Ivy is grown on a wide variety of homes as a design element. However, ivy can also be grown on the exterior surface of the home for increased insulation as well as protection from the elements. Because the plant will also increase moisture to the exposed structure, it is recommended to confine ivy growth to brick and masonry structures.
English ivy (Hedera helix) is one of the most commonly used ivy plants for growing up walls and the sides of houses. English ivy is an evergreen creeping vine that can climb walls up to 50 feet high. "The plant has woody stems and climbs by aerial rootlets that cling easily to brick or masonry, but less so to wood," according to Clemson University Extension. English ivy features dark green, three-lobed foliage and can survive almost any soil conditions, although it prefers shade. English ivy can be planted in hardiness zones 6 through 10. There are also special cultivars of the plant, such as Glacier, which comes in a gray-green color with variegated leaves.
Algerian ivy (Hedera canariensis) is very similar to English ivy, except it features three to five lobe leaves that are much larger than their English cousin's. Algerian ivy leaves are also spaced out farther apart than English ivy foliage. This ivy can tolerate full sun exposure, although it prefers partial shade. According to the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Algerian ivy is more susceptible to cool weather damage than English ivy and can only be planted in hardiness zones 8 through 11.
Persian ivy (Hedera colchica) features oval- to- heart-shaped leaves that are three to seven inches wide and as long as 10 inches, the largest leaf among the ivies. This ivy will tolerate the coldest temperatures of the three Hedera cousins and can be planted in hardiness zones 5 through 10. Persian ivy typically comes in solid green. However, there are varieties that incorporate gray-green shades as well as green and cream variegated color patterns. In addition, Clemson University Extension states that the Dentata cultivar is faintly toothed along the foliage border.
Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) is a deciduous vine that uses tendrils to climb brick and masonry structures. "This creeper is one of the most commonly used vines in the United States. College campuses all across the nation have building walls covered with its leaves, hence the name Ivy League," according to Washington State University Clark County Extension. Boston ivy can climb walls as high as 50 to 60 feet and features new growth that starts out as a reddish-bronze color before turning green in the summer. There are a variety of cultivars that feature brilliant fall foliage color. Boston ivy will tolerate a number of growing conditions but is known to thrive in hardiness zones 4 through 6.