Ivy Question

Jane RaffertyMay 13, 2012

I have an old house with poor soil and a lot of shade in back. I have some bare areas where it is on a small slope and is shaded (bright, not heavy shade.) I wonder if ivy would do to try to fill in so it's not just bare ground?

I think the soil is bare because there is nothing growing there except shrubs and no plants that would creep like crab grass, so nothing grows on the small slope. I'm wondering if I plant ivy at the top of the slope if it will grow downward to fill it in.

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I've seen an excellent example of periwinkle ground cover just this spring, full, lush and bright green color.
I never saw ivy do well on the ground except the 5 leaf ivy, that may be the one called, Virginia Ivy.
Bolax, is another ground cover that grows well, almost anywhere.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 7:28AM
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You should search the forum. there have been a lot of heated discussions about ivy, as recently as a few months ago.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 7:38AM
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I'm originally from zone 5 (Ill.) and English ivy--Hedera helix--barely existed. It would not have made a good ground cover there. Later, I lived in Georgia and it was THE major groundcover for large shade areas. It survives in dry shade. (No matter what you plant, you'll need to provide water while it becomes established.) So ascertain whether English Ivy grows well where you live. If you use it, since it's a vine, you'll need to have some plan for containing it at its edges. In the Atlanta climate, once established, the leading edges advanced about 3' per year. In in my own yard, I trimmed the leading edges twice per year. At back edges, if they won't be seen, can be sprayed with a 2 or 3' band of Roundup as an easy way to trim. This won't kill the plant; it will just "burn" the edge and vastly slow the growth. You wouldn't want English ivy to grow on structures--unless maybe you wanted it on a fence and were willing to sacrifice the fence to a shortened life. An exception is chain link. It can't do much to that except turn it nicely green. Eventually, it will "eat" part of the chain link, but not tear it down. Since it will climb trees, you can easily remove it once per year if you don't want it on them. I let it grow waist high on some of my trees as I liked the look and it made maintenance easier (no bending.) If you allow it to climb trees, it will advance to the mature state, flower, breed and produce seeds which might cause it to spread by means you can't control. In Georgia this wasn't really a problem, but I understand some places, it is. Check locally to see if it's considered an aggressive weed that shouldn't be planted or if it's just something to use with reasonable caution. Most vines (many of which are groundcovers) need some vigilance as to their "extracurricular" activities.

You mentioned also Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). This has a wider range of habitat and grows farther north than Hedera helix so I'm sure it would work where you live. It can be used as a groundcover and can also be rampant. The main practical difference between it and English Ivy is that it's not evergreen. From what I've seen, I consider it a faster grower than H. helix. The same cautions apply. It will produce seed more prolifically.

Vinca minor can be a nice groundcover IF it will grow well where you live. You might check with the local garden center for advice on what other groundcovers work well in your area.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 10:49AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Pachysandra is another great ground cover for shade, very commonly planted in the northeastern USA. If soil fertility is really low, and you also have lots of tree roots at the surface, you may need to amend with compost or top soil and provide regular periodic irrigation to get any ground cover to establish in this area.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 12:57PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

In all too many cases I find the planting of ivy to be the default plant of the unimaginative.

For your CT climate you might want to give gallium ( sweet woodruff) a try or epimedium , convallaria, and or bergenia.

As mentioned above, pachysandra does extremely well in your climate and makes a beautiful groundcover. There are some lovely variegated varieties too.

If you have a trip planned to Massachusetts it would be worth your while to visit the ground cover display garden at the Case Estates in Weston MA. This property was , until just a few years ago, part of Harvard University's horticultural holdings for teaching and research. The ground cover exhibition area is quite large with dozens of 8x8 panels of live groundcovers with detailed cultural information at each panel.
The rest of the grounds are quite beautiful and just as horticulturally rich with detailed cultural information.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 4:11PM
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Jane Rafferty

Thanks for the replies I will do a search for ivy. I have some out in front and our climate seems to contain it. I imagine that in GA it can really take over.

I'm not unimaginative. I happen to love ivy, have it both growing in my kitchen and on my curtains. I love the shape of the leaves and the grace of the vine. I also have 5 large dogs and whatever I plant has to be able to take a beating -- hence my choice of ivy. :)

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 5:43PM
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