Hedera

variegated ivy leaves

A large group of robust and hardy evergreen creepers and climbers, widely grown for their attractive foliage. Excellent as a self-supporting climber, ground cover or as a trailer for containers and hanging baskets.

Family: Araliaceae
Botanical Name: Hedera
Common Name: Ivy

Foliage: Glossy evergreen simple lobed leaves. Small or large depending on variety. The most attractive forms have variegated foliage.

Flowers: Clusters of small yellow-green flowers, often followed by black berries.

Flowering Period: Late summer.

Soil: Moist but well-drained soil (chalk, clay, sand or loam). Acid, alkaline or neutral pH.

Conditions: Sun, shade or partial shade. Can be grown in virtually any situation.

Habit: Spreading, climbing, self-clinging.

Type: Climber or scrambling ground cover.

Origin: Europe and North Africa.

Hardiness: Fully hardy in UK.

Toxicity: All parts of this plant are toxic including the berries. Harmful if eaten. May cause skin allergy.

Planting and Growing Hedera

Plant from autumn to spring in any good garden soil, even poor soils. Shade tolerant and reasonably drought tolerant once established. Flowers do not normally appear until the plant is about five to ten years old.

Ivy is an easy to grow climber that will thrive virtually anywhere. Plain forms can be vigorous and invasive but are easily kept under control by punning. Variegated types are slower growing, providing very attractive all-year-round cover. If grown on the ground it will spread out until it reaches a vertical obstacle to climb.

Plain green varieties can be grown in any aspect but variegated forms retain their colour better on an east or west facing surface. Bright south facing walls can often be too hot.

Taking Care of Hedera

Water in very dry weather. Feed container grown specimens monthly with an all-purpose feed during the growing season.

Vigorous forms will quickly cover an unsightly object in the garden. Ivy can also be trained to grow in any shape such as a spiral or cone, by growing over a chicken-wire frame.

Pruning Hedera

Pruning is not necessary except to control growth. Prune in spring and summer. Cut out reverted shoots on variegated forms, as these will be more vigorous and eventually take over. Large, dense specimens can be pruned hard. Wall-covering specimens should be clipped every other spring to reduce the depth and weight of the plant.

Pests and Diseases

Can be affected by leaf spot. Scale insects and red spider mite can also infect wall grown specimens.

Propagating Hedera

Take 5in (12cm) cuttings from stem tips or sections of long shoots in summer. Alternatively layer fresh runners.

Popular Varieties of Hedera

Hedera canariensis (Algerian ivy, Canary Ivy) has large, leathery, heart-shaped leaves, bright green in summer and bronze in winter. The stems are covered with brown felt-like hairs. Height and spread to 20ft (6m). Variety 'Gloire de Marengo' has attractive creamy-white-edged leaves with silvery-green centres. For sale at Crocus.

Hedera colchica (Persian ivy) a vigorous species with dark green heart shaped foliage. Variety 'Dentata Variegata' has margined creamy yellow leaves with pale green centres. Height and spread from 20-30ft (6-9m). 'Sulphur Heart' has yellow variegated leaves. Ideal for a shady wall. For sale at Crocus.

Hedera helix (common ivy) one of the hardiest species with attractive glossy leaves. Some good variegated forms are available. Ideal ground cover in shade. Height and spread varies, depending on variety. Cultivars include:

  • 'Buttercup' all yellow leaves, turning pale green as they mature.
  • 'Glacier' silvery-grey leaves with a narrow white margin. For sale at You Garden.
  • 'Goldchild' evergreen climber with olive green, lobed leaves with broad gold margins. For sale at Thompson & Morgan.
  • 'Goldheart' green leaves with a striking yellow central splash. For sale at You Garden.
  • 'Green Ripple' large-leaved dark green glossy foliage with contrasting, pale veins. For sale at Thompson & Morgan.

Hedera hibernica (Irish ivy, Atlantic Ivy) produces larger dark-green, lobed leaves but is less hardy. For sale at Thompson & Morgan.