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GardenSMART :: Growing English Ivy

Growing English Ivy

By Karen Weir-Jimerson, Costa Farms
Photographs courtesy of Costa Farms


English ivy (Hedera helix) is a gorgeous houseplant that produces long vines covered with heart-shape leaves. This popular species features varieties that range in color from dark to light green, as well as beautiful variegated forms.

English ivy is also an outdoor plant and can become invasive in some locations because of its aggressive growth habit. But English ivy will never get out of hand inside your home. With the right light, water, and care it can be one of the most beautiful indoor plants, excelling in containers and cascading from hanging baskets.

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But like many indoor plants, English ivy is not without its complexities. And the leaves are the first place symptoms of problems show up. Drying, browning, and dropping leaves are a plant's cry for help. But many things (and a combination of things) can cause ivies to freak out and go brown. Plants who get too much of a good thing (too much water, fertilizer, or sun), can react adversely. Or plants can get too little of a good thing (too little water or humidity).

With so many reasons for symptoms, where do you start? Here are some guidelines:


Ivies like medium light best, but will also do well in bright light. You can grow ivies in low light indoors, however they won't last as long.

Variegated varieties like less direct light than those with green leaves, and are susceptible to damage from too much sun.


Ivies don't like wet soil. Wait to water until the top inch of the potting mix dries out. Keep this houseplant a little too dry rather than too wet. (This is true for most houseplants.) Overwatering causes brown leaves that are dry on the edges.

Ivies don't like to be underwatered either. A too-dry plant is stressed, which makes it susceptible to insect infestations.


Ivies don't like overly moist soil, but they do like moist air. Increase the humidity in your home or at least around your plants by adding pebbles and water to a saucer, and setting your ivy on the pebbles. The water evaporates, raising humidity around the plant.


Ivies are native to the cooler climates of central and northern Europe. They do best between 50 to 70°F (10 to 21°C).

Learn more about English ivy and discover its many varieties at


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