Ivy can quickly cover an unsightly fence, wall or outbuilding with little effort on the gardener's part. This underappreciated perennial can be found in a variety of colours and leaf shapes, and all are easy to grow. Just give ivy some dappled to deep shade, and it will provide a cover of green quickly.
English ivy, or Hedera helix, is the best climber of the ivies. Its glossy green leaves give any surface an English cottage look. Hedera helix 'Harald' has a three-pronged leaf with a pale green, whitish edge and a dark green centre. Hedera helix 'Little Diamond' is similar, with a more elongated, triangular-tipped leaf with a bright white edge. Hedera cristata has a slightly ruffled leaf of shiny dark green. Hedera helix 'Goldchild' has a pale golden edge to its small leaves.
A good climber for warm climates is Algerian ivy, Hedera canariensis. Algerian ivy uses its aerial rootlets to latch onto any vertical surface. It thrives in the shade and has shiny, glossy evergreen leaves. It is similar in appearance to English ivy, but its leaves are spaced further apart. Its twigs and branches are a distinctive red-wine colour. It produces poisonous black berries and its leaves can be irritating to your skin.
Though not a true ivy, Boston ivy, Parthenocissus tricuspidata, is another easy climber. This vine is related to Virginia creeper. It attaches itself to buildings and walls with holdfasts and often becomes a permanent fixture. Boston ivy grows in partial shade to full sun. In autumn, it takes on a beautiful red colour. Though it is deciduous and loses its leaves before winter, the vines that remain are visually interesting.
Ivy planted in the ground does not require fertiliser. Water it frequently for the first season until the ivy is established. After that, little care is required, other than annual pruning of overgrowth. Ivy climbs by aerial rootlets and requires no training to latch onto a fence and climb. Because of its rapid growth, ivy must be kept in check. If left to grow unfettered, it can become invasive. Pull it back annually to prevent it from twining up trees, smothering perennials and inching into gutters and cracks.