English Ivy (Hedera): care and advice on the house climber

Hi, how are things? :) Welcome to the complete guide on ivy.
In this post we reveal all the secrets about ivy, its benefits, the different varieties and how to reproduce it!

Thanks for reading 🌱✌🙂

Hiedra común sobre muro de piedra

Imagine that you are walking on a path in the middle of a lush and humid forest. And that you decide to stop to rest leaning on a rock. As you do so, you realize that the rock is almost entirely covered by a vine. If I asked you what plant you have imagined, would that be the ivy?

What is common ivy (or hedera helix)?

The Ivy is a climbing plant Very strong, known for its strength and ability to cover walls, trees or entire walls with its leaves 🌿

In ancient times, this plant came to astonish many of the European cultures for its strength to the cold winters. Considered in Rome as a magic plant and symbol of fidelity (by fixing and grasping its branches), it has always been surrounded by a spiritual meaning ✨

Hiedra Hedera Trinity en una maceta de barro Ushebti 12

Today we continue to grow english ivy in houses around the world to upholster walls, fences or terraces. Inside, we use different varieties of potted or hanging ivy to give a fresh and green touch to our houses.

It is undoubtedly one of the plants that can help us the most to create green and natural spaces. It's pretty, upholstery, and extremely tough. A perfect ally in our personal jungle.

Common Ivy Characteristics

Common ivy it is a climbing and perennial plant, with intense green leaves and a woody stem.

Known internationally as English ivy (english ivy) and widespread in the UK. Which is why many pubs and bars in Ireland and England have an ivy leaf logo.

Its scientific name is Hedera helix (from the Latin verb prehendo, which means grab) and is one of the 15 species that belong to the Araliaceae family. Yes, there are up to 15 species of ivy, and some of them with spectacular colors! 🌈

It is native to European forests, North Africa and East Asia, where it has always grown by crawling on the ground until it founds surfaces to climb.

Raíces aéreas de una Hedera Helix

When they do, they are helped by a few small adventitious roots (aerial) that appear in the young shoots. These roots are held with great force to climb trees, fences, walls, rocks or bars. Ivy can grow very fast and climb up to 30m in height.

It usually blooms in late summer and its flowers are yellowish-green. The fruits are small green-black balls of about 5 to10mm and are poisonous to humans.

Instead, these berries are the favorite food of several species of birds, which by eating them help to spread the seeds. Birds 1 - Humans 0 🐦🤷‍♂️

Properties and Benefits of English Ivy

Beyond its ability to create green areas, ivy can help us a lot to clean the air of VOCs (toxic volatile particles).

Ivy as a purifying plant

Ivy is one of the best biological air purifiers 🌍

These are the conclusions of a study from the Taipei University of Technology:
The results show that, compared to dissipation without plants, potted ivy reduces the time required to reach the level of 0.5ppm of formaldehyde in air by 70%, thus improving the quality of the air in the room..

Estudio de la hiedra sobre las partículas tóxicas

Study of ivy as a purifying plant. Study source here.

It should be remembered that formaldehyde is one of the most important chemical compounds used in the chemical industry. Used in the manufacture of cosmetics, textiles, shampoos, resins, varnishes, etc. It is therefore one of the most common polluting particles in homes.

So yes, having ivy will not only make your space more natural and wild, it will also help improve air quality by absorbing toxic particles ✌

Ivy as a medicinal plant

Although ivy has several properties as a medicinal plant, it must be made clear that both the stem, leaves and fruits are toxic to humans when ingested.

Now, ivy has certain substances that, extracted and isolated in the laboratory (hedera helix extract), are used as expectorants and natural mucolytics in different cough syrups.

It is also used for fight cellulite for its anti-inflammatory and vasoconstrictor properties. Specifically, isolated saponins and hederin are the substances responsible for this.

Never consume it at home or in products without medical certification.

Ivy as a natural thermal insulator

Hiedra en una pared de piedra

Traditionally, the use of ivy on the walls and walls of houses has had another reason besides the aesthetic one. And it is that the density of its leaves, aerial roots and woody stems, helps to stop the transmission of heat towards the wall and vice versa. Which makes the rooms cool in the summer and warm in the winter. ECO insulation really.

Climbing Ivy Care

If there's one plant that could manage perfectly without us (well, all of them actually), it's ivy. Bella, but it lasts like no other. Although if you want to pamper yourself, here are some tips:


Indirect light. If it receives direct sunlight it is better not to be more than 4-6 hours a day. In summer avoid direct sunlight. Used to low forest areas, ivy needs semi-shade and grows somewhat better on walls or areas where the sun does not shine directly.

Varieties with multi-colored leaves and variegated they may need a little more light.

Anyway, we are talking about the ivy. Even on walls in full sun it will grow and climb without stop.

Hiedra con hojas variegadas blancas


Ideally between 12 and 24 ºC. It can withstand strong temperature drops, down to 0ºC at night and even snowfalls. From 32ºC, with direct sun it can begin to burn and lose leaves.


Abundant especially in young ivy, recently transplanted or in growth stage. But always ensuring good drainage if it is potted. Watering once a week or ten days will be more than enough.

In the warmer months, it is a good idea to spray the leaves often with water to prevent dryness and the appearance of mites such as spider mites.

Substrate and Fertilization

Ivy is an invasive species in many places, and it adapts to almost all types of floors: sandy, wet, light, compact, rocky, etc.

Hiedra invasora sobre suelo de cemento

A quality universal substrate will suffice. If you are looking to make your own substrate, a mixture of equal parts perlite, peat and organic compost will be ideal.

But always allow good drainage!

Regarding fertilization, although I am not very much in favor, ivy does allow and responds well when nutrients are added (either liquid or slow release). Fertilize a maximum of 1 time every 4 months.

But come on, with the amazing growth that this plant has, I don't know if you want to supplement it. That already depends on each one 🤪


Ivy likes humidity a lot and feeling those fresh water droplets on its leaves .. It will be much happier in environments with a medium-high humidity 💦 In dry areas we can increase it by putting a small bowl or jar with water next to it. Or also by pulverizing it.

Hojas de hiedra con pequeñas gotas de agua

Pests: why does ivy die and how to cure it?

Killing an ivy is a complicated task that requires all our capacity for destruction. Still, everything is possible in this life. And furthermore, ivy is a plant susceptible to pests that although they weaken it, it is rare that they kill it ->

-Aphids. Ivy is usually a good road and food for aphids. This is the most common pest of ivy and in a matter of a couple of days, there can be an explosion in the number of aphids without us noticing.

They usually appear on young stems.

Tallo de hiedra con pulgones

Some of the remedies to treat aphids are: potassium soap in spray format or neem oil. Cut branches that are directly infected. Or take the plant by the stem and immerse it in a basin of water and shake it. Aphids are quarrelsome but when we shake or submerge the leaves of the plant, these bugs from hell fall easily 👹

-Mites. The spider mite is typical, especially in small-leaved ivy. It is easy to identify, and we can do it by observing closely, looking for little black dots on the underside of the leaves or small weak cobwebs. They can be removed manually or by combining potassium soap and Neem oil. It will also be good to apply moisture.

-Mealybugs. Easy to identify and remove if not widespread. With a cotton or kitchen paper impregnated in alcohol, we can remove them from the leaves. If the pest is widespread, it will be necessary to consider cutting the affected branches. We can also sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the infected areas.

-Mushrooms. One of the most typical in ivy is the cercospora (Cercospora beticola). Which makes the leaves yellow and causes a kind of yellow / brown / black circles. If the entire plant has not been infected, the ideal is to remove the affected leaves. It is important to know that this fungus only develops in high temperatures, above 25ºC and in areas of high humidity.

Hojas de hiedra con hongo cercospora

How to plant ivy using cuttings

Definitely, the best way to grow ivy is by cuttings. Planting ivy from seeds can be a slow and less effective process than from cuttings.

This is probably one of the plants that cuts the fastest and develops new roots, in almost all types of substrates. So...

To multiply the ivy we will follow the following steps:

1. To select a young stem, between 2 and 3mm thick. Woody stems are best picked as young shoots are at higher risk of rot.

2. Cut about 4cm below the node (where the leaves come from). I recommend leaving one or two knots at most. Our cutting should ideally have a couple of leaves.

3. Insert the cutting in a moist substrate and give it a good watering.

4. Keep the substrate well moist during the first 3-4 days and the cutting in a shady or semi-light area.

5. After 10 days it will have already taken out the first roots, although we will still have to wait another week for these to fix well to the substrate.

 Esquejes de hiedra en cocotakos

Finally comment, that you can also make the cuttings by putting them in water. I do not recommend adding rooting agents (both synthetic and natural) since this plant does not need them.

How to prune ivy

If what you want is to prune the ivy to do a little cleaning or maintenance, then you will have to sprout guide shoots. This way we will get a more compact and leafy plant.

These buds are easily identifiable since they are the final ends of the branches, their leaves are light green and the stem is much softer.

Types of ivy according to the leaf

There are more than 15 species of English Ivy and more than 400 varieties according to the American Ivy Association (yes, it does exist and it's called The American Ivy Society). Practically most can be categorized into the following:

Arborescent: they are robust, with stiff stems and often produce flowers and fruits.

Bird foot: The leaves of this variety are shaped like a bird's foot, with two shorter lobes and a longer one in the center.

Curlies: ivy of this type tend to have curly and wavy leaves.

Fan Type: the leaves form a uniform fan in all the lobes of the leaves.

Hearts: the leaves are heart-shaped. Miniatures: they produce small leaves that do not exceed 2cm in width / length.

Variegated: they have variegated leaves (with white and yellow spots). These are amazing.

Mini Hiedra en maceta de barro azul

Some of the most famous concrete varieties are:
  • English ivy. The English name for common ivy.
  • Canary ivy (Hedera Canariensis). Native variety of the Canary Islands (Spain), its leaves are wide, of an intense green color.
  • Yellow Ripple. A small-leaved "bird's foot" ivy with pastel yellow edges.
  • Hedera Crispy. With small, curly leaves, it would be a "curlie" type.
  • Algerian ivy (Hedera algeriensis). Native to North Africa, with green or variegated "bird's foot" type leaves.
  • Persian ivy (Hedera Colchica). Native to the Middle East, it is the ivy with the largest leaves (up to 25cm).
  • Japanese ivy. The red-leaved variety. Technically it is not an ivy, but a Parthenocissus Tricuspidata.

Hiedra roja japonesa enredada en una valla

"Red ivy" - Photo by ASSY, fuente here

Curiosities and tips

Common ivy, better indoors or outdoors?

Really it doesn't matter a bitas long as it gets enough light and proper watering.

If it is interior, the ideal will be to look for well-lit rooms where the light enters during a good part of the day. Be careful with excessive air conditioning or heating, as they could dry out some of the leaves.

If it is outdoors, the ideal would be to look for a terrace or balcony with an east / west orientation, where the sun only hits first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon. A north face could also work.

Mini hiedra pequeña variegada en cocotako

So ... is ivy poisonous or toxic?

Yes, but only when swallowed. What happens is that it is often confused with the famous "poison ivy" which is actually a Toxicodendron Radicans and is a climbing plant from a different family.

The leaves of this climber (which is not an ivy) do have the ability to produce a skin irritant called urushiol, which is an oil that is found throughout the plant and that can cause dermatitis and serious inflammation when it comes in contact with the skin. Here an interesting article on this poison ivy.

Therefore, the ivy "hedera" (and its fruits) can be toxic if we eat it (intestinal pain and / or vomiting), but not when touched.

The ivy flower, what is it like?

The flowers of ivy are greenish-yellow, small and grouped in umbels at the end of the stem. The umbel is a type of flowering in the shape of an umbrella or half sphere, which in the case of ivy collects between 14 and 20 flowers each.

Flor de la Hiedra

Ivy Flower by Barbara baldocchi

Flowering occurs in late summer, which serves as a late pollen feed for bees and other insects.

Disadvantages of ivy

The only two disadvantages that this plant could have are its rapid growth and the strong grip of its aerial roots.

Its rapid growth has meant that it has been considered a Invasive species in many areas of the world. But at home and in a pot, this can work to our advantage!

On the other hand, the strong grip on its roots on walls or other surfaces, it makes removing them quite difficult. Since often, if the ivy has been around for a few months or years, when we remove it we take a good part of the paint from the wall and there is always a mark. With ivy indoors there is usually no major problem.

Enredadera hiedra descorchando pared

Its effect on tree trunks has also been studied, and although it has not been proven that it causes a direct problem, it has been seen that on days with strong winds, some trees with ivy on their trunks have been uprooted by the artificial density that the ivy gave it. 


The ivy is one of the most interesting plants when creating green spaces anywhere. And although we are used to "common ivy", as we have seen, there are all kinds of varieties with different colors and leaf shapes.

Indoors, it is less aggressive and grows less beastly than outdoors, which makes it a super ally to give a greener and wilder touch to our jungle!

If you are thinking of getting one, take a look at our mini indoor plants ✌🙂🌿

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