern; otherwise, the ivy will completely cover your walls, creating less interest. Ivy will also completely cover your tree trunks, posts and other vertical supports unless you cut and train it.

Indoor Care

Grow your ivy indoors in medium or bright filtered light, but avoid southern and western window exposures. Ivy grows well under artificial lights, such as electric lamps or fluorescent tube lamps. If you bring ivy into your home as potted plants from outdoors, place your ivy in shaded areas to keep the leaves from burning from direct sunlight.

Use 1 tsp. fertilizer per gallon of water of an analysis of 20-20-20 or 20-10-20, for example, on your indoor ivy plants, saturating the soil or medium. Apply the fertilizer six to eight times per year to keep your ivy healthy. Apply fertilizer 12 to 16 times yearly if your ivy grows under bright lights and 10 percent or more of the water you give it seeps out of its container.

Allow the upper layer of soil for your ivy to dry as long as the medium near the container's bottom has moisture. Water just before your ivy begins to wilt, which you can tell by lifting the ivy and judging how much it weighs. Water only to the top of the soil. Make certain the containers have good drainage. Never let the roots become extremely dry or your ivy will not live.

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