Climbing ivy is a popular landscaping choice if you are looking for a thorough ground cover or decorative façade. While most ivy plants are hardy, they grow best under certain temperature, soil, and lighting conditions. Also, depending upon the type, climbing ivy can be extremely invasive and destructive, which in turn might influence where you want to plant it.
There are various types of climbing ivy, some of which are more popular than others. For instance, English ivy, also known by its formal name hedra helix, is sought after for its classic look and dark green hue, which it retains year round. Due to the fact that it's green year round, it's considered an evergreen ivy. Similarly, Algerian ivy, otherwise known as hedra algeriensis, is popular because of its year-round pale-green color, white edges, and quick growth. On the other hand, Boston ivy, another common choice, has rich, green leaves that turn vibrant red in the fall and is thus ideal for gardeners who want a splash of color in their landscapes.
Although climbing ivy is quite hardy, it does not thrive well in extreme temperatures. In fact, if you live in an area that is subject to long and brutal winters, your ivy might not survive the season. Similarly, when planting your ivy, choose a spot that is out of direct sunlight and preferably gets partial to full shade during the hottest part of the day. While climbing ivy generally grows in almost any type of soil, the plant prefers rich, loamy soil that has good drainage.
The most important aspect of climbing ivy is its ability to creep quickly up any surface and spread rapidly to adjoining areas. For this reason, you should pick your starting spot carefully. Avoid planting your ivy near trees or other vegetation if you expect them to survive. All types of climbing ivy quickly engulf and strangle neighboring plants and trees and will likely either kill them or cause extreme damage. For instance, a tree that is ensconced by English ivy might become starved for light and nutrients or could become top heavy and eventually topple over because of the extra weight of the ivy.
If your goal is to have climbing ivy decorate the face of a building or wall, be careful what type of ivy you choose. All ivy will climb up a wall if planted close enough to it, but different varieties use varying methods to cling to the surface. For instance, English ivy and other similar evergreen varieties have invasive roots that exude a sticky substance, which allows them to stick and eventually burrow in. Consequently, if you have porous walls or brick and mortar, the roots from the ivy can dig in, erode the mortar, and cause extensive damage over time. So, if you choose an evergreen ivy such as English or Algerian, consider planting it so that it will grow onto a trellis or gazebo-like structure rather than your walls, and remember to prune it back periodically in order to keep the growth under control.
On the other hand, Boston ivy has suction-like appendages that stick to surfaces without burrowing into them. In that case, the ivy will generally not damage porous surfaces and is usually safe to use on brick or stone façades. Contrary to popular belief, Boston ivy climbs just as quickly as evergreen varieties and can grow up to 40 feet (about 12 meters) high, so it can make a very nice decorative cover for a house or other large structure. Keep in mind, however, that whichever type of ivy you choose, once it takes hold and starts to grow, it can be very difficult to get rid of, so make sure you are completely happy with the location.