Ivies are fast-growing plants that can trail over the side of containers or encouraged to climb a support. Many ivies have variegated leaves in interesting shapes adding an architectural element to a garden. Add further sculptural interest by training ivy plants to grow into topiary shapes.
English ivy Hedera helix is the most common ivy species found in gardens. It is a climbing vine with aerial rootlets winding around trellises and other supports. The Eva cultivar has variegated green and grey-green leaves with broad, cream-coloured edges. Maple Leaf has deeply lobed, toothed leaves. It grows as a dense groundcover. The leaves of buttercup, or golden English ivy, turn a rich, yellow colour in summer. Glacier is one of the best variegated ivies to use as groundcover, yet it climbs rapidly if given a support. Its evergreen, silvery leaves have a white margin.
Persian ivy H. colchica is a hardy, self-clinging, climbing plant that thrives in moist, well-drained soil. Dentata has purple-red stems and dark-green, heart-shaped leaves. The Dentata Variegata cultivar has broad-based, leathery, green leaves with irregular margins and splotches of creamy white. Paddy's Pride has central yellow splashes on its bright-green leaves. Persian ivy does not adhere strongly to supports, but grows successfully as a dense groundcover.
Algerian ivy is a clinging ivy with red stems and large, lobed leaves arranged alternately on the stem. Grown often as a groundcover, this ivy grows rapidly and is successful as a houseplant. The Glorie de Marengo variety has mottled grey-green leaves about 4 inches long and maroon stems. It tolerates dry shade and atmospheric pollution.
Although most ivies tolerate a wide variety of soil conditions, using soilless mix in containers provides a balanced and nutrient-rich growing medium. Ivies thrive in part-shade sites, and most grow quickly. Regular watering encourages the plants' growth, although they are tolerant of dry conditions. Place a support, such as a post or trellis, in the container for the ivy to climb or leave it unsupported to encourage growth as a tailing plant. Ivies are easily trained to cover wire topiary forms in any shape.