Boston ivy brings to mind the buildings and homes of New England, in particular the college campuses of the Ivy League. An attractive and aggressive plant, Boston Ivy can cover an entire home in a few years, giving it a classic charm.
Boston ivy can be planted from seed, but growth will be slow and have limited vigor. Seeds can be collected from ivy fruit. Remove the fleshy pulp and place the seed in moistened medium sand. If you live in a cold climate, refrigerate the seed and sand mixture until spring. Cuttings are the better choice and should be taken in the early spring. Use a rooting hormone and take cuttings that do not have tendrils. Allow the cutting to sit in moist peat for several days, and then transplant to a permanent location.
Boston ivy thrives in well-drained, loamy soil and is best in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 8. The ivy requires moist but not over-saturated soil. The roots are aggressive but may have trouble penetrating clay; however, an application of gypsum once a year to the surface near the base of the plant can alleviate this problem.
Boston ivy is an attractive perennial vine that does not keep its leaves from one year to the next. Early blooms can be expected in March with the budding serrated leaves being reddish in color, but quickly turning to green. Leaf growth is vigorous, and the attractive leaves have an almost polished sheen. The leaves will stay green and continue to grow through the summer and early fall, then turn an attractive shade of red and purple in autumn before falling with strong winds or rainfall. The plant has small inconspicuous flowers that attract bees. The flowers turn into small purple fruit in the summer, which attracts birds.
The plant is an aggressive grower and can reach 50 feet in height. Popular on brick buildings in the east, the plant can be slightly invasive but is easy to manage and train. The plant enjoys full sun but will do well in partial shade. Trimming the ivy once a year will promote additional growth and fertilizing with manure will yield better leaf color and growth.
Boston ivy adheres itself to almost any surface and is very difficult to remove. Even if it is pulled away from a building, the plant will leave behind small "holdfasts" that are firmly adhered to the surface and may require sandblasting (on brick) to remove. Do not plant Boston ivy near a building if you don't plan on making it a permanent fixture. The vines can become large and appear to be sturdy but should never be climbed and the berries, which resemble wild grapes, are poisonous to people and pets (not birds) if ingested.