University of Maryland Extension

English Ivy

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English Ivy
Hedera helix

English ivy ground cover
Photo: Chris Evans, University of Illinois, Bugwood.org

About English Ivy: An Invasive Plant in Maryland


Life cycle/information:
English ivy is an evergreen, perennial vine.

Growth habit: Fast growing and invasive. Leaves are dark green, waxy, and alternate along the stem. Leaf form is variable; usually three-lobed with a heart-shaped base. Mature leaves can be un-lobed and spade-shaped. Grows as a dense groundcover (juvenile stage) and a climbing vine (adult stage). Dense foliage blocks sunlight and restricts growth of other plants. Heavy vines cause damage and death to mature trees by loosening the bark and holding moisture against the trunk, making a good environment for fungal disease and decay. Heavy vines can take trees down in wind, snow, and icy conditions. English ivy also serves as reservoir for bacterial leaf scorch, a disease in maples, oaks, and elms.

English ivy covering a tree
Photo:Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org

Reproduction: Spreads by seeds and vegetative runners. Mature vines produce flowers and seeds, which are dispersed by birds.

English ivy berries
Photo: Jan Samanek, Phytosanitary Administration, Bugwood.org

Conditions that favor growth: Prefers semi-shady, moist soil but grows in many environments – woodlands, fields, forest edges, roadsides, and coastal areas. It also grows on and damages building façades.

What to plant instead: Groundcovers: Foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia), lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina), wild ginger (Asarum canadense) Vine: Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

Controlling English Ivy

References

  • Kaufman, Sylvan Ramsey & Wallace Kaufman. 2007. Invasive Plants: Guide to Identification and the Impacts and Control of Common North American Species
  • Swearingen J., K. Reshetiloff, B. Slattery, and S. Zwicker. 2002. Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas. National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Washington, DC.

Compiled by Christa Carignan, reviewed by Debra Ricigliano, University of Maryland Extension, 3/2018

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