Finishing up the profiles of not-edible plants in my apartment is a very not-edible English Ivy. Eating the leaves and berries will cause a toxicosis with symptoms including but not limited to muscular weakness, fever, gastrointestinal upset, difficulty breathing and coma. Seriously, don’t eat this stuff.
Also, be careful if you plant it outside. English ivy is an invasive species in Australia and North America. Although Europeans brought it over as early as 1727 for an “easy” evergreen groundcover, and it has now become a serious weed. It has been known to climb up trees and block out sunlight, essentially starving the tree. The weight of the vines makes it easier for trees to blow over in storms, and English ivy is a confirmed reservoir for bacterial leaf scorch, an illness that harms many native trees. It is so much of a problem that it is illegal to sell in the state of Oregon.
All that being said, English Ivy makes a great houseplant. Its vigorous growth and near impossibility to kill (the traits that make it so invasive) mean success for inexperienced gardeners. Research has shown that English ivy helps clear allergens and pollutants like mold, animal feces, and formaldehyde from the air, which is an added bonus.
Size: When allowed to grow freely English Ivy can grow up to 80ft (24m) tall and 50ft (15m) wide. Potted plants will not get this big and pruning can keep your ivy a manageable size.
Water Requirements: It is best to keep the potting soil your ivy is in moist but not soggy.
Soil Requirements: English Ivy likes rich loam but will tolerate a wide range of soils.
Light Requirements: English ivy isn’t picky about light and will do well whether you have full shade or full sun.
Temperature Requirements: English ivy is very tolerant of cold temperatures and likes to live in an environment that is 50-70°F (10-21°C). It grows best in USDA zones 4 to 9.
Nutrient Requirements: It is not really necessary to fertilize English ivy. A few times a year will keep your plant happy. If you do want to fertilize, choose one high in nitrogen to support good leaf growth.
Pruning: English ivy is a vine so it will climb if you let it. Cuttings can be rooted to start new plants.
Pests: Common pests include aphids, spider mites, mealybugs and scale insects. Ivy can also contract fungal diseases. For directions on how to deal with pests see The American Ivy Society’s Care of Ivies.
Balcony Container Gardens – General care information for English Ivy
The American Ivy Society – Detailed information about Ivy Care and how to deal with Ivy pests.
Missouri Botanical Gardens – Ivy Information
National Park Service – Information about English Ivy as an invasive plant.
Guide to Houseplants.com – More specific information for growing English Ivy as a houseplant.
WebMD – Information about research on English ivy as an air cleaner.