Hedera helix, commonly known as English ivy, is considered invasive because of its fast growth rate, so it might not be the best choice for a flower bed unless you have time to control its growth. Container gardening works well if you want to enjoy the look of English ivy without worrying that it could take over your yard. Grown in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9, English ivy is technically a small shrub, but grows like a vine. The ivy can cascade over container edges or be trained to a frame as a topiary.
1 Water the soil in an existing English ivy patch deeply in the evening before transplanting the ivy, making the soil softer and easier to dig. English ivy is best transplanted in early spring so it has time to recover from transplanting before the hot summer months. If you live in a mild climate, you can transplant the ivy in winter. Timing is less important if you plan to keep the container indoors.
2 Pull back some of the ivy to find a stem where it enters the soil. Use a garden trowel to dig up the roots; dig a circle at least a few inches out from the stem. Push the trowel under the root and pry up to release it from the soil, keeping as much of the root ball intact around the roots as possible.
3 Prepare a planter that measures only an inch or two larger in diameter than the transplant root ball. Soak clay pots beforehand so they don't wick moisture away from the soil. Cover the drainage hole with a piece of mesh screen or a broken pot piece to prevent soil from falling out through the hole.
4 Fill the planter to within 2 inches of the top rim with a sterile potting mix or make your own soil-less potting mix with equal parts sphagnum peat moss and perlite. Water the potting mix until evenly moist, but not wet.
5 Dig a hole in the pot that is as deep as the root ball height. Set the English ivy transplant in the hole so the top of the root ball rests even with the surrounding potting mix. Spread a 1-inch layer of bark chip mulch across the top of the soil to help insulate roots, retain moisture and give the container a neat appearance.
6 Water the English ivy transplant frequently to keep the soil moist, but not wet, especially in the first few months while the plant adjusts to the container. Over-watering English ivy can cause the roots to rot, so push your finger into the top of the soil and water after the top inch of soil dries.
7 Feed the plants with an all-purpose fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, about once every two weeks to help boost the plant growth. Mix water-soluble fertilizer at a rate of 1/2 teaspoon per gallon of water. Use the water-soluble fertilizer in place of its regular watering routine for that week. Reserve the remaining fertilizer in the gallon for future use.
8 Push a wire topiary frame into the pot a few weeks after planting; wait until the plant establishes in the pot and begins new growth. Push the legs of the frame along the perimeter of the soil to avoid disturbing the roots. You can wrap ivy around a frame to form practically any shape. For example, bend a wire coat hanger into a heart shape, and attach two wire legs cut from the hanger to support the frame.
9 Pinch back the new growth tips to establish a bushy growth habit. You can simply allow the busy ivy to fill out the container or weave the ivy around the topiary support frame, depending on your preference.
Items you will need
- Garden trowel
- Mesh screen or pottery shard
- Potting mix
- Sphagnum peat (optional)
- Perlite (optional)
- Bark chip mulch
- 10-10-10 fertilizer
- Wire topiary frame (optional)
- Start with a pot only slightly larger than the root ball and progressively move the plant to a larger pot as it grows. If you plant in too large of a pot, the excess soil can hold excess moisture which causes root rot.
- English ivy also propagates easily from cuttings. If you don't want to dig up the roots, you can clip a section from a vine stem, remove the lower few leaves, and root the cutting in a glass of water or plant it directly into the potting mix.
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