English ivy is a hardy evergreen with dark green, glossy, lobed leaves growing six to eight feet when used as a groundcover. It climbs to fifty feet when used as a vine. The plant climbs and creeps by aboveground roots that cling to most surfaces. When mature, it creates a lush, green carpet effect. Variegated varieties are also available. In its native environment, the plant is highly valued for attracting wildlife. The flowers and fruits can be eaten and the foliage provides a great retreat for deer and other wildlife. The plant has also been used as a medicinal treatment for coughs and colds, in addition to bloodshot and watering eyes. However, it contains many toxins, and the leaves can cause a skin irritation or allergic reaction. In late summer, it may produce a small greenish-yellow umbel that is very rich in nectar. In its native habitat the nectar is an important food source for bees and other insects. After flowering, purplish-black to orange-yellow berries appear. The berries are poisonous to humans, but an important food source for birds. Use it as an understory groundcover in shady conditions for woodsy effects or mix it into containers with taller plants for a cascading effect. The plant is native to Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa.
English ivy can be planted in partial sun to full shade with rich, fertile, well-draining soil and ample moisture. It can sunburn if planted in full sun in our southwestern deserts. The plant is hardy to well below ten degrees Fahrenheit. It needs occasional pruning and maintenance to keep it from taking over an area. Apply fertilizer in the early spring to boost growth.