Hedera helix

Family: Araliaceae

Countries: Asia, Europe, Ireland, Portugal, Scotland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Wales

Hedera helix is more commonly known as ivy, or English ivy.  This rather lovely, evergreen climbing plant is often taken for granted, it can be maligned by others, but not by me – I adore ivy.  This is a magnificent plant, one that is willing to grow, easy to care for, and is a blessing for birds, insects, and wildlife.  Hedera are such a versatile group of plants – I am a huge fan of ivy!

Hedera helix is a self clinging climber, if you would like this plant to climb your fence, your tree, or your house, you will not have to ask politely or coax Hedera helix gently, just plant your ivy and face your plant in the direction you want it to go and it will go there!  Ivy can become invasive, it can grow along the ground, taking root at each station on the way, so it’s a plant that you need to monitor and watch.  You may hope that ivy will grow up and cover a wall of your home, but you may not want the plant to become entangled in your gutters or drainpipes, so to be certain of avoiding these pitfalls, you will need to keep your plant in check and prune it regularly.

Hedera helix is an easy going plant, it grows happily in any well drained soil.  Ivy is tolerant of various light levels, this plant is happy when it’s planted in full sunshine or partial shade.  Although I wouldn’t necessarily advocate the growing of ivy in the darkest of locations, I have grown ivy in deep shade successfully.  I am happy to tell you that Hedera helix is drought tolerant and easy going.  The most complex thing about Hedera helix is that it is likely to need some monitoring, to keep it where you want it grow.

It’s hard to give a maximum height that ivy will grow to, as it just keeps on growing!  It can cover the walls of multi-storey building, climb champion trees, and scale walls with ease.  I think that it’s unlikely that ivy will be too short a climber for you, Hedera helix will happily grow to 12m (40ft) in height.  Ivy responds well to pruning, so if you just want to cover a fence or you want your plant to grow to 1.8m (6ft), or smaller, you need not worry – it is achievable.  Hedera helix can seemingly be pruned at any time, but please avoid pruning your plant before the birds have finished nesting, and you may want to bear in mind that if you cut out the flowers, your plant will not produce berries that year.

Hedera helix is a wonderful plant for wildlife!  Birds often nest in amongst ivy, in fact many a creature finds shelter within ivy’s framework from high up in the plant, to low on the ground, from birds, to butterflies, hedgehogs, and other creatures.  Ivy flowers provide a rich source of pollen and nectar for bees, hoverflies, and butterflies, and ivy berries provide food for birds.  As far as I am concerned, ivy really is a must have plant!

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