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Caring For Indoor English Ivy; Hedera

Updated on October 19, 2013
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Ivy Topiary

Ivy a Traditional Favorite

Ivy is a very well known plant with many varieties, there are indoor ivy and outdoor ivy. Here the focus is on the indoor houseplant Ivy which can be a tricky and high maintenance plant especially if you live in a dry climate.

Often chosen for its classic look it works well in traditional, and cottage designs. It incites a familiar and welcoming feel. Many people are drawn to the shaped Ivy topiary they are intriguing and also have a very classic and rich look and feel.

As a houseplant can be a bit confusing since its outdoor counterparts in most cases are unstoppable. Outdoor Ivy is not plagued by pests and can be eradicated to nearly nothing and restore itself through its rapid growth and relentless trailing ends with endless root nodes scouting out anyplace to take up residency. The human mind would naturally conclude that the indoor variety is the same but this is often not the case. Indoor Ivy is very susceptible to pests and requires special attention in order to keep the pests away. Attention to environment is also very important to keeping and Ivy indoors long term.

Indoor Ivy and Spider Mite are Synonymous!

One of the most prominent and troubling issues with keeping indoor Ivy is Spider Mite.

Outdoor Ivy is found in cool shady moist areas, and the bulk the plant material is compacted together close to the ground retaining moisture allowing the plant to thrive, it's density, and cool moist conditions protect it from harm. Spider Mite do not thrive in cool moist conditions so outdoor Ivy is exempt from attack.

For anyone who has had any experience with Indoor Ivy it is nearly an absolute guarantee that the Ivy will have Spider Mite for the very reason that the fundamental environment has been changed from cool & moist, to warm & dry. Indoors these plants do not have the protection of endless moist soil under them, they are exposed to air all around and do not have the ability to mound, and keep in moisture. Especially susceptible are Topiary that have had their trailing stems suspended in the air, completely exposed, unable to maintain any degree of moisture. Indoor temperatures are constant and much higher than those found in shady areas outside.

The moisture content in most homes is not going to match that of moist shade area or a humid greenhouse by a long shot.

In this environmental change lies the catalyst for the unholy union of the indoor Ivy plant and the destructive Spider Mite.

Preventative Maintenance and Pest Treatment

There are some preventative and long term maintenance measures that can be taken to help combat this issue with Ivy plants and topiary.

  • Regularly rinse the foliage or spray it down with cold water, Spider Mite loath cold and moist conditions. The spray down can kill or wash away Mites that have begun to attack your Ivy. Spider Mite are prolific reproducers though, so there will most likely be a next generation ready to take over, that is why rinsing should be done regularly.
  • Spraying with a solution of approx 1/2tsp Dr Bronner's Castille soap or dish soap (do not use antibacterial or soaps or those with lotion additives) to 12oz water will also help to kill any Mites that may be on the plant, and this can create a bit of a protective defensive layer for future generations.
  • Leaf Shine has also been found to be beneficial in fighting Mites by providing another layer of protection that makes it difficult for the Mites to feed on your Ivy. Care must be taken when applying leaf shine, too much can clog up the leaves and damage a plant. The most gentle leaf shines are those that are in liquid concentrate and should be mixed with water. Aerosol leaf shines are much heavier and difficult to control even and discrete application.
  • Neem Oil treatments can be used to both kill and add protective layers to Ivy foliage.
  • Pro Tekt is an additive watered in and absorbed by a plant. It has proven somewhat successful in combating Mites as it serves to thicken plant cell walls, making it more difficult for Spider Mite to bite through the cell walls to get to the Chlorophyll.
  • Avoid direct sun, it will perform best indoors in moderate to low light (not no light). This plant should be able to access some sunlight but should not be directly in the path of the bright hot rays.
  • Avoid Heat Vents, fireplaces, open windows, open doors, basically anyplace that your plant will be in contact with hot dry air from inside or outside.
  • Do not take Ivy outside. This is very critical in hot dry climates Ivy taken outside even for a short period will be doomed. If it had not had Spider Mite it will have it by the time it brought back inside, and generally exposure to the outdoors for most interior plants in hot dry climates can be damaging even for short term visits.

Also of note an interior variety of Ivy called Algerian Ivy is much more hardy and much less prone to Mite infestation. Algerian Ivy does however have larger leaves that are less compact than the more traditional English Ivy and may not capture the same look and feel.

Native Habitat Eurasia

Maintaining Health

Assuming your Ivy has persevered and avoided becoming a favorite living and dining spot for a colony of Spider Mite, your plant may be growing and flourishing. There is some general care that should be provided to keep your plant full and healthy.

  • Watering through and allowing it to become dry on the surface only before watering again is the best method. Ivy will quickly loose many leaves when under watered, whole leaves and sometimes stems will become brown and Under watering will also make them more susceptible to Mite attack. Over watering will manifest as leaves with brown crunchy tips and overall mosaic yellow and green leaves that are still firmly attached to the stem, to avoid over watering just make sure that the soil surface is dry to the touch before watering again.
  • Trimming this trailing plant to keep it full and lush is a must. Over time trailing plants will begin to place the majority of their energy into feeding the trailing ends in hopes that new resources will be found, this is additional work for the plant as the trailing ends grow ever further away from the primary water source. Basically as the trailers grow longer the plant works harder and harder to support itself. If the plant is subjected to any stress it will let go of the leaves nearest the pot, overtime this can serve to create a barren leggy looking plant. Periodic trimming is very healthy and keeps the focus of the plants resources more compact and efficient, thus maintaining a much fuller and vibrant plant long term.
  • Beware of rouge roots; as a trailing plant Ivy is attempting to find more sources of water by sending out trailers with plenty of root nodes to set up shop wherever they perceive more resources. Ivy have been well known to climb walls and root through paint, wood, brick and more. Keep an eye on those trailers to avoid having your Ivy damage your home if you find a stem that is beginning to trail up or down a wall or anything else in your home it would be well advised to cut it back.


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