While many gardeners go to great lengths to eradicate ivy from the garden, others prefer to use ivy as a decorative vine both in the garden or in the home. Ivy, when properly managed, can be a decorative feature in the garden by allowing it to grow up stone or brick walls. In the home it can be used in hanging baskets or pots.
According to the University of Florida Cooperative Extension there are more than 25 cultivated species of ivy grown in the United States. Most gardeners are familiar with English ivy, which makes an attractive addition to the garden or home. Ivy climbs structures using aerial roots that attach to rough surfaces. You can allow ivy to grow on most surfaces other than wood, which will potentially be damaged by the ivy over time. Outdoors, ivy grows well in USDA zones 4 to 8.
Ivy grown outdoors needs both shade and well-draining soil. Never plant ivy in full sun. Instead, plant it on north- or east-facing structures that will not receive direct sunlight all day. Properly manage your soil to prevent water saturation, which can lead to bacteria and fungus damage both in the roots and in the leaves. You can also plant ivy outdoors in decorative containers. A 3- to 7-gallon capacity container is best, as it allows for adequate root growth and water drainage. You can train ivy in a container to grow up a piece of metal artwork, or you can allow the ivy to trail out of a hanging basket on your porch.
In the home, plant ivy in a hanging basket for decorative trailing foliage. As with ivy planted outdoors in containers, you can also train indoor ivy to climb up a metal trellis or another structure added to the container. Keep indoor ivy away from direct sunlight that comes from south- or west-facing windows. Water indoor ivy when the leaves show the first sign of droop or when the container feels light when picked up. Be careful to not over water to avoid bacteria and fungus in the plant.
When you plant ivy outdoors you will need to learn to manage it so it does not spread to areas of the garden where it is not wanted. The rapid growth and spreading nature of ivy is why many gardeners choose to eliminate it rather than add it to the garden. However, if you make pruning ivy a regular part of your garden maintenance, you can keep it under control. In general, begin any ivy pruning by cutting out any dead or damaged leaves and stems so you can see what remains. Then prune the ivy to the desired height and width by cutting vines at points where they branch on the stem. Always remove ivy from a plant it is growing on or it will eventually smother and kill the plant.
Ivy makes a nice addition to cut flower arrangements and bouquets. Cut ivy can be added to bouquets and vases as a unique trailing feature. Combine it with flowers with bright blooms to highlight bloom colors. In outdoor containers, ivy can survive year-round. In the fall, replace spring and summer flowers with fall plants such as asters for an attractive fall/winter container.