With its verdant vines and dark green leaves, English ivy (Hedera helix) is an attractive groundcover plant. Its ability to grow up and over nearly anything, makes this ivy plant an attractive decorative touch on the sides of stately old buildings and new construction alike. However, the plant is not universally loved. Several problems can exist with English ivy, and this unstoppable creeper has easily as many detractors as fans.
Although English ivy is generally a hardy vine, the Hedera helix plant is susceptible to a variety of different infestations. English ivy can develop aphids, spider mites, scale bugs, mealy bugs, fungus and bacterial infections. These infections can cause yellowed, brown or gray patches on the leaves or a bumpy texture, depending on the infection. Because the ivy plant tends to form thick blankets over everything it covers, a bad infection can easily spread to nearby plants.
English ivy is a popular plant because it grows quickly and easily, rapidly covering an area of ground with little work. Unfortunately, this makes Hedera helix a hazard to the environment. In many areas, English ivy is considered an invasive species. It can crowd out native plants, cover and smother trees, and deprive native animals of the flora they need for food and shelter. Although there are some versions of the plant that are bred not to be an invasive species, common strains are so aggressive that they are banned from being sold in some states, such as Oregon.
English ivy and other creeping vines are often praised as an attractive way to dress up the side of a house, but there are drawbacks. The ivy plant can work into the mortar of bricks, between the slats of siding or into cracks in wood and damage a house. Hedera helix is certainly not the worst offender - other plants such as Boston ivy are much worse - but it can damage the side of a building just the same. If you decorate with English ivy, consider erecting a trellis for the plant to grow on rather than letting it climb the side of your house directly.