English Ivy

Hedera helix

English ivy (Hedera helix) is an evergreen vine that is recognized as a serious, smothering invasive in much of southwestern BC. It is commonly planted to provide quick cover for walls and buildings, and as ground cover in commercial landscapes. Unfortunatey, it quickly forms a dense monoculture groundcover that suppresses and excludes other vegetation, and is unsuitable for most wildlife habitat.

Thick evergreen ivy mats overwhelm plants on the forest floor, prevent natural seedling succession, debilitate trees, and can damage infrastructure. As a vine, it can completely engulf shrubs and encircles tree trunks of all sizes, leaving nothing uncovered. Shrubs shrouded in ivy may eventually die because light can't reach their leaves. English ivy grows rapidly and needs very little light or water once it's established, and even grows during the winter. 

English ivy lacks flowers and has dull green, lobed leaves with light veins that grow alternately along trailing or climbing stems. Leaves are deeply to shallowly lobed, and range from small, narrow leaves to large, broadly shaped leaves. Ivy leaves also have a thick, waxy coating that helps them to cling to almost any surface. Older vines can be tree-like and as much as five inches thick.

A few native and ornamental alternatives to plant instead of English ivy include: Salal; Deer Fern; Purple Wintercreeper Euonymus; Taiwan Creeping Raspberry; and Privet Honeysuckle. Read more about these alternatives in the Grow Me Instead booklet for BC.