How to Plant Fast-Growing Ivy to Cover Your Fence

Growing ivy is a simple way to cover or decorate an unsightly fence. One you establish this plant, it will quickly take off and cover your entire fence. Check out some of the steps below to get started.

Step 1 – Planning and Preparing

If you want to grow your ivy to cover a fence, you should plan on planting the ivy as close to the fence as you can to encourage growth upward, rather than outward over the ground. Make sure your planting area is far away enough from any walls or other areas you don’t want the ivy to grow on, as controlling ivy, especially on walls, can be difficult.

Preparing the Ground

Prepare the ground by adding plenty of soil into the compost. Turn the earth over with a shovel or fork, and work the compost in thoroughly to a depth of 4 inches for best results. For the best soil, check the pH levels.

Step 2 – Making Holes

If your ivy plants are small, space the ivy plants approximately 12-inches apart and as close to the fence as possible. If the plants are larger, make the holes and spaces between the plants slightly larger.

Then, dig a hole for each plant with your trowel, about 6-inches deep. Loosen the ivy from its plastic container, and spread the root ball with your fingers.

Step 3 – Watering the Plant

Water the hole lightly, put in the ivy plant, and then fill the hole with dirt before watering the plant in. Take care not to water the ivy leaves.

Step 4 ­– Growing the Ivy

The ivy will begin to grow quickly, but it will take about three months for the plant to become fully established. Remove the growth outward to stimulate upward growth toward the fence. After three months, fertilize the ivy every two months.

Growing ivy indoors – how fast it grows and how to help it along

In my pre-gardening days, I used to think of ivy as just an outdoor plant. That invasive climber that covers houses and buildings seemingly overnight. But while it’s more often found outdoors, ivy actually makes a wonderful trailing or climbing houseplant too.

How fast does it grow indoors? Though it can zoom up several feet in height and width each year outside, ivy grows more slowly indoors. Not much faster than any other houseplant, in fact. It also tends to be a little fussier when grown inside, but it can still thrive given the right care.

Most ivies are practically unlimited in their spread outside, with untold space for roots to roam. But their growth indoors will be limited by the size of their pot.

You can also easily keep them pruned to the size you like when you grow them as houseplants. Just snap or pinch off the vine with your fingers just above a leaf, or snip with pruners or scissors.

There are a world of ivy varieties you can choose from (Algerian, Irish, Swedish, Japanese, Persian and plenty more). But the most popular for indoor growers is English ivy.

Why English ivy is ideal for growing indoors

As well as producing lush, long tendrils of foliage to freshen up a room, English ivy (Hedera helix) is one of the very best plants for air purifying, according to a study carried out by NASA.

Like all houseplants, ivy releases oxygen into the air. But it’s also especially good at absorbing formaldehyde, a carcinogen which is often found lurking in household cleaning products, paints, wood products, cosmetics, glues, etc, as well as cigarette smoke.

Soak it up

Ivy can also absorb trace amounts of benzene, a common component of plastics and other synthetic fibres which has been linked to leukaemia.

And it can even soak up airborne faecal matter (sorry – I know you probably didn’t want to think about that!), which makes it an ideal choice for homes with pets.

Unlike outdoor-grown ivy, it won’t usually produce berries or flowers when grown indoors. But if you choose a variegated ivy, the foliage is more than decorative enough in its own right.

It can be grown in hanging baskets or pots of its own, or at the base of other plants. You can also train it on trellises or wire topiary frames for a more structured look.

Getting your ivy off to the best start

You can propagate an ivy plant fairly easily by rooting a cutting taken from the stem or tip of an existing plant. Most varieties will root quite quickly in water. Just remove the lower leaves and place the stem in a jar of water in a well-lit spot. After a few weeks you should see roots develop.

Once roots are around 2-3 inches long, gently transfer the plant to a pot filled with high-quality potting soil which will ensure good drainage. Mixing a little compost in too will help boost nutrient levels. Repot ivies when plants become top-heavy or root bound, or if they seem to be drying out too rapidly.

The new pot shouldn’t be much bigger than the original pot – only around an inch wider. If pots are too big, it can lead soil to hold on to too much moisture, which ivies generally dislike. Because the roots of an English ivy don’t grow very deep, a bowl-shaped shallow planter will be ideal.

VERY IMPORTANT – Make sure your chosen pot or container has drainage holes. Otherwise, the pot will become waterlogged and your plant may succumb to the dreaded root rot!

Plenty of light will boost growth

Though indoor growing can bring some challenges, don’t let that put you off. To get the best out of your ivy, you just need to bear a couple of things in mind.

The number one thing to consider is light. English ivy plants grow best with plenty of exposure to indirect light for around 8-10 hours a day.

If they don’t get enough, they’ll grow leggy, tired-looking and more vulnerable to pests. Choose a bright spot out of direct sun (which can scorch leaves). Close to a sunny window is perfect.

Ivies will tolerate low to medium light if they have to, but growth won’t be as vigorous.

If you’ve chosen a variegated ivy cultivar, low light can make the leaves change to all green, which is a shame if you’ve chosen your ivy specifically for its two-tone foliage.

Grow lights

If natural light is lacking in your home, some growers get good results with artificial lights, which may be worth considering. A full spectrum LED grow light which mimics natural UV will help you grow not just ivy, but all kinds of plants and vegetables indoors all year round.

While they can be a little expensive to buy, the running costs are low and they will soon repay your initial investment with prolific plant growth and a longer, more productive growing season for fruit and vegetable crops.

How often should you water indoor ivy?

You shouldn’t water ivies too often or you’ll risk killing them with kindness. Around once or twice a week should be fine – they actually don’t mind soil being a little on the dry side.

And never allow ivies to stand in water or you may find plants develop root rot, as mentioned above.

Root rot is usually caused by either a soil mix or pot that isn’t free draining enough, or from overly frequent watering when plants don’t need it.

In growing season when the weather is warmer, water plants regularly, but ease back during the winter months. When you do water, give them a good drink but let soil dry to the touch to a depth of about ½ inch before watering again.

Mist the leaves 1-2 times a week to keep them hydrated, especially in the summer months. If you find the leaves seem to be drying up, it could be because the room is too warm for them.

Ivy does well at cool to moderate room temperatures of 50 to 70°F during the day and about 5 to 10°F lower at night. Much higher and you’ll find leaves start to droop and look pretty sorry for themselves.

Keeping ivy healthy – feeding and pest control

Fertilise ivies around once a month with a slow-release nitrogen fertiliser while they are actively growing in the warmer months.

Make sure to avoid the leaves so you don’t burn them. And don’t fertilise when plants stop growing, either in the heat of summer or in cooler weather, as this can do more harm than good.

Though plant diseases shouldn’t be a problem indoors, insect damage can still be an issue. Mealybugs, mites, aphids, whiteflies and scales are the most common insect pests of ivies grown as houseplants.

Nip bugs in the bud

If the area infested is small, you can just prune out those parts of the plant. Plants can be pruned at any time of the year, and this will also help to keep plants a manageable size.

It’s important to note that some people can develop a skin rash on contact with ivy sap, so wearing gloves when pruning ivies is always good practice.

You can also pick up plenty of products to help with pests, from specially formulated sprays to sticky traps that you lay on the soil’s surface if you’d rather avoid chemicals. But the best way to deal with pests is early intervention.

Stop insects in their tracks at the first sign of danger by physically washing them off.

Periodic washing can really help to prevent pest problems taking hold and becoming more serious. Just stand your plant in the shower and rinse foliage under cool running water (taking care not to disturb soil).

If infestation is more advanced, wash the plant by dunking foliage upside down in an insecticide soap solution. Cover soil over with some foil or plastic to keep it in place in the pot.

Maintaining cooler temperatures and high humidity will help prevent some of the most common insect pests. The only down side is that your plant will tend to grow a little more slowly.

Over to you – give it a go

Though ivy has its quirks and does need a little bit of effort to get going, it’ll definitely reward you for your efforts. It’s a beautifully versatile plant that comes in so many varieties and can be displayed in multiple different ways.

Whether you have it cascading down from a shelf, suspended from the ceiling in an indoor hanging basket, shaped around a topiary frame or plant support, or even grown up trellis on an indoor wall, its wonderfully wild and untamed vines are a lovely way to bring a touch of the outdoors in.

Do you know somebody with an ivy plant indoors or in their garden? Why not ask them for a cutting of a few inches or so and give it a whirl? It might just be the start of a life-long love affair with ivies!

Five tips for growing ivy indoors

When not associated with the word “poison,” ivy can be an attractive plant.

Ivy can be grown both indoors and outdoors, but attempting to grow it indoors is a greater challenge, according to Sara Melton, manager of The Barn Nursery in Chattanooga.

Ivy is a vine, which means the long, almost garland-like stems can become unwieldy. To keep them from becoming too spindly, Melton recommends giving the plant a “haircut” on occasion.

“Every time you cut an ivy stem back, it’ll get thicker,” she said. “So a nice way to rejuvenate an ivy plant is to cut it back.”

The cut leaves can be removed from the stem, revitalized in water and planted to create new vines.

While ivy is not recommended for consumption, Melton said it is not considered to be a hazardous plant for children and pets.


• Mist the leaves a couple of times a week. Humidity can cause them to dry out. “Heat in the winter in the house can be very dry,” said Melton. This tip is especially applicable for those who are tending to ivy topiaries, which have fewer stems traveling to the top of the plant.

• Water the plants appropriately. “It doesn’t need to sit in a puddle, but it does need to stay moist,” Melton said. A couple of times a week is a good rule of thumb, depending on the size of the pot and the air circulation. Check the soil by sticking your fingertip beneath the surface. If the soil is moist, wait to water. If it’s dry, wet it down.

• Maintain a good temperature. “They’re fine cooler,” said Melton, “Sixties are great.” Being kept in rooms where the heat is in the mid-70s can cause the leaves to dry and wilt.

• Watch your light. “Ivy plants will grow in low light, but they will not thrive in low light,” Melton said. Ivy will do best in bright, indirect light. Melton recommends keeping the plants fairly close to a sunny window but not in the direct sun.

• Invest in insecticide. Ivy can be susceptible to infestation, including spider mites. Melton said a preventive treatment can be helpful.

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Growing Ivy – Hedera

Ivy is an easy to grow climbing plant, perhaps too much so as it can be invasive. Illustrated top left and right is the common or English Ivy which is a good plant for difficult areas because it is tough and tolerant of all types of growing conditions. Despite its modest appearance, the English Ivy is great for wildlife. It provides nectar, pollen and berries when food is short in autumn and winter, and shelter for birds, bats, insects and small mammals.

Ivies of all types can be planted in difficult spots, such as covering walls, sheds and shady corners. When growing up a wall, Ivy can damage the mortar in bricks and paint work, it needs to be kept in check. Many Ivies are shade tolerate, even of dry shade, which makes them useful to grow, especially the variegated varieties in dark shady corners. Ivy is often overlooked as a climbing plant, but in the right spot it can look very stylish, understated but classic.

Hedera helix, the common English Ivy, can be very vigorous and from which there are many cultivars. Ivy can provide excellent food and shelter for wildlife. Given that it is vigorous Ivy needs to be checked and should always be cleared away from trees as it can easily smother a tree. Ivy will grow just about anywhere and can be combined with Cotoneaster, image centre, where it looks lovely trailing over a wall and makes a wildlife friendly combination. One problem with Ivy is that whilst it is good at being self supporting the aerial roots can damage brickwork

Ivy can be a good garden plant, and to ensure you get a better behaved Ivy plant select a plant with RHS award such as Hedera helix glacier has RHS merit and grows up to 2m which will cover a wall or good as ground cover. Other good varieties are helix Goldchild which is smaller up to 1m, and Hedera colchica (Persian Ivy,) Dentata which has bright green leaves growing up to 5m, and Sulphur Heart which is similar but variegated and fast growing. Autopurpurea is a purple leaved Ivy, and Goldheart has bright variegation and grows up to 8m. As a general rule the variegated and purple leaved Ivies need more sun and the green leaved will tolerate more shade.

Ivies vary greatly in their size and vigour, and some are considering very vigorous which can be potentially damaging to brickwork and neighbouring plants. Other varieties are restrained and more modest, and are often featured in hanging baskets in the summer which means that Hedera is a big family of plants with many different varieties. Many Ivies sold are fully hardy, but there are some varieties which are not, especially those sold in the summer to go with bedding and in baskets and it is best to check with the label. An explanation of frost hardy

Ivies look good on structures and can look very effective as illustrated in the centre image with Cotoneaster conspicuus. Cotoneasters are a hugely underestimated shrub, often linked to supermarket planting and bad landscaping, when in fact they are a super group of shrubs offering colour, flowers and berries.

Ontogenetic and seasonal development of wax composition and cuticular transpiration of ivy (Hedera helix L.) sun and shade leaves


The ontogenetic and seasonal development of wax composition and cuticular transpiration of sun and shade leaves of ivy (Hedera helix L.) was analysed by investigating leaves varying in age between 4 and 202 d. It was discovered that the total amount of solvent-extractable wax was composed of two distinct fractions, separable by column chromatography: (i) a less polar or apolar monomeric wax fraction consisting of the typical linear, long-chain aliphatics usually described as cuticular wax components and (ii) a polar, oligomeric wax fraction consisting of primary alcohols and acids mostly esterified to C12-, C14- and C16-ω-hydroxyfatty acids. The apolar wax fraction, which could be analysed directly by gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (GC-MS), exhibited pronounced seasonal changes in composition. Wax amounts in the apolar fraction reached a maximum after about 30 d and gradually decreased again during the remaining period of the season investigated. In contrast, the polar wax fraction, which was analysable by GC-MS only after transesterification, rapidly increased early in the season, reaching a plateau after 40 d, and then remained constant during the rest of the season. Thus, total amounts of solvent-extractable cuticular waxes, which can be determined gravimetrically, will only be detected by GC-MS after fractionation and transesterification, a methodological approach rarely applied in the past in cuticular wax analysis. Additionally, investigation of the cutin polymer matrix after depolymerisation through transesterification, revealed that only those primary alcohols and acids forming an essential part of the apolar and the polar wax fractions were esterified during the investigated season and incorporated in increasing amounts into the cutin polymer matrix (matrix-bound wax fraction). Thus, it can be concluded that a complete analysis of cuticular wax of ivy and its seasonal development can only be achieved if all the relevant fractions (i) the less polar or apolar, (ii) the polar and (iii) the wax fraction bound to the cutin polymer matrix are investigated. Cuticular transpiration rapidly decreased within the first 30 d and essentially remained constant during the rest of the season. Thus, changes in cuticular water permeability were closely correlated with the most prominent changes in wax amounts and composition occurring during the first 30 d of ontogenetic leaf development. However, during the remainder of the year, up to 202 d, cuticular transport properties remained constant, although significant quantitative and qualitative changes in cuticular wax composition continued to occur. Thus, our study clearly demonstrated that there will be no simple relationship between chemical composition of cuticular waxes and transport properties of isolated ivy leaf cuticles.

Fastest Growing Ivy Vines

Ivy image by Tomasz Pawlowski from

Fast-growing ivy can quickly cover an unsightly architectural feature, block an unpleasant view or provide privacy. It is virtually care free, requiring only an occasional pruning to contain its size. Most varieties of ivy show brilliant fall color, and many varieties produce berries that birds enjoy.

Virginia Creeper

Native to the United States, Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is an excellent, less invasive stand-in for the more robust and possibly invasive English ivy. It has the same trademark: five-lobed leaves with prominent colored veins. The deep green leaves turn burgundy in autumn. Blue-black berries remain on the vines until eaten by birds. Virginia creeper is best grown in full sun to partial shade in fertile, well-drained soil.

Boston Ivy

A fast-growing vine to cover masonry buildings, Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) climbs the buildings quickly and easily. It grows 50 to 60 feet high and is tolerant of all soil types, growing well in full sun or shade. The leaves emerge in spring a reddish bronze. Bright, deep green during summer, they turn shades of scarlet, purple or orange in autumn. Grape-like clusters of bluish-black berries persist on the vines through winter. Boston ivy is well adapted to urban growing conditions.

English Ivy

A fast-growing evergreen vine, English ivy (Hedera helix) grows best in rich, moist, organic soil similar to that of a woodland area. It grows in full sun to full shade and can become invasive in many areas if left unchecked. English ivy has 2- to 4-inch leaves with three to five lobes and prominent white or yellow-green veins. It makes an excellent ground cover or climbing a wall or fence.

How to grow: best ivies for the garden

Fibrex continues to exhibit at every major show; it also has the largest range of hardy ferns and a huge number of named pelargoniums. Hazel’s three children (Angela, Ursula and Richard) celebrate the nursery’s 50th anniversary in 2010 and Richard’s fiancée, Heather Angrave, has added tender plants to their range.

Ivies vary from coolly variegated cream and white to dappled gold and green. Some have high-gloss green foliage, others have a golden patina. Leaf size varies from fingernail size ‘Spetchley’ to the palm-sized ‘Maple Leaf’. Shape is equally variable, from elegant arrowhead, to ruched scallop, to palmate. The important thing is to pick the right variety for your needs. Not all ivies climb, some sprawl, others hardly spread at all. Find the right one and you can add leaf and texture in winter, cover an area of dry shade or mask an ugly building. These easy plants, although they prefer lime, grow on most soils.

Ivies do not kill trees. They are not parasitic stranglers. But they have two stages of growth. The soft juvenile leafy foliage clings but eventually produces upright adult woody growth that flowers. This can become top-heavy and bring down mature trees. However, if an ivy is allowed to flower on a wall (or in a hedge) it is an excellent plant for wildlife. The late flowers sustain bees in October and November, and the berries feed the birds in late winter. Adult ivy also provides nesting sites, but slow-growing varieties rarely reach this stage.

Growing tips

Trim in spring whenever possible to encourage new foliage.

Don’t let ivy creep into the eaves – trim well below the roof line.

Take cuttings when the growth is woody, between October and March, as they root more easily.

Yellow-leaved ivies need decent light in order to keep their colour.

Where to buy

Fibrex Nurseries, Honeybourne Road, Pebworth, Stratford upon Avon, Warwicks CV37 8XP (01789 720788;

Pick of the bunch – best ivy varieties for your garden

Rich green foliage

The best colour for winter warmth and a natural companion to hardy ferns.

‘Parsley Crested’ syn. ‘Cristata’ (vigorous climber/ground cover) Crimped round leaves in dark green with paler new growth. Copper tinges in winter and can display pink ruffled edges. The wavy leaf margins catch the frost brilliantly (1950, US).

‘Anita’ (ground cover) Medium-green arrowhead leaves, giving a mossy effect – good at creeping over steps (1992, Germany).

‘Garland’ (basket/trailer) Traditional ivy leaves in mid-green with wavy edges – this one trails brilliantly (1955, US).

‘Chicago’ (basket/trailer) Classic ivy shape with dark green leaves and paler veins – a bushy plant that trails attractively (1962, Holland).

Golden foliage

These only keep their bright colour if given decent light: they revert to green in shade. Many golden-leaved forms are slow, but the following perform well.

‘Lightfinger’ (ground cover) Very distinct arrowhead shape (sometimes called bird’s foot), this trails well and is slow-growing enough to use in troughs (1986, Britain).

‘Ursula’ (basket/trailer) Deeply cut, three-lobed lime-yellow leaves with chartreuse shading at centre (1985, Fibrex).

‘Jake’ (rockery/trough) This sport form of ‘Lightfinger’ has small rounded leaves that are almost heart-shaped (1999, Fibrex).

Green and gold

Create pools of light in shady areas; excellent with yellow narcissi, small blue bulbs or ferns.

‘Romanze’ (ground cover) A rumpled affair you’ll either love or hate with rounded apple-green leaves mottled in darker green (1979, Germany).

Cool cream, green and white

Good at lighting up shade. These tone with cool pink and blue spring flowers, or contrast with dark foliage and flowers.

‘Glacier ‘ (climber and ground cover) Grey-green lobed leaves subtly margined in white. This fast-growing ivy can be used to carpet the ground or it can climb (1943, US).

Hedera hibernica ‘Rona’ (rambler/climber) A broad, green leaf heavily speckled or marbled in cream-white. This Atlantic ivy is vigorous; as the plant matures colour deepens to cream (1980, US).

‘Silver King’ syn. ‘Koniger’s Variegated’ (ground cover) Five-lobed silver leaves in a narrow arrowhead shape, subtle cream overlaying the grey-green leaves (unknown provenance).

‘Misty’ (basket/trailing) Slow-growing with delicate arrowhead leaves in grey-green modestly edged in white (1982, US).

‘Silver Ferny’ (rockeries/troughs) Tiny leaves on a very bushy compact plant with small, three-lobed leaves in grey-green and cream (provenance unknown).

‘Dealbata’ (climber) Well-spaced, tiny ivy-shaped leaves in dark green, speckled and blotched in pale creamy white. Climbs well but is not too bulky.

All varieties of Hedera helix unless otherwise stated.


Buy one Hedera helix ‘Glacier’ for £8.99 or two for £17.98 plus a third plant free. Supplied as 4in potted plants. Despatched from February, subject to availability. All postal orders will be acknowledged advising dispatch date.

Orders to: Telegraph Garden, Dept.TE781, PO Box 99, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 2SN. Make cheques/postal orders payable to Telegraph Garden, or call 0844 573 6015 for credit/debit card orders. Quote reference number TE781 when placing your order. Also available online Delivery to all UK addresses.

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