The Q&A Archives: Transplanting Thorndale Ivy

Question: I have recently tried transplanting thorndale ivy without success. The area I am transplanting to is a sand playground but the soil underneath is good. The purpose of planting it is to keep the Oklahoma wind from blowing the sand into the kids eyes. We have a chain link fence that I would like the ivy to cover. I think I may have let the soil get too dry before but I would like a few pointers before I try again.

Answer: Thorndale is a named variety of Hedera helix or English ivy. It grows well in shade, partial shade or sun, although in sun it would do best with a humusy and evenly moist soil -- especially in a hot summer climate. It will climb and cover chain link, eventually, although it may also try to spread along the ground.

In the beginning, it is important to provide it with ample water while it roots and becomes established. Also, mid summer is the most stressful time to try to transplant it because it is so hot and dry. Sandy soil also dries out very quickly and wind is also very drying, so the combination of weather and planting conditions is working against you.

From your description I am not sure if you are planting small potted rooted cuttings or trying to dig and transplant sections of the vine. Using rooted cuttings is probably the easier method because the plant will already have many roots that can be placed in the planting hole and will be available to support the plant in terms of taking up water. Digging and moving sections is more difficult because the plant is not as well rooted in comparison to its top growth.

Either way, it is best to try this in the very early spring or second best in the early fall. At those times the weather is cooler and the soil is more naturally moist due to rain.

You will need to prepare the planting holes by adding organic matter such as compost and mixing it with the sand as well as bringing up some of the real soil from beneath the sand. This combination should hold moisture and nutrients better than the sand alone and this will encourage better root development. A generous hole -- at least a foot deep and wide -- will also provide a better environment for the roots to grow and spread through.

If they are small rooted cuttings, set the plants a bit deeper than they grew in the pot, as ivy can develop roots along its stem. Next, water them deeply at planting time and then cover the soil with mulch several inches deep. Do not allow it to touch the stems, though. This will help keep the soil moist longer and also keep down weeds.

You will need to keep the soil evenly moist but not sopping wet while the plants become established. Dig down into the soil an inch or two and see if and when you need to water again. Check the potting mix and the surrounding soil as they may dry at different rates. When you water, water deeply, wait a few hours, then dig down and see how effective your watering really is. Sometimes it is surprising.

You will need to keep the soil moist up until it freezes in the late fall. If the ivy goes into winter on the dry side it will discolor badly and may defoliate, especially in a windy location.

It can take ivy a year or two to settle in and begin to grow. It sounds like you would like to have the wind break as soon as possible. Maybe you could attach inexpensive burlap to the fence in the meantime. It could provide a little bit of shade and windbreak for the ivy plants and the ivy can grow up it. Eventually the burlap will rot away, but the ivy should be able to stay on the fence.

Good luck with your project.

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