Jennifer Schultz Nelson
Extension Educator, Horticulture
Sometimes despite all my best efforts, I cannot get a plant to grow. Up until recently, English Ivy was one houseplant I could not grow. It probably sounds pretty suspicious that the University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator had trouble growing a simple Ivy plant, but yes, it is true.
According to all the books and articles I have read over the years, English Ivy is a no-brainer, a real beginner's houseplant. The requirements seem simple: bright filtered light, moist soil, and temperatures around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. There are several different cultivars available with varying leaf shape and coloring. My past attempts were with the more basic, typical ivy shaped leaves as well as the variegated and ruffled leaf types. I have successfully grown orchids that have re-bloomed for me several times–why has English Ivy been such a problem for me?
Every time I have bought an ivy plant in the past, two things have happened: the leaves start to drop, and I notice the plant has spider mites. Despite my efforts to nip the spider mites in the bud and follow all the care guidelines, this always seemed to happen. I gave up trying to grow English Ivy.
This was true until this past summer, when I saw a large, beautiful English Ivy plant for sale at the Conservatory on the U of I campus for the low price of $5. How could I resist? I took it home and put it outside on my balcony, rationalizing that if it lasted the summer I might risk bringing it indoors.
The plant flourished, and has since taken up residence in my office here. I really think it is thriving on neglect! It gets watered when I remember, misted occasionally, and good light. Perhaps that was my problem before–I killed the plants with kindness. Being a little too generous with water is enough to stress any plant, especially houseplants. Sometimes being busy and forgetful is a good thing, at least for my English Ivy plant!