UF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension Service

458 Highway 98 North

Okeechobee, FL 34972-2578

Phone: (863) 763-6469

E- mail:  dfculbert@ifas.ufl.edu

November 30, 2005

Quick Links:  Use & Care  English Ivy   Canary Island Ivy   Creeping Fig   References

Feature Article - for release the week of December 4, 2005

Dan Culbert - Extension Horticulture Agent

Holly_And_The_Ivy_23a.gif (433006 bytes) Holly_And_The_Ivy_23b.gif (401185 bytes)

Click on thumb nails for lyrics!


Spread Holiday Cheer with Ivy


Beyond colorful Poinsettias and aromatic Christmas trees, many other seasonal plants are now available to brighten our homes.  Since one of my favorite Christmas carols is "The Holly and the Ivy", and because many holiday planters contain ivy, it is the subject of this week's column.  

There are several species of plants that are called ivy.  English ivy is a staple of northern landscapes, but soils and heat limit its use in Florida Yards.  The look and feel of its flowing green foliage works well inside the home.  Another ivy for greater success in local landscapes is Algerian Ivy, a commonly used houseplant.   If your holiday plans call for topiaries, baskets or walls or beds of a mat of foliage, consider using Creeping Fig.  However, ivies can become invasive, and should be "let out of the pot" and into the yard only with caution.

There are over 480 named cultivars of Hedera (Ivy) grown commercially.  Interest in ivy has improved with many new colors - from all shades of green, white, yellow and gold.  Some ivy leaves are so delicately cut they resemble the print a bird's foot makes in the sand, while others are curly or fan shaped.  They are used in hanging baskets, mixed containers, for topiary, or are grown as groundcovers, garden specimens, and some as shrubs.

As a house plant, ivy needs four or more hours a day of direct sunlight, but can grow fairly well if given indirect light. Keep the soil evenly moist and supplied with an all purpose fertilizer, half strength, once a month during periods of active growth.  Container grown ivy prefers to be kept on the cool side, a challenge for us in
Florida, so - like your Poinsettia - consider putting it out at night to approach the ideal night temperatures of 50 to 55 degrees.

After the holiday decorations are removed from ivy dish gardens, they can be enjoyed for their own natural beauty.  As they become overcrowded, plants may be repotted.  To make ivy runners more full, pinch off the stem tips.  Common pests are mites, mealybugs and leaf spot.  Be cautious about using pesticides with ivies, as some will show sensitivity to these chemicals.


English Ivy does well in container culture, and with hundreds of different kinds available, these are the ones found in holiday planters.  As the plant becomes older, mature leaves develop with fewer lobes. The mature growth is difficult to root as a cutting.

English Ivy covers a building at Cornell University, an Ivy League school.

  English Ivy can be used as a groundcover.  It needs cool temperatures to grow well. Photo  © 1997 Rosie Lerner, Purdue University

English Ivy   Don't let ivy escape or grow up trees. Photo courtesy Carole Bergmann

A pyramid of  variegated English Ivy makes an outstanding indoor plant. Courtesy of Kraft Gardens

English Ivy Plants English Ivy can be used in baskets and planter boxes. Hedera helix and Buxus sempervirens in a window box - photograph copyright Dorling Kindersley

The American Ivy Society, has chosen Hedera helix 'Anita' as 2006 Ivy of the Year.

In northern areas, English Ivy is used as a ground cover or allowed to climb walls on Ivy League schools and private homes alike.  It is a problematic weed in some cases, and has been difficult to manage once escaped.  In our local landscapes it will not be a problem because it doesn’t like our salt air, sweet soil, wet feet or high heat.  If you find the right spot for English Ivy, be careful not to step into the bed after it is established. Raking the leaves or cleaning debris can also damage ivy beds - if necessary to clean leaves in the bed, use a leaf blower.

Algerian Ivy is also called
Canary Island or Madeira Ivy, and is another component of holiday planters. Algerian ivy will do well, indoors or out.   It grows best in moist, highly organic soil in full sun to deep shade. There are also many new hybrid varieties of Algerian ivy available today, ranging from simple variegation to creamy white leaves.  The cultivar 'Variegata' has leaves with cream-colored margins flecked with green, and grey-green or blue-green mid-sections; 'Canary Cream' has green leaves with cream-colored margins. Algerian Ivy leaves may get to be six to eight inches across. 


Algerian Ivy foliage is slightly broader than that of English Ivy.  Photo: University of Illinois

There are several forms of variegated Canary Island Ivy (Hedera canariensis varigata) available in many kinds of houseplants. Photo courtesy: Ground Effects Nursery.  Ivy Wreath Another use of Algerian Ivy, Hedera canariensis is to make a topiary potted wreath.  Courtesy of Triad Plant Company

If you release Algerian Ivy into your Florida Yard, you will find it a slightly better plant for the local landscape than English Ivy because of increased heat tolerance. But it still has limited adaptability under local conditions.  It could be a good groundcover in a shady location with bold leaves quickly providing a mat of foliage. Like its English cousin, the aerial roots will guide the plant up tree trunks, walls, or trellises, and it is grown from young cuttings.

Creeping Fig is found in a few potted plants that are making use of a more tropical answer to the temperate ivies.  This plant is used in topiaries or hanging baskets, as well as in the landscape. Cultivars include: 'Minima', with slender, small leaves; ’Quercifolia’, tiny lobed leaves, somewhat like miniature oak leaves; and 'Variegata', with have creamy white foliage markings.

Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila) can cover Florida walls to give a "northern look" Photo: UF/IFAS

Creeping Fig is also popular on topiaries. This is "Bud, Wise and Err" at Sea World on 16' Gator. Photo courtesy of  Topiary Joe

Variegated Creeping Fig Creeping fig may be found in a variegated form. Photo courtesy  kniphofia

Be forewarned - this is a member of the Ficus family, with issues about invasive growth.  When grown in full sun, leaves often take on a yellowish cast.  If kept in bounds, creeping fig can produce a dense, rapid growth of small, dark green, overlapping leaves on slender stems. 

On walls, Creeping Fig lends a lacy pattern in its early stages of growth. It needs no support to adhere to a wall.

Mature Creeping Fig


 As twigs reach about 2-years-old, larger mature leaves develop on moderately thick, hairy stems.  It may also produce inedible fruit that look like chicken eggs.   This Ficus can make a low, dense ground cover only one or two inches high. 



I’ve placed more information on our Okeechobee web page, http://okeechobee.ifas.ufl.edu.  If you need additional information on these holiday vines, please email us at okeechobee@ifas.ufl.edu or call us at 863-763-6469.  Local residents can stop by our office at 458 Hwy 98 North in Okeechobee.


Trade names, where used, are given for the purpose of providing specific information. They do not constitute an endorsement or guarantee of products named, nor does it imply criticism of products not named. The Florida Cooperative Extension Service - Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational information, and other services to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin.  Florida Cooperative Extension Service / IFAS / University of Florida. Nick Place, Dean Last update: 01/09/2013 .  This page is maintained by Dan Culbert Hit Counter


Bergmann, Carole.  English Ivy: Public Education Happens in “Iv’y Towers”.  Rockville: Maryland Invasive Species Council, 02/04.

Chen, Jianjun,  McConnell, Dennis B. and Everitt, Kelly C. Cultural Guidelines for Commercial Production of Interiorscape Hedera. ENH 990. Gainesville: Florida Cooperative Extension Service, 05/05. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/EP243 

Culbert, D.F.  Ivy for the Holidays. Vero Beach: Press Journal, 12/15/02. http://indian.ifas.ufl.edu/News/2002%20news/Ivyholidaynews.htm

Gilman, Ed. Ficus pumila [fact Sheet FPS 212]. Gainesville : Florida Cooperative Extension Service, 10/99. http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/shrubs/FICPUMA.PDF

ibid.Hedera canariensis [Fact Sheet FPS-238].   Gainesville : Florida Cooperative Extension Service, 10/99. http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/shrubs/HEDCANA.PDF 

ibid. Hedera helix [Fact sheet FPS-239]. Gainesville : Florida Cooperative Extension Service, 10/99.  http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/shrubs/HEDHELA.PDF 

Henley, R.W. and Black, R.J.  English Ivies to Know and Grow. Cir.1191.   Gainesville : Florida Cooperative Extension Service, 10/03.  http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/MG358 

Ivy.  From Wikpedia, 11/23/05. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedera_helix 

Starr, Forest & Kim [20 images of
Hedera helix on the web]. Makawao, HI: HEAR, 11/02.  http://www.hear.org/starr/hiplants/images/thumbnails/html/hedera_helix.htm

ibid., [10 images of Ficus pumila on the web, showing the fruit.]. Makawao, HI: HEAR, 11/02.http://www.hear.org/starr/hiplants/images/thumbnails/html/ficus_pumila.htm  

Stiffler, Lisa.  "To free urban forests from invaders, some weigh ban on noxious plants". Seattle: POST-INTELLIGENCER, 11/30/05.

 http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/250235_urbanforest30.html?source=mypi    Includes photos and links to English Ivy management organizations.