Encyclopedia of Houseplants

Lush and Lively English Ivy is a Low-Maintenance Decorator’s Dream

updated Oct 20, 2022
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English ivy
Credit: Myimagine/Shutterstock

You’re probably familiar with English ivy on the exterior of buildings, but it also makes a lovely houseplant. English ivy is relatively easy to care for and looks great, either hanging or dangling its vines from a shelf. It can even be trained to grow up a topiary. If you’re ready to add this classic vine to your home, here is what you need to know about growing ivy indoors.

About This Plant

English ivy (Hedera helix) is native to most of Europe and Western Asia. You may think that the ivy that you commonly see growing on European buildings is purely decorative, but it can actually help modulate the interior temperature, keeping it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter and protecting the walls themselves from bad weather and temperature fluctuations.

So it’s basically nature’s insulation and siding rolled into one elegant vine.

According to the ASPCA, English ivy is toxic to dogs and cats.

(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

Where to Grow

The first thing you need to know about growing English ivy indoors is that it needs bright light. Without enough light, ivy will become leggy, sickly, and prone to pests. Variegated ivies may lose their color variation if they don’t have enough light. Direct summer sun from a south-facing window can lead to leaf burn, so indirect light is best. The plant prefers to be at cooler temperatures, like in the 60s (F), and likes humidity.

Ivy grows outdoors across the world, but in many places, it’s invasive and considered a noxious weed. It’s such a problem that, in some places — like my home state of Oregon — it’s actually illegal to buy, sell, or transport ivy.

It’s rampant in local forests, so theoretically, if I wanted to grow it indoors, I could relieve the woods of some vines. But if you do grow ivy indoors where it’s allowed, be mindful of local regulations and recommendations should you ever decide to move it outdoors.

(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

Care and Planting

Plant ivy in an all-purpose potting soil in a pot with drainage. Let the top of the soil dry to the touch between waterings, and fertilize your ivy about once a month in the spring, summer, and fall. Especially in dry, winter air, it will benefit from regular misting of the foliage.

If the vines get too long, you can trim them back, and easily root cuttings in water to create new plants. Ivy vines attach to surfaces with tiny roots that can cause damage to walls, so be careful not to let your vines grow on anything they could harm.