How to grow ivy indoors without it taking over your house

Ivy is a stately, elegant plant. Its twining vines and distinctive leaves make it instantly recognizable, indoors and out. In fact, it’s generally one of the easiest plants to grow indoors, aside from mint. However, ivy also has a tendency to grow, climbing over anything in its path. This can make for a quaint outdoor display or a terrible nuisance. Indoors, ivy grows slow enough that it is manageable, but it also grows fast enough to sneak its way into places you don’t want it to be. If you have or are planning to have some indoor ivy, here is what you can do to keep it under control.

The best indoor ivy varieties

Most often, when people picture ivy in their heads, they’re picturing English ivy. English ivy can be grown indoors, and it’s a hardy plant, making it easy to grow. However, it also tends to grow very quickly. For a smaller, easier to control plant, check out one of these varieties.

Glacier ivy is a variety of English ivy, but it was cultivated specifically for use indoors, making it much tamer than the standard English ivy. It enjoys bright, indirect light and is sensitive to overwatering. Bettina ivy, another indoor English ivy variety, stays quite small, making it a popular desk plant. As with most English ivies, provide it with several hours of bright, indirect light a day, and be sure the soil goes dry between waterings.

In addition to these true ivies, you can achieve a similar aesthetic with less aggressive ivy look-alikes. Pothos and philodendron are both exceptional houseplants with lovely trailing vines that won’t spread across your entire home. Pothos in particular is popular for its extreme tolerance, as this plant is notably hard to kill.

A small pot of ivy on the floor next to a table. The ivy is beginning to climb the table.

Caring for your ivy

Basic ivy care depends largely on the type of ivy you have. English ivy, as noted above, prefers bright, indirect light and well-draining soil. However, other types of ivy differ depending on the climate they originate from. Keeping your ivy happy and healthy indoors is important. Plants that aren’t getting adequate sun, for example, tend to get leggy, growing taller or leaning over to reach for the sun. When trying to keep a vining plant small, this is especially important.

Persian ivy and Irish ivy have similar requirements to English ivy, in that they are hardy, enjoy bright, indirect light, but are shade tolerant, and prefer well-draining soil. Some varieties of Persian ivy can be kept indoors, but Irish ivy is even more aggressive than English ivy.

Algerian ivy has similar lighting requirements, although it is less shade tolerant. While it prefers well-draining soil, it also likes to be consistently moist. Algerian ivy is less aggressive than English ivy, but is adept at climbing even without a trellis.

Himalayan ivy prefers less sun, ranging from full shade to partial sun. It does well in most soil types but prefers slightly acidic soil. Himalayan ivy is also less aggressive and does have some houseplant-compatible varieties.

A small pot of ivy being pruned

Keeping your ivy small

Aside from making sure they are well taken care of, there are a few things you can do to make sure your ivy stays under control. The first thing is to have realistic expectations about the natural behavior of ivy.

This plant loves to grow, so if you plan on growing it in a hanging basket, make sure it is hanging somewhere where it has some room to trail, away from any obstacles it may feel the need to latch onto. It may also attempt to grow up the basket’s hanging attachment and onto your ceiling. If it does, gently untangle it when it first begins to do so and lay it over the basket where you want it to trail. If you’re growing it in a pot, give it a little trellis or something to climb on. Keeping ivy on a single trellis is much easier than keeping it from growing at all.

Regular pruning also helps keep ivy in check. Unlike pruning roses or trees, you can prune ivy with your hands or with clippers. Cut it just above a leaf for the best results.

Propagating your ivy

When pruning, you can either toss the cuttings or plant them in soil or water to propagate an entirely new ivy plant! All you have to do is cut off portions of the stems—ideally with one or two nodes on each cutting—and root them in soil or water, whichever method you prefer. If rooting them in soil, apply some rooting hormone powder to the ends of the cutting before placing them and then water weekly. If rooting them in water, just place them in a jar or mug and let them grow! You should see results in a few weeks.

Troubleshooting problems with your ivy

If your ivy’s leaves are turning brown or wilting, there may be a few things going on. First, make sure that they’re getting the correct type and amount of light. Too much or too little, and their growth will drop off. Next, make sure you’re not over- or under-watering them. Ivy will react poorly to both. They also like humidity, so if possible, place them near other houseplants or near a small tray with stones and water, to promote the air quality around them.

There you have it, the best ways to keep an indoor ivy plant from taking over your home. Start with an indoor variety, make sure it’s getting the correct amount of sun for the type of ivy it is, give it a little space to climb, and prune it when it gets too long. By following these simple tips, you can grow ivy indoors to your heart’s content without worry or fear! Enjoy your elegant ivy plants!

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