The Q&A Archives: Planting Ivy

Question: We bought a Boston Ivy with a Monrovia tag on it from our local Gertins garden center. The plant had grown around a four foot stick. I asked one of their employees if I was supposed to remove the stick when I planted it and he said yes just pull the stick out. I gave it a pretty good tug and it did not move, and he said just tear the plant away and you can get the stick out.

On the way home I said I did not think the guy knew what he was talking about but we would see. We planted it as close to our rock wall as we could. My wife thought that maybe the plant would jump from the stick to hte wall as it grew but I could not see how that was possible.

So we tried to untangle the vines as carefully as we could. The vines were tied with green tape to the stick about every foot so there certainly was no way to just pull the stick out. After we pulled it all apart, we tried to stick the vines on the rocks but they just fell off. So we tied them up with string to the wall in hopes that they will attach them selves as they grow. About a third of them broke off so I feel this was not the correct way to treat the plant.

We have about 200 feet of retaining wall so we will need more plants. What are the planting instructions and why don't you have them on your web site?

Answer: I'm not convinced that pulling the stick out of the tangle of stems was the best suggestion. Especially if the vines were tied every few inches. I probably would have done what you did - try to untangle everything and then plant the ivy. The vines will need some support until they are able to find a way to attach themselves to your rock wall. They will eventually, and once a stem attaches itself, other vines will follow and entangle themselves in the pioneer. I think you'll find that as the plant matures the stems will be much thicker and sturdier and will begin growing upright before they even attach themselves to the wall. The stems that you're supporting with string will produce lateral vines, which will find little cracks and crevices to hold on to.

Since you have 200' of wall, you might want to purchase flats of plants rather than individual pots. Flats can be divided into 3-4 dozen rooted plants. Ivy grows quickly but you can space them 6-12" apart (depending upon whether you're using divisions from a flat or 4" individual pots) for fast coverage. The plants will first spread along the ground but then the vines will climb over one another and begin to grow upward, supporting one another as they grow.

Best wishes with your new ivy!

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