English Ivy

English ivy is also known as Hedera helix and it is one of the most popular types of ivy for gardening both indoor and outdoor. The plant also goes by the names common ivyEnglish ivyEuropean ivy, or just ivy.

A brick wall covered in English ivy (hedera helix).
brick wall covered in ivy


The English ivy is a climbing plant that grows between 66 to 98 feet high. The plant can grow on walls, trees, cliffs, etc. This ivy plant is also capable of growing on the ground when there is no upright surface.

The leaves of the English ivy can be between 2 to 4 inches long. The petiole is about 0.6 to 0.8 inches. The leaves can be classed into two groups where the young leaves are five-lobed and unlobed and slightly heart-shaped adult leaves that bear flowers.

The young leaves are usually found creeping and climbing up the stem while the flowering adult leaves reside at the very top exposed to the sun.

Hedera in Hyde Park, Sydney used decoratively as underplanting
Hedera in Hyde Park, Sydney used decoratively as underplanting.

Hedera helix produces flowers usually during late summer through late autumn. The flowers are small and bunched together in about 1.2 to 2-inch umbels. They are greenish-yellow in color. The nectar attracts bees and other insects.

The plant also bears a purple-black or orange-yellow fruit in the form of 0.2 to 0.3-inch berries. The berries ripen in later winter and are eaten mostly by birds. The berries are not fit for human consumption as they are poisonous.


Over 30 cultivars have been selected for such traits as yellow, white, variegated (e.g., ‘Glacier’), and/or deeply lobed leaves (e.g. ‘Sagittifolia’), purple stems, and slow, dwarfed growth. The following cultivars are a few to have gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit:

  • ‘Angularis Aurea’
  • ‘Buttercup’
  • ‘Caecilia’
  • ‘Ceridwen’
  • ‘Congesta’
  • ‘Duckfoot’
  • ‘Glacier’


In many parts of the United States, Hedera helix is considered an invasive plant species. Sale and import of English ivy are prohibited in the state of Oregon, for example. In Australia, it is considered to be a noxious weed while in New Zealand it is labeled as an environmental weed.

Environmental Issues

One should not plant ivy where it is considered to be an invasive species. Ivy is challenging to control or destroy and can overcrowd an area.

Ivy can cause young trees to fall over due to the weight of the ivy plant as it spreads. Due to overcrowding, it can also prevent other plant life from thriving. Proper care and attention are needed to prevent these issues.

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