The Q&A Archives: English Ivy

Question: I keep killing my ivy house plants. I thought I was over watering them, so I got new ones and tried not to water them too often, but they died too. What am I doing wrong?

Answer: English ivy is usually a fairly accommodating plant. It will adapt to differing light levels and is tolerant of a range of temperatures, although like any plant it objects to drafts both hot and cold.

The soil should be kept just moist, never bone dry and not sopping wet. When you water, be sure to soak the soil and not let the water run out between the soil and the edge of the pot. When you water, allow the excess to run off into the saucer but then empty the saucer. The plant uses more water when it is actively growing, usually spring and summer. It also needs realtively more water in a brighter or warmer location than it would in a darker or cooler location. (Feel the soil and see if you need to water, or not.) A plant in an overly large pot will need less watering than one in a pot that is too small. A very small pot may need frequent watering because the soil mass naturally dries out quickly.

Overfertilizing can also stress it; make sure you read and follow the label instructions and fertilize less during the winter when the plant naturally grows less. Ivy is tolerant of underfertilizing, but a plant that is left in the same potting soil and not fertilized for an extended length of time will show signs of lack of fertility.

Ivy may be infested with spider mites. These may make it seem like the leaves are drying out, but if you look carefully underneath the leaves you will see very fine webbing there. Wash the plant in tepid water once or twice a week to knock the mites off and/or use insecticidal soap according to the label instructions to control these. Increading humidity around the plant by setting it on a pebble tray can also help. (Fill a tray with pebbles, set the pot on the pebbles, add water to just below the bottom of the pot. The water evaporating from the tray will humidify the immediate area.)

Ivy is occasionally infected with scale, and this pest looks like flat little brown disks attached to the leaves or stem. At about this time of year (winter)they are soft enough to rub off with a fingernail -- inspect the entire plant carefully under a bright light. You can also treat them with insecticidal soap when they are in the soft stage.

Las tbut not least, sometimes the plants we purchase have nearly outgrown their pots and they are too crowded. This can make them wilt often and decline in quality. If your plant needs to be repotted, try to match the same type of potting soil and move it up to a slightly larger pot rather than a much larger pot.

I hope this helps you trouble shoot the problem.

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