Authors as Published

Alex X. Niemiera, Associate Professor, Department of Horticulture


Foliage: There is a great amount of variation in leaf shape and color; evergreen
Height: As a ground cover to about 9 inches tall; as a vine will climb to 90 feet tall
Spread: As a ground cover will spread indefinitely

Main features

English ivy is an attractive evergreen ground cover and vine that grows in full sun or full shade. While very attractive due to its lustrous green foliage and numerous foliage variations found in the cultivars, and being very tolerant of adverse conditions, this species has been documented as an invasive species. NatureServe’s overall invasive rank for English ivy (Hedera helix) is High/medium with an ecological impact ranking of Medium. NatureServe’s Invasive Rank Reasons Summary is “Hedera helix is shown to negatively effect forest biodiversity, especially in the Pacific Northwest. It is also a popular landscaping plant. There is no guaranteed method for keeping H. helix out of natural areas or removing it once it has established.” (reference at bottom)

Plant Needs

Zone: 4 to 9 but will depend on cultivar; some cultivars are not hardy in zone 6
Light: Full sun to full shade; foliage may be discolored in full sun during winter
Moisture: Moist to dry
Soil type: Any type; will tolerate salt spray
pH range: Acid to alkaline


English ivy is an attractive ground cover or vine.


English ivy is a relatively maintenance-free species when grown as a ground cover with the exception that it will invade adjacent beds. Once it has invaded adjacent beds, it is difficult to control. When it reaches a vertical element (e.g., fence, tree, and wall), English ivy will climb by rootlets on the stem. To protect the health of trees, one must remove/kill vines that climb on trees.

Additional Information

English ivy has two growth phases, juvenile and adult (mature). In the juvenile phase leaves are lobed and plants will usually not flower/set seed. In the adult phase leaves are not lobed and plant will flower and set seed. In general, plants that grow horizontally (ground cover) do not enter the adult phase; hence, they do not pose a reproductively invasive situation. In the juvenile phase, they do, however, pose a somewhat local vegetative invasive threat, i.e., they will spread to surrounding areas by stem elongation. In the adult phase, when the plant grows in a vertical fashion (i.e., vine), plants will pose a reproductive invasive threat, i.e., plants will flower and set seeds that can be eaten by birds and spread to distant locations. If one already has English ivy on their property, then they should be sure to cut down vines to prevent the seed set and potential spread of this species. Chemical control measures for English Ivy can be found in the Plant Conservation Alliance web site (reference at bottom).


NatureServe - Hedera helix

Plant Conservation Alliance – English Ivy

Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.

Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

Publication Date

November 3, 2010

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