English ivy is a perennial climbing vine that grows vigorously; a mature plant can reach heights of up to 20 feet after two to three years. Not only does it grow up walls, trellises and even trees, it can also form a thick ground cover. Ivy can become a noxious weed-like plant, especially in sunny locations, so it is best grown in shadier areas, where it will grow more slowly, or in places where you do not care how much space it takes over.
Clear the planting area of weeds and debris, then loosen the soil to a depth of 1 foot using a shovel, spade or rototiller.
Add organic compost to the soil to improve drainage. Ivy likes a slightly alkaline soil with a pH of 7.0 to 7.3.
Dig a hole about 3 to 4 inches deep and a little wider than the root ball. If planting more than one plant, space the holes about 6 inches apart. The plants will grow together in about two years, forming an intertwined ground cover.
Remove the plants from their containers and gently loosen the root ball. Remove the lowest four or five leaves from the stem to help stimulate root growth. Place the plant so that it sits deeply in the hole, with the remaining lowest leaves right above ground level. Refill the hole with soil, and firm the top with your hand.
Water the newly planted ivy using a garden hose set to a slow trickle for about 20 to 30 minutes. Keep the soil moist by watering deeply for about one hour a week or more when the weather is hot. Ivy can stand some dry soil, but not for extended periods of time.
Put a 2-inch layer of mulch around and between the plants to control weeds and trap moisture in the soil. Use chopped leaves or shredded bark, and replace each year, as needed, to maintain the 2-inch layer.
Feed with a balanced fertilizer (e.g., 15-15-15) for healthy foliage and strong roots. Use a controlled-release fertilizer to prevent nutrients from being washed out during watering.