English Ivy (Hedera Helix)

When it comes to vivariums, there is quite an extensive list of plants that can be introduced to each enclosure.  Hedera helix is amongst one of those very common houseplants that have begun to make its way into the world of miniature environments. It is most commonly referred to as English Ivy and it is a rather easy plant to grow indoors.

Due to its low maintenance, many hobbyists have begun using it as a decorative tool in their vivarium. In order to guarantee a high success rate for this plant’s survival, it is imperative to know how to properly take care of it. This article will take a closer look at English Ivy, providing a complete understanding and care guide to growing one.

Quick Stats:

Scientific Name: Hedera Helix

Family: Araliaceae

Common Names: English Ivy, Common Ivy, European Ivy, Ivy

Habitat: Woodlands

Height: 30 ft indoors, or 70 ft outdoors

PH Range: 6.0 to 7.8

Temperature: 50°F to 75°F

What Is English Ivy?

English Ivy is a species of evergreen plant known for slithering across the ground and climbing up buildings. It belongs in the Hedera genus under the order of Apiales. Due to its interesting growth habit, this Ivy is commonly referred to as a vining plant. A vine can be defined as any plant with a growth habit of creeping or trailing stems.

Hedera helix is a terrestrial plant notorious for being a very aggressive invader that can easily threaten all vegetation levels of the area it grows in. It will continue to grow without limits and even kill off other vegetation around it. The Ivy subsequently becomes so large that it is able to deprive other plants of the nutrients they need to survive.

English Ivy (Hedera Helix) Care Guide

English Ivy Facts

English Ivy is botanically called Hedera Helix. The recent term, helix, is derived from the Greek word “twist” or “turn”. The name was given due to the vines often turning and twisting as they grow. However, it has also been referred to as a number of other names. Common ivy, European ivy, Ivy, Tree ivy, Hedera baccifera, Hedera acuta, and Hedera grandifolia are all synonyms for its usual name. English Ivy has very similar characteristics and care requirements as other types of vining plants.

Description

The part of Hedera helix that most people recognize is its leaves. This plant’s vine produces glossy and tick leaves with a few lobes. Thus, many people describe them as having the shape of an arrow or heart. These leaves usually have medium to dark green pigmentation with yellow, white, or light green veins. The leaves sometimes have an attractive marbled appearance that consists of two or more colors. The colors often include dark green, light green, yellow, red, and white. English ivy stems with lobed leaves are actually the young version of the plant. The adult flowering stems have egg-shaped leaves instead.

An adult plant also has yellowish flowers that appear in clumps during the fall months of the year. They go on to produce blue-black berries that don’t ripen until late winter or early spring. However, Hedera helix might not always bloom and produce berries when grown in an enclosure. This climbing vine may over time grow upwards to 50-100′ in height with the right support. However, the overall size of the ivy will depend on the environment that it is growing in.

English Ivy plants are able to grow so large due to their superb climbing abilities. This is something that can be attributed to it having two types of roots. The subterranean roots that stretch into the soil, attaching the plant to the ground and absorbing water and nutrients from the soil. As well as aerial roots that grow at intervals in clusters along the extended stems. The main function of these roots is to help the plant latch on to the surface it is climbing.

Habitat

English Ivy is a species of plant native to Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. However, the plant has now been introduced to other parts of the world. Areas that Hedera helix resides in include woodlands, hedgerows, coastal areas, salt marsh edges, and deciduous forests. There it grows freely and very quickly taking over most of its surrounding area.

As mentioned before, this vine also likes to grow near larger organisms that it can crawl upon. The most common neighbors to the plant are deciduous trees, like elms, maples, oaks, and sometimes evergreen pine trees. Hedera helix growing outdoors does best in moderate conditions. High humidity can encourage root rot and bacterial leaf spot. However, English Ivy that is grown indoors or in a vivarium prefers cooler temperatures, often below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. An ideal temperature for optimal growth falls anywhere between 50°F to 75°F.

PH Preference

English ivy adapts to a wide range of PH levels. However, the plant performs best in average, slightly alkaline soil with a PH between 6.0 and 7.8… if you find it difficult to keep substrate PH at ideal levels for this type of plant, consider adding alkaline stones like Limestone around the plant to help buffer the parameters.

Vivarium Type

This type of Ivy will do great in a variety of vivarium types. When trying to decide whether this plant is right for a specific enclosure, make sure to keep in mind the amount of available space. English Ivy should be placed in a vivarium that has enough amount of land areas away from constant water sources. Some aquatic features are suitable for the plant as long as its leaves have enough room to grow above water. Here are recommended vivariums Hedera helix will do well in:

  • Paludariums – Half aquatic/ half terrain-based enclosure.
  • Terrariums – Fully terrain-based enclosure with little to no aquatic features.

Vivarium Placement

English Ivy is a terrestrial-based plant. Therefore, it should not be placed fully submerged in water. Although the vining plant might survive for short periods of time completely underwater, it will quickly begin to wither away. It has also been reported to contaminate the water and release toxins harmful to some creatures. It is important to keep this in mind when using this plant in an enclosure with aquatic features and animals of any kind. In fact, Hedera Helix is not recommended for any animal enclosures or tanks.

 This Ivy tends to creep up most surfaces and make the perfect decorative tool to spark up a tank. With that in mind, any location lower in a vivarium is typically preferred. English Ivy can be placed near a wall towards the bottom of an enclosure and allowed to creep climb its way up. Eventually, the plant can cover the whole wall, creating a rather striking look. If it is placed more towards the front, frequent trimmings are recommended or it can easily begin to overpower any other plants around it.

Substrate

Hedera Helix is not a very demanding plant when it comes to the substrate. However, there are a few things that should be kept in mind in order to help the plant prosper. Most garden soils will work just fine for English Ivy, along with many other types. This plant likes its substrate to be rich, moist, but also well-drained. However, it is not very picky in that aspect. As long as the soil is not soggy or dewy, English Ivy will survive. When growing vertically, this ivy might not even need any real substrate. Since it can climb and attach itself, surfaces such as trees, rocks, and house plaster will work just fine.

Lighting

English Ivy grows naturally in bright areas of shaded environments. It does not do well exposed to direct sunlight. Such lighting will be too harsh for the plant and end up burning it. When setting up lighting inside of a vivarium, fluorescent lights will work extremely well. Try to go for cooler colors that resemble a partially shaded day. Avoid any type of light that has high levels of UV rays. This will be like placing the ivy under direct sunlight and eventually damage its foliage.

If the vivarium will not have any artificial lighting, place the vivarium near a window that is bright enough, but also does come in contact with direct sun. If the plant becomes dull and loses its coloration, it isn’t getting enough light.

Buy English Ivy

When shopping for possible English Ivy, expect a few key indicators you are buying the best quality plant. The Ivy should be slug free along with any other types of pests. In addition, the purchased plant should be green, vibrant, and healthy-looking. Try to avoid anything with browning or wilting leaves. Those are usually signs of poor health and could make it harder for the plant to survive. The batch should arrive fairly green and without any welting parts. Click the image below to find out more about the current price and other relative info of Hedera Helix:

English Ivy Care and Propagation

Hedera Helix is an extremely low maintenance plant that does not require a lot of work to grow. As long as there are enough bright light and an adequate amount of water, English Ivy can be expected to grow drastically. In fact, periodic trimmings will most likely be necessary to keep it becoming too large and overpowering.

How to grow

Like many ivy plants, the easiest way to propagate English Ivy will be through stem cuttings. Using an adult plant, take a stem and cut 4 to 5 inches from the tip. Repot the new pieces somewhere different and allow for roots to form. The new plant should begin growing in no time. Spreading stems on the ground will root almost as soon as they touch the soil. Once they grow, the process can be repeated again. The severed pieces may also be placed in water and allow for roots to come in as well.

Watering

English Ivy (Hedera helix) plants prefer an evenly moist environment. However, it does not do well in soaking conditions. Avoid placing this plant indirect water. This is a terrestrial thriving plant that should only be placed in well-drained soil. Using neutral PH water, add water only when the top layer of the substrate appears dry. Don’t let the soil dry out and keep it evenly moist.

Plants Similar To English Ivy

Adding diversity to an enclosure is key to an aesthetically pleasing enclosure. Try mixing up the look of your vivarium with different flora that can easily co-exist in the same types of environment. Furthermore, if for any reason you find English Ivy hard to acquire or would like to consider something similar to this plant… Here are some other vine plants you might find may do well with or in the place of Hedera Helix:

Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron Scandesens)
String Of Pearls (Curio Rowleyanus)
Creeping Fig (Ficus Pumila)

Conclusion

English Ivy is a great plant to use in terrariums that have plenty of room to spread its foliage. This type of vine may not be suitable for most inhabitants so keep that in mind before using it in a vivarium. The alkaline environment these ivies thrive in is generally cool making them ideal for colder areas where air conditions run-heavy. For those of you who have some level of experience with this plant, how did it work in your possession?