Ivy is a vine that typically has green leaves and grows as either a climbing or a trailing plant. The climbing varieties are often grown on a trellis or the side of a house in order to provide shade or add colour. Trailing varieties of ivy make attractive houseplants and are commonly grown in hanging baskets. In addition to their thick foliage, some varieties of ivy also have decorative seasonal flowers.
Also called common ivy, English ivy (Hedera helix) has shiny, dark-green leaves with both straight and slightly ruffled edges. The vine climbs through the use of adhesive rootlets, small tendrils that adhere to the surface of buildings, walls or whatever surface is next to the plant. These tendrils will invade the tiniest of cracks and will eventually weaken and even destroy brick or cement structures. They will also damage stucco and any painted surface they are allowed to grow on. It can also be grown as a hanging plant, but the ivy has a tendency to attach to walls if it can reach.
English ivy has small, waxy-looking white flowers that grow together in a ball, perched on a single stem. Remove the flower ball by pinching it off low on the stem once the flowers have died. The plant grows best in slightly damp soil with at least four hours per day of sunlight.
Algerian ivy (Hedera canariensis) has ball-shaped clusters formed of tiny green flowers. These are not tightly packed, but the plant puts forth many of these flower clusters in order to produce its seed. The buds and blooms are green, but, once the petals drop off, the pods turn yellow as they ripen. The large, heart-shaped leaves of this plant are a shiny medium-green with pronounced yellow veins throughout. Algerian ivy spreads quickly, grows well in the shade and is often used as a ground cover. In warmer climates, such as the Southern United States, this ivy grows as an evergreen perennial.
Grape ivy (cissus incise) is sometimes called the sorrel vine. It grows well in warm climates such as Texas, Arizona and across the South. The leaves on this plant grow in clusters of three and have edges that appear almost serrated. Flowers on the grape ivy grow in small, loosely ball-shaped clusters. Flowers are very small but each plant produces many clusters of white flowers, making them seem to be much larger. When the flowers drop their petals in late summer, the fruit begins to grow, and at maturity this fruit turns black before it falls from the plant.
Grape ivy tolerates shade well, does not require a lot of water and can be grown either as a climbing vine or as ground cover in moderately shady areas. It can handle a fair amount of heat and may be grown as a shade plant for the side of a home or barn. It is best grown on a trellis or wire frame, as its tendrils may damage walls and fences.
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