Originally from South Africa, Swedish ivy is a small, herbaceous perennial that is now frequently grown as a houseplant in the United States. Requiring little maintenance and modest amounts of water, it is an excellent plant for beginners and can be grown easily in planters and hanging baskets. The plant is often grown outdoors in the summer and brought indoors during cooler temperatures.
The leaves of Swedish ivy are rounded and range from 2 to 4 inches across. The leaves are smooth, glossy and deeply veined with scalloped edges. More often colored deep green, some cultivars have variegated leaves or leaves with white or yellow margins. The plant blooms frequently in early summer, producing white or pale purple flowers on short spikes.
The plant is an evergreen that grows to 24 inches high and can spread to 3 or 4 feet with trailing stems that will cascade out of planters and hanging baskets in an attractive manner. When used as a ground cover, it will root where the stem comes in contact with the soil as the plant grows. Swedish ivy is relatively drought and salt tolerant and can be grown under trees, as it prefers shady areas. The plant can be grown outdoors only in the warmest areas of the country, in hardiness zones 10 and 11.
Swedish ivy can be easily propagated from cuttings. Cuttings from stem tips can be placed in potting soil or directly in water and located in an area of bright indirect light to allow roots to emerge along the stem. Once the roots begin to grow, the plant can then be transplanted to a pot with a good potting soil mixture.
Swedish ivy does best in partial shade, as full sun can burn the leaves. The plant grows well in a good potting mixture that is kept moist, but not wet. The soil can be allowed to dry out somewhat during the winter months. The plant should be fed from spring through fall using a good houseplant fertilizer. When branches of Swedish ivy start to get leggy, they can be pinched back to produce a bushier plant. After the flowers of the plant have faded, they can be pinched back to encourage new blooming.
As a houseplant, Swedish ivy can be grown indoors on windowsills, kitchen counters, and other locations not in direct sunlight. Outdoors, Swedish ivy grows well in planters and hanging baskets. In warmer areas, it can even be used as a ground cover.
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