How Do I Save an English Ivy That Was Left Out in the Winter?

Overview

In the busy fall cleanup time in the garden, the first freeze can often surprise even the most organized gardener. Most of the time, tasks that have been pre-empted by winter's entry can be finished during a reprieve of warmer fall weather, or in the spring. When houseplants are left out, however, damage may occur. Fortunately, English ivy is not a tropical plant. According to the Chicago Botanic Garden, many of the more than 400 varieties of English ivy are tolerant of extreme conditions. If you leave a pot of this hardy evergreen perennial vine out, it can most often be saved by bringing it in and nursing its injuries.

Step 1

Bring the pot inside. Tie the pot up in a nylon net bag or top the soil with aluminum foil and slowly submerge the pot in a tub of lukewarm water to hydrate the soil and roots. Remove the pot after a few minutes and allow the water to drain; do not leave the plant soaking in water.

Step 2

Put the plant in a cool place like a mud room or garage in bright light, but out of direct sun.

Step 3

Move the plant into the warm house after a week in the mud room. Keep it in bright light, but out of direct sun. Allow the top of the soil to dry between watering; English ivy does not like wet soil.

Step 4

Examine the plant carefully for dark foliage and dead wood. Prune back 1/3 of the dead vines. If new shoots do not form by the next spring, trim the dead wood back.

Step 5

Resume the ivy's winter feeding scheme when it recovers its color and begins to set out new shoots. Give it half-strength houseplant food every six to eight weeks until it begins growing in spring, when you can fertilize monthly. Follow the dosage recommendation on the package.

Tips and Warnings

  • If your ivy is not a hardy variety, it may take longer to regain its color and vigor. Depending on the severity and duration of the freeze, you may lose the plant.

Things You'll Need

  • Fertilizer
  • Aluminum foil or nylon net
  • Wash basin or bucket
  • Scissors

References

  • Chicago Botanic Garden: English Ivy
  • North Dakota State University Hortiscope: Questions on Ivy
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture: Hedera helix
  • Clemson Cooperative Extension: Cold Damage

Who Can Help

  • University of Florida IFAS Extension: English Ivies
  • Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health: English Ivy
Keywords: winter damage ivy, English ivy, save cold-damaged houseplants, evergreen vine

About this Author

Chicago native Laura Reynolds has been writing for 40 years. She attended American University (D.C.), Northern Illinois University and University of Illinois Chicago and has a B.S. in communications (theater). Originally a secondary school communications and history teacher, she's written one book and edited several others. She has 30 years of experience as a local official, including service as a municipal judge.