There are many varieties of ivy that will grow in the ground in USDA planting zones 3 through 8. English ivy is the most popular and what most people think of when they picture an ivy plant. Ivy will grow well as a ground cover or climb just about any surface it comes in contact with. This works well for covering topiaries, trellises and some fences, but it can become invasive if not kept in check. Ivy is a low maintenance plant, making it a favorite of gardeners without a lot of time.
Choose an area that has partial shade and is not soggy after a hard rain. The farther north or south in the planting zones the more shade that is needed, protecting the plants from extreme heat or cold. Ivy will grow in full shade. Planting should be planned in spring.
Dig a bed for planting ivy to a depth of 10 inches. Remove all weeds and grass from the soil and work an inch of compost and an inch of peat moss into the soil. This can be done with a spade or by hand and will make the soil drain faster for a healthier root system.
Moisten the soil before planting. Remove the plant from the container you purchased it in. Make a hole a little wider and an inch deeper than the root ball of the plant. Plants should be placed 12 to 18 inches apart depending on variety.
Place the ivy in the planting hole and press the soil back around it, covering it an inch deeper than it was in the container. If growing to cling to a wall, fence or trellis, plant it as close to the object as possible.
Water thoroughly to establish the root system. Water to keep soil evenly moist for a month and then allow the top of the soil to dry before watering again.
Apply a 12-4-8 fertilizer once you start to see growth and once a month thereafter until fall. Hold back fertilizer through the winter and begin again in the spring. Follow manufacturer's directions on the amount to apply.
Cut back the ivy plant if it starts to grow farther than it should. Prune some of the top layers of vine to create a thicker growth each fall.