Ivy in the garden

Posted: Monday 13 October 2014
by Adam Pasco

Ivy can be such an attractive climber, cladding walls, fences and supports, but it doesn’t know when to stop growing.

Ivy can be such an attractive climber, cladding walls, fences and supports, but it doesn’t know when to stop growing. It’s often recommended for those shaded, low-light areas where few others will flourish, and I’ve seen it planted to great effect as year-round groundcover, under the canopy of large trees.

There are numerous varieties of Hedera to choose from. Leaves vary in size, shape and texture, in deep shades of green, or with vibrant, variegated markings. Those with dainty, patterned foliage look perfect trailing over the edge of patio pots or baskets, and really perk up winter displays. I’ve even grown my namesake ‘Adam’ with bold, creamy-white edges to its small leaves, but can’t let this colour my judgement.

Yes, I like the way ivy covers rather dull fences, and it's great for obscuring eyesores. But then it spreads through other plants in my borders, rooting into the soil and colonising areas where I really don’t want it.

Walking round my local area I witness examples of its invasiveness. There’s one property with ivy climbing up the wall of the house, up and over the roof, blocking the gutters along its way. It must be removed before extensive damage is done (although this can be easier said than done).

Woodland trees often play host to hedera, but you can find it doing the same thing in gardens too. My neighbours' apple trees are now covered with ivy, and if it were my tree the warning bells would be ringing.

Its weight and bulk can put a tremendous strain on otherwise healthy trees, particularly during strong winds when large expanses of ivy act rather like a sail. Some trees may be able to tolerate their companion, but others can become stifled and topple.

Yes, ivy is a valuable plant, providing shelter and nesting places for birds. Its late flowers, rich in pollen and nectar, are a useful source of food for late-flying insects too.

If you want some then it’s very easy to propagate. Wherever shoots touch the ground – or a tray of compost – the aerial roots will take hold, with shoots quickly becoming self-sufficient so they can be removed from their parent and planted in a new home.

But as with so many ‘good doers’ they just don’t know when to stop. Robust, strong-growing hardy plants have their place, but do take care when you plant them in your garden or they’ll take advantage … and take over!

Discuss this blog post

Talkback: Ivy in the garden
Your comment will appear after a quick registration step

Janells 15/10/2014 at 18:36

I agree about ivy. I have let a lot grow in my garden however I am cutting back on it - hope it isn't too late!

Thanks - Jane

hogweed 15/10/2014 at 19:52

Ivy - the first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, the third year it leaps! So true!

Benita Middleton 19/10/2014 at 23:18

The wildlife just love it!

Benita Middleton 21/10/2014 at 22:31

Its A great plant to have in the right place, it has so many benefits and really attractive to look at all year round, wildlife love it too!

Mooresthemerrier 10/11/2014 at 22:09

I have lots of ivy growing over our fence from the neighbour. It covers our fence next to our veg patch. Whats the best way to keep control of the ivy to ensure it doesnt take over? There seem to be lots of flies and insects buzzing around it at the moment so I also dont want to disturb them.

See more comments...