Ivy – Benefits & Pitfalls

Botanical  Name: Hedera Helix. Common Name: Ivy

Ivy is the kind of plant that most people dislike, they consider it a large monster – in some states of the U.S.A., ivy is actually banned from being sold in garden stores as it is reckoned an invasive species. However, it will only have a monstrous effect if it is not tamed, it can be pruned annually to keep it in check, the only drawback is that it will only flower and fruit if you allow it to grow untamed. Some species will never have flowers or berries, and most ivy plant labels will not tell you if they are the ones that bear fruit leaving you with the only way of ensuring that you are to plant a fruiting species by propagating from an existing plant which you actually see in fruit. They root very easily or you can take a twig that already has the aerial roots they tend to produce on walls and trees, and plant them in any garden soil. (You don’t need to ask permission, I am sure the owner will not mind if you take a few twigs!)

Ivy with berries close upBenefits of Ivy

To list some of its virtues –the leaves are evergreen, the flowers although non conspicuous, are a useful nectar feed for 70 species of insects, and the berries are a healthy source of food for 16 different types of birds. Ivy provides our  gardens with the fabulous function of covering a wall or shed that would otherwise be an eyesore. Those who don’t like this plant will say that it is a breeding ground for mice and squirrels, and it weakens the host tree or wall upon which it climbs – although this has been proved not to be true.

Alternative Smaller Species of Ivy

If you want to grow ivy but don’t want a rampant grower , why not try Hedera Helix Erecta,-  the leaves of this plant are typical ivy like – they grow in whorls on erect stems reaching no more than a metre high, or the variety Congesta which will only reach 50 cm. both of them are lovely in flower arrangements.

Ivy flowers in vaseI think the vase of ivy gives colour to the otherwise dull corner of my kitchen – and it can stay there for a few weeks! – but only because I have no little children around, as the ‘blueberries’ are known to be poisonous or at least to give severe discomfort if ingested.

Good gardening ,

Boris Legarni .

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