Plant Rx: 5 Tips for Raising English Ivy Indoors

Plant Rx: 5 Tips for Raising English Ivy Indoors

Discover 5 top tips for keeping your indoor English ivy happy, healthy, and leafy. By Karen Weir-Jimerson
Indoor English ivy plant trailing from a woven basket on a white shelf, showcasing green leaves and a touch of 
home decor elegance.

Owning an English ivy (Hedera helix) is like getting a Valentine every time you look at it: The plant produces multitudes of heart-shape leaves that come in a variety of colors, from dark to light green, as well as variegated forms. English ivy is a vining plant that smothers buildings and races across the ground. Ivy is beautiful but is also considered an invasive plant in some places because of its aggressive growth habit.

Raising ivy as a houseplant

As a houseplant, ivy will never get out of hand. With the right light, water, and care, it can be one of the most beautiful indoor plants, exelling in containers and cascading from hanging baskets.

One of the most commonly asked ivy care questions are “Why does my ivy have brown leaves?” or “Why is my ivy dropping leaves?”

Symptoms such as drying, browning, and dropping leaves are a plant’s cry for help. But MANY things (and a combination of things) can cause ivies to freak out and produce brown leaves. Plants can get too much of a good thing: too much water, fertilizer, or sun. Or they can get too little of a good thing: too little water or humidity.

Diagnosing problems

With so many diagnoses for the same symptoms, where do you start? Understanding what your English ivy wants is the first step. Here are 5 things you need to know about growing English ivy indoors -- their likes and dislikes.

Lush English ivy plant in a wrought-iron stand by a sunny window, with a mix of deep green and variegated leaves.

1: Ivies LIKE the right light: medium and bright.

Ivies like medium light best, but will also do well in bright light. While you can grow ivies in low light indoors, they won’t like it and won’t last as long.

If you have an ivy variety with white variegation on the leaves, it likes less direct light than those with green leaves, so if you have lower light levels you may try varieties such as 'Ingrid Liz', 'Little Hermann', and 'Nena.' Variegated leaves are more susceptible to damage from too much sun.

2: Ivies DON'T LIKE to be overwatered.

Try not to be over zealous when watering your ivy. Ivies don’t like wet soil. Wait to water until the top inch or so of the potting mix dries out. It's best to keep this houseplant a little too dry than little too wet. (This is true for most houseplants.) Also, make sure that the pot the ivy is growing is has drainage holes.

So, here’s a thing that will throw you: If you overwater your ivy, the leaves will turn brown and dry on the edges. This symptom seems like the plant needs more water. The reason the leaves turn brown is that the plant roots are too wet and are basically drowning. Overly wet roots can’t deliver nutrients or, oddly, water to the plant. So, keep your ivy on the dry side.

3. Ivies LIKE humidity.

While ivies don’t like overly moist soil, they do like moist air. You can increase the humidity in your home—or at least around your plants. To do this: Add pebbles to a saucer, then add water. Set your ivy on the pebbles and the water will evaporate, raising the humidity around the plant.

4: Ivies DON'T LIKE to be under watered (because it can lead to pest infestations).

A too-dry plant is a stressed plant. And a stressed plant is susceptible to insect infestations or disease. Winter is especially rough on ivies. Lower light levels and dry air from furnaces and fire places stress out plants. And when plants are stressed, pests, such as spider mites. might attack. These little suckers (they literally suck the juices in plant leaves) like warm and dry conditions. If you have spider mites, you’ll know it: watch for little weblike structures on the undersides of leaves. The mites themselves are tiny and black—like little specs. They reproduce very quickly so you could have an infestation before you know it. To get rid of spider mites, spray them off the leaves with water or apply Neem oil.

Variegated English ivy plant cascading over a bright blue ceramic pot on a wooden porch, with green leaves.

5. Ivies LIKE temps on the cool side.

Ivies are native to cooler climates, originating in central and northern Europe. (English ivy is not a native plant; it was brought to the United States by colonial settlers.) So, ivies don’t like really hot temperatures indoors as some tropical plants do. They do best in cool rooms that remain between 50 to 70°F (10 to 21°C).

Read more about ivy!
--Discover creative ways to decorate with ivies. 
--Use ivy for holiday (and everyday) decor. 
--Start an ivy collection.