Hedera helix

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 Hedera helix subsp. var.  Ivy, Common Ivy, English Ivy
Hedera helix.jpg
Habit: vine-climber
Height: to
Width: to
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Lifespan: perennial
Features: evergreen
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USDA Zones: to
Sunset Zones:
Flower features:
Araliaceae > Hedera helix var. ,

Hedera helix (species name from Ancient Greek "twist, turn"), also called Ivy, Common Ivy, or English Ivy is a species of ivy native to most of Europe and southwest Asia. It is an evergreen climbing plant, growing to 20-30 m high where suitable surfaces (trees, cliffs, walls) are available, and also growing as ground cover where there are no vertical surfaces. It holds on to tree bark and rock by means of short adhesive rootlets. The helix part of the name refers to where there are spirals in the leaves.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Hedera helix, Linn. lyr. English Ivy. Fig. 1789. High climbing or creeping: lvs. usually 3-5-lobed, dark green above, pale or yellowish green beneath, — those of the flowering branches entire, generally ovate: calyx with minute teeth; calyx, pedicels and tips of young branches covered with grayish stellate hairs with 5 or 6 rays: fr. black, sometimes yellow. Eu., Canaries, N. Afr., Asia. — A very variable species, of which more than 60 varieties are cult, in European gardens. The first 3 varieties enumerated below are geographical varieties found growing wild, while the others are merely horticultural forms of garden origin. Var. hibernica, Kirchn. (var. scotica, Hort.. var. irlandica, Hort.). Lvs. larger and broader, of lighter color and thinner texture, with short and broad lobes, often subcprdate at the base: umbels and frs. larger; stellate hairs more often with 8 or occasionally 12 rays. Ireland. Var. chrysocarpa, Tenore (H. poetarum, Bertol. H. chrysocarpa, Walsh). Lvs. less deeply lobed, bright or yellowish green, often undulate, those of the flowering branches narrower: fr. yellow. Turkey, Greece, Asia Minor. Var. taurica, Rehd. (H. poetarum var. taurica, Tobler. H. taurica, Hort.). Lvs. narrower, usually undulate, bright green, those of the sterile shoots usually sagittate, with elongated middle lobe and 1 or 2 short spreading lobes on each side at the base: rather more pubescent, stellate hairs with about 8 rays. Crimea. Possibly hybrid of H. helix and H. colchica.—The following are some of the most remarkable of the horticultural forms: Var. arborescens, Loud. (H. arborea, Hort.). Not climbing, forming an erect, low shrub: lvs. ovate to elliptic, entire. This variety is gained by using flowering branches for prop. There are also some variegated forms, as Silver Queen, with silvery variegated lvs. Var. baltica,. Hort. A small-leaved form hardly differing from the type; the hardiest or one of the hardiest of the forms in cult. Var. cavendishii, Koch (var. marginata minor, Hort.). Slow-growing, with rather small dull green Ivs., edged creamy white, striped red or pink in fall. Var. conglomerate, Nichols. Slow- growing: lvs. crowded, small, entire or 3-lobed, undulate. R.H. 1890, p. 163. Var. crenata, Hibberd (H. vitifolia and H. digitata nova, Hort.). Similar to var. digitata, but lobes shorter and broader, crenate at the margin, light green. Var. deltoidea, Hibberd (var. hastata, Hort.). Lys. rather small, bluntly deltoid, almost entire, blackish green, changing to dull purplish bronze in fall. Var. digitata, Loud. Lvs. rather large and broad, digitately lobed with 5 triangular-oblong lobes, sometimes with 2 small additional basal lobes, truncate at the base, dark green. Var. gracilis, Hibberd. Lvs. rather small, with broad, short lobes, dull green, bronzy in fall. Var. lobata major, Hibberd. Similar to var. hibernica. but lvs. somewhat smaller, more deeply lobed and lobes narrower. Var. lucid a, Hibberd. A form of var. chrysocarpa, with large deltoid lvs. not lobed or partly or slightly 3-5-lobed, glossy above: a vigorous grower. Var. lusitanica, Hesse. Similar to var. palmata. Lvs. large, to 5 in. across, light green, palmately 5-lobed with triangular lobes. Var. maculata, Hort. (H. latifolia maculata, Hort.). Similar to var. hibernica: lvs. spotted and striped yellowish white. Var. marginata, Hort. Lvs. broadly triangular- ovate, irregularly bordered yellowish white, striped red or pink in fall: of somewhat slow growth. Var. marmorata, Hort. Similar to var. hibernica, but lvs. irregularly blotched yellowish white. Var. minima, Hibberd (var. donerailensis, Hort.). Lvs. small, 3-lobed or pedately 5-lobed, with short and spreading basal lobes, dull purplish brown in winter. Var. palmata, Hort. Similar to var. digitata, but lvs. 3-5-lobed with broader distinctly triangular lobes, the lateral ones more spreading, dull green. Var. pedata, Hibberd. Lvs. pedately 5-lobed, the middle lobe long and narrow, the lateral lobes much shorter, dark green with whitish veins. Var. sagittifolia, Koch. Lvs. rather small, with triangular middle lobe and short, broad and obtusish lateral lobes, deeply cordate at the base, dull dark green. Var. tesselata, Nichols. Lvs. 3-lobed with short and broad lobes, with a distinct reticulate variegation. Var. tortuosa, Hibberd. Lvs. ovate or rhombic, entire or obscurely 3-lobed, more or less curled and twisted, the curling increasing during cold weather. Var. tricolor, Hibberd (var. marginata rubra, Hort., var. elegantissima, Hort., var. cullisii, Hort.). Like var. marginata, but edges of lvs. becoming red in fall. CH}

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.


Ivy is a very easily grown plant that dislikes waterlogged, very dry or very acid soils but otherwise succeeds in all soil types1 17 238. It grows well in heavy clay soils. Prefers some lime in the soil. Tolerates very dense shadeTemplate:Pfaf24 Template:Pfaf31, though it may not flower in such a positionk. The plant is very hardy and tolerant of atmospheric pollutionTemplate:Pfaf4. Established plants are drought tolerantTemplate:Pfaf190. A very ornamental and hardy plantTemplate:Pfaf190, it tolerates temperatures down to about -25°c184. There are many named varietiesTemplate:Pfaf190, the variegated forms are less hardy than the species and also require more light238. Ivy is a rampant climbing plant, clinging by means of aerial roots and often trailing on the ground in woods and hedgesTemplate:Pfaf186. It is of benefit rather than harm when growing on a wall because it keeps the wall dry and acts as an insulation11 Template:Pfaf24. It does not damage the structure of a wall. Similarly, it does not harm large trees when climbing into them, though it can shade out smaller and ailing treesRH. It is not a parasitic plant, but instead obtains all its nutrient from the sun and the soilTemplate:Pfaf186. A very good plant for wild-life, it provides dense shelter for birds, spiders etc, an abundant late supply of nectar for insects and a supply of seeds for winter foodTemplate:Pfaf4 Template:Pfaf24 Template:Pfaf186. It is a food plant for the larvae of many species of butterflyTemplate:Pfaf24 30. A very variable plant, there are many named varieties. This species is notably resistant to honey fungusRH.


Seed - remove the flesh, which inhibits germination, and sow the seed in spring in a cold frame113. Four weeks cold stratification will improve germination113. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the cold frame for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a shady position in a frame. Good percentage78. Cuttings of mature wood, 12cm long, November in a cold frame78. Layering. Plants often do this naturally.

Pests and diseases


  • 'Digitata' - This variety is especially useful for growing along fences to form a hedgeRH.
  • 'Hibernica' - This cultivar has been especially mentioned for its use as a ground cover plant beneath trees11 Template:Pfaf190.
  • 'Lutzii' - This cultivar has been especially mentioned for its use as a ground cover plantTemplate:Pfaf190.
  • 'Neilsonii' - This cultivar has been especially mentioned for its use as a ground cover plantTemplate:Pfaf190.

Plants in southeast Europe and southwest Asia (Greece, Turkey) are treated as a distinct subspecies Hedera helix subsp. poetarum, differing in orange ripe fruit.

The closely related species Hedera canariensis and Hedera hibernica are often treated as varieties or subspecies of H. helix (Flora Europaea), though they differ in chromosome number so do not hybridise readily (McAllister 1982). H. helix can be best distinguished by its usually smaller and slightly more deeply lobed leaves and somewhat less vigorous growth, though identification is often not easy.


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