The Right Type of Ivy to Plant Near a Wall

May 27th, 2010

Boston ivy

There is one mistake you really, and I mean really, don’t want to make in your landscape. You absolutely do not want to plant the wrong type of ivy for the wrong reason. Very bad things can happen.

First a word on vines…

Vines climb through a variety of methods, and it is important for you to know what they are and how they work.

1. Mechanically This is where a vine twists or turns around some support or framework naturally. Through a natural process the vine senses a nearby structure, and wraps around it. Examples of this type of vine include kiwi and clematis.

2. Tendrils Some vines grip mechanically, but through special growths called tendrils that grow out of the vines. They reach out seeking supports and then wrap around them. Examples of this type include grapes and cucumbers.

3. Suckers Some vines grip surfaces with suction cup like devices that adhere, even to flat surfaces. This category includes boston ivy.

4. Roots Some vines have roots that dig into surfaces to secure them, most ground cover vines work this way. Examples include english ivy, sweet potatoes.

So, about ivy

The two main types of ivy people grow are boston ivy and english ivy. If you allow english ivy to grow up a wall it will do so, and it will use roots, and the roots will dig into your wood, masonry, stone, or concrete, and tear it apart eventually like water expanding in a crack or a tree’s roots lifting a sidewalk. It can destroy the side of your building, a very costly mistake. English ivy is a ground cover, a great ground cover, but do not let it climb on things you want to preserve. If it you let it climb a tree it’ll also tear off the bark and kill the tree. It is evergreen though, which is why people may be drawn to it.

Boston ivy on the other hand looks great climbing up walls, my wall in the picture has a yellowish cultivar climbing up it, which I chose to be different and because it was shady I thought it would brighten up the wall to use a lighter colored plant. Because boston ivy uses suckers it doesn’t really damage what it climbs on, though it can hurt painted surfaces. Boston ivy is not evergreen, it will turn pretty colors and drop leaves in the fall, the trade off of having it not destroy your walls.

When you’re at the garden center and looking at ivy they’re not labeled as such, and many people have made the mistake of training english ivy up a wall, including yours truly many years ago, don’t make the same mistake.

12 Responses to “The Right Type of Ivy to Plant Near a Wall”

  1. Joseph Tychonievich  Says:

    Good points! I’m growing a stunning variegated boston ivy up my fence, and just love. I want to cover my whole house in it as well!

  2. Emma Watson  Says:

    Thanks a lot for those tips. We have just bought a small old weekend house and I am planning to cover at least one wall with ivy.

  3. Amy @ As Seen on TV  Says:

    This was very helpful. I just purchased a new home and wanted to grow some ivy by my front entrance. Definitely not buying English ivy.

  4. Garden People  Says:

    I have lots of walls to cover. I did start out with Clematis but it does not provide as much cover as ivy. Great article thanks :)

  5. Scentsy Wickless Candles  Says:

    I think it is also important to recognize another vine that I mistakenly purchased thinking it would have the same appearance as the beautiful Boston Ivy. It is the Virginia Creeper, which should be avoided at all costs. Although it is a rapid grower and covers an area quickly it can get very invasive.

  6. Al Braun  Says:

    If you’ve planted the wrong climber, then what? I’ve been trying to get rid of some vinca that just won’t go away.

  7. Marta Ratajszczak  Says:

    “Because boston ivy uses suckers it doesn’t really damage what it climbs on, though it can hurt painted surfaces. ”

    A well-preserved wall shouldn’t be in trouble because of this. However, once you want to get rid of the vine, it will certainly need repainting, the suckers are nearly impossible to remove!

  8. Anne Wareham  Says:

    I have grown English ivy on our house walls for 20 years: it keeps the walls warm and dry and the roots are in the ground (there are no roots on ivy above ground).

    Have to keep it out of drains.

    It is problematic as ground cover because it is impossible to kill once established….

  9. Barbara Bilyeu  Says:

    Ahhh, reminds me of my horror story. I planted ONE English Ivy start at the base of the fireplace years and years ago. It looked wonderful climbing the side of the house….until it grew down the fireplace – up through the wall (a plant with no bowl) and separated the roof from the house and the house from the fireplace. Then the fun of repairs and trying to kill it. It was a NIGHTMARE and how our marriage made it through that mistake I will never know. Never English ivy ANYWHERE.

  10. mary rogers  Says:

    We have a brick house and carriage house with a lot of tall walls. This is too much hard surface. We have planted english ivy anf love the effect. It does involve some effort as we keep it cut away from the gutters and the roof line and around windows, etc.. I am thinking of planting crossvine as it is supposed to stay green in zone 6 in the winter.

  11. Joseph luchkowec  Says:

    question on English Ivy, if wood furring strips are used will the Ivy adhere to the wood or the verticle concrete surface?? can pressure treated wood be used??

  12. Joe Burns  Says:

    I don’t have a house yet that I can grow ivy on or around it, but I do have a question:
    Could I use a trellis or lattice type structure to keep English Ivy off the walls of my home, but still allow me the same benefits?

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