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Hedera Helix – Common Ivy

Ivy is one of the most popular garden climbing plants, cultivated already in the ancient Greece and Rome, greatly valued for its attractive evergreen foliage. It belongs to the Araliaceae family, also known as the Aralia family.

It is an evergreen climbing plant growing up to 30 m high and producing 0.5-1 m of new growth a year. It’s very long-lived, the oldest specimen are over 200 years old. The main attraction are its handsome evergreen, deep green leaves.

It climbs by means of aerial rootlets, which cling to the support. Ivy passes through two stages of development: a juvenile (growing) stage and an adult (flowering and fruiting) stage, which differ substantially in plant’s appearance and its growing habit. The plant in the juvenile stage (the most popular one) has flexible stems with aerial rootlets. The mature form has rigid stems, sometimes rising upwards, with very few or no aerial rootlets present. The leaves on juvenile creeping stems are large ovate, three- to five-lobed, with a heart-shaped base. The leaves on adult flowering stems are oval or rhomboidal and have no lobes. Inconspicuous, small, greenish-white flowers are produced from September to November, gathered in round umbels. The fruit are black-violet berries ripening in late winter. The cultivars ‘Thorndale’ and ‘Woerner’ are excellent for widespread use, while ‘Goldheart’ is better for smaller areas and for a mild climate.

  • ‘Goldheart’ – the best variegated cultivar. Deep green leaves are splashed with golden-yellow at the centre. It grows up to 4 m high (0,5 m of new growth a year). Relatively sensitive to frost.
  • ‘Thorndale’ – the best groundcover of all Common ivy cultivars. Large glossy deep green leathery leaves with pale veins. A very vigorous and spreading plant. Recommended for half-shade or shade, it’s an excellent plant for a public green space. The most commonly cultivated ivy in the USA. Relatively frost-hardy.
  • ‘Woerner’ – deep green leaves with prominent white veins. Recommended for half-shade or shade, it’s a vigorous plant, suitable for both climbing walls, as groundcover, or a screening plant. Ideal for a public green space, relatively frost hardy.

It grows best in shade or partial shade. In a sunny position it is more likely to freeze during severe winters. It doesn’t like dry acid soils, but will tolerate well most average soils.

It makes an excellent groundcover plant, replacing lawn in shades areas, e.g. at the base of the trees. Ideal for growing up trees, pergolas, walls, fences and anywhere where an evergreen cover or screen is needed.

Hedera hibernica – Irish ivy. A strong-growing and spreading plant. Large, evergreen, dark green, leathery, mostly five-lobed leaves.