Ivy Maintenance

English Ivy, Hedera helix, is very adaptable as a houseplant. Native to Eurasia, English ivy prospers in cool temperatures. You will want to give your ivy a home in bright indirect light, however, morning or afternoon sun is fine. Water thoroughly, but do not let the pot sit in a saucer full of water. Let the soil dry slightly between waterings. The soil should feel moist, not soggy. Feed the ivy with standard plant food once a month for optimal growth.

Pest problems can be prevented by periodic washing or spraying. Wash your ivy once a week with lukewarm water. Just put the leaves and stem of the plant under the water holding your hand over the pot, so the soil does not run out or get too soggy. Washing removes dirt, dust, and insects. Spider mites, which congregate on the underside of leaves and at the leaf joint, are the most common pest problem as they thrive under warm, dry air conditions. They cause the foliage to appear speckled. By the time you see their webs, the infestation is quite advanced. Washing is the best control method. Aphids are small, black, gray, or pale green, soft-bodied insects that cluster at the tips of shoots. Again, washing is the best control. Also, don't allow your plant to dry out completely because this creates weakness in the plant that allow insects to invade. If you find that you have a pest problem, try washing the plant as thoroughly as possible. If the insects return, apply insecticidal soap to all surfaces of the plant.

English ivy can be trained to grow on supports or pinched for a more bushy shape. To pinch the ivy, simply cut or "pinch" off the new growth at the end of those stems you would like to be shorter and bushier. It can also be grown outdoors as an evergreen vine or ground cover in areas where average winter temperatures do not drop below -10 degrees to -20 degrees (USDA hardiness zone 5, which includes Northampton), as long as it is sheltered from winter sun and winds. For more information, visit the American Ivy Society's website.

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