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Toxic parts

The plant is said to be poisonous in large doses[1][2][3][4] although the leaves are eaten with impunity by various mammals without any noticeable harmful affects.

The leaves and fruits contain the saponic glycoside hederagenin which, if ingested, can cause breathing difficulties and coma[5].

The sap can cause dermatitis with blistering and inflammation. This is apparently due to the presence of polyacetylene compounds[5].

Edible uses


Although they are almost certainly not edible, there is a report that the seeds contain 16.2% protein and 35.1% fat[6].
There are no edible uses listed for Hedera helix.

Material uses

A yellow and a brown dye are obtained from the twigs[7][8].

A decoction of the leaves is used to restore black fabrics[1][7][9] and also as a hair rinse to darken the hair[1][9]. If the leaves are boiled with soda they are a soap substitute for washing clothes etc[8]. An excellent ground cover for shady places, succeeding even in the dense shade of trees[10][11]. A very effective weed suppresser[12]. The cultivars 'Hibernica', 'Lutzii' and 'Neilsonii' have been especially mentioned[12]. Plants can be grown along fences to form a hedge. The variety 'Digitata' is very useful for this[13]. Plants have been grown indoors in pots in order to help remove toxins from the atmosphere. It is especially good at removing chemical vapours, especially formaldehyde[14]. The plants will probably benefit from being placed outdoors during the summer[14].

The wood is very hard and can be used as a substitute for Buxus sempervirens (Box), used in engraving etc[7][8]. Another report says that the wood is very soft and porous and is seldom used except as a strop for sharpening knives[15].

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

Ivy is a bitter aromatic herb with a nauseating taste[16]. It is often used in folk herbal remedies[6], especially in the treatment of rheumatism and as an external application to skin eruptions, swollen tissue, painful joints, burns and suppurating cuts[17][16]. Recent research has shown that the leaves contain the compound 'emetine', which is an amoebicidal alkaloid, and also triterpene saponins, which are effective against liver flukes, molluscs, internal parasites and fungal infections[16]. The leaves are antibacterial, antirheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, cathartic, diaphoretic, emetic, emmenagogue, stimulant, sudorific, vasoconstrictor, vasodilator and vermifuge[1][6][16]. The plant is used internally in the treatment of gout, rheumatic pain, whooping cough, bronchitis and as a parasiticide[16]. Some caution is advised if it is being used internally since the plant is mildly toxic[1]. Excessive doses destroy red blood cells and cause irritability, diarrhoea and vomiting[16]. This plant should only be used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner[16].

An infusion of the twigs in oil is recommended for the treatment of sunburn[15].

The leaves are harvested in spring and early summer, they are used fresh and can also be dried[17].


Ecosystem niche/layer

Climber or Soil surface

Ecological Functions

Ground cover



Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Seed - remove the flesh, which inhibits germination, and sow the seed in spring in a cold frame[18]. Four weeks cold stratification will improve germination[18]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the cold frame for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.

Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a shady position in a frame. Good percentage[19]. Cuttings of mature wood, 12cm long, November in a cold frame[19].

Layering. Plants often do this naturally.

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Hedera helix. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


Ivy is a very easily grown plant that dislikes waterlogged, very dry or very acid soils but otherwise succeeds in all soil types[20][21][16]. It grows well in heavy clay soils. Prefers some lime in the soil. Tolerates very dense shade[22][23], though it may not flower in such a position[K]. The plant is very hardy and tolerant of atmospheric pollution[15]. Established plants are drought tolerant[12].

A very ornamental and hardy plant[12], it tolerates temperatures down to about -25°c[24]. There are many named varieties[12], the variegated forms are less hardy than the species and also require more light[16]. Ivy is a rampant climbing plant, clinging by means of aerial roots and often trailing on the ground in woods and hedges[25]. It is of benefit rather than harm when growing on a wall because it keeps the wall dry and acts as an insulation[26][22]. It does not damage the structure of a wall. Similarly, it does not harm large trees when climbing into them, though it can shade out smaller and ailing trees[13]. It is not a parasitic plant, but instead obtains all its nutrient from the sun and the soil[25]. A very good plant for wild-life, it provides dense shelter for birds, spiders etc, an abundant late supply of nectar for insects and a supply of seeds for winter food[15][22][25]. It is a food plant for the larvae of many species of butterfly[22][27]. A very variable plant, there are many named varieties.

This species is notably resistant to honey fungus[13].


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Hedera helix. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Hedera helix.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Hedera helix
Imported References
Edible uses
Medicinal uses
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
permanent shade
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
  • Drought
Native Climate Zones
None listed.
Adapted Climate Zones
None listed.
Native Geographical Range
None listed.
Native Environment
None listed.
Ecosystem Niche
Root Zone Tendancy
None listed.
Deciduous or Evergreen
Herbaceous or Woody
Life Cycle
Growth Rate
Mature Size
15 x 5 meters
Flower Colour
Flower Type

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"image:Ivy_77uf_be.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Ivy_77uf_be.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

"image:Ivy_77uf_be.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

"image:Ivy_77uf_be.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

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  1. ? Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants. MacDonald ISBN 0-356-10541-5 (1984-00-00)
  2. ? Altmann. H. Poisonous Plants and Animals. Chatto and Windus ISBN 0-7011-2526-8 (1980-00-00)
  3. ? Frohne. D. and Pf?nder. J. A Colour Atlas of Poisonous Plants. Wolfe ISBN 0723408394 (1984-00-00)
  4. ? Cooper. M. and Johnson. A. Poisonous Plants in Britain and their Effects on Animals and Man. HMSO ISBN 0112425291 (1984-00-00)
  5. ? 5.05.1 Diggs, Jnr. G.M.; Lipscomb. B. L. & O'Kennon. R. J [Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas] Botanical Research Institute, Texas. (1999-00-00)
  6. ? Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China Reference Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-917256-20-4 (1985-00-00)
  7. ? Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (1959-00-00)
  8. ? Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable ISBN 0094579202 (1974-00-00)
  9. ? De. Bray. L. The Wild Garden. ()
  10. ? 10.010.1 Royal Horticultural Society. Ground Cover Plants. Cassells. ISBN 0-304-31089-1 (1989-00-00)
  11. ? 11.011.1 Thomas. G. S. Plants for Ground Cover J. M. Dent & Sons ISBN 0-460-12609-1 (1990-00-00)
  12. ? Chatto. B. The Dry Garden. Dent ISBN 0460045512 (1982-00-00)
  13. ? Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
  14. ? Wolverton. B. C. Eco-Friendly House Plants. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. London. ISBN 0-297-83484-3 (1996-00-00)
  15. ? Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-440-9 (1984-00-00)
  16. ? Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-020-31 (1995-00-00)
  17. ? Launert. E. Edible and Medicinal Plants. Hamlyn ISBN 0-600-37216-2 (1981-00-00)
  18. ? 18.018.1 Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation. Athens Ga. Varsity Press ISBN 0942375009 (1987-00-00)
  19. ? 19.019.1 Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers. MacMillan and Co (1948-00-00)
  20. ? F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)
  21. ? 21.021.1 Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press (1962-00-00)
  22. ? Baines. C. Making a Wildlife Garden. ()
  23. ? Brown. Shade Plants for Garden and Woodland. ()
  24. ? Phillips. R. & Rix. M. Shrubs. Pan Books ISBN 0-330-30258-2 (1989-00-00)
  25. ? Beckett. G. and K. Planting Native Trees and Shrubs. Jarrold (1979-00-00)
  26. ? 26.026.1 Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement. Murray (1981-00-00)
  27. ? Carter D. Butterflies and Moths in Britain and Europe. Pan ISBN 0-330-26642-x (1982-00-00)

"image:Ivy_77uf_be.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

Facts about "Hedera helix"RDF feed
Article is incompleteYes +
Article requires citationsNo +
Article requires cleanupYes +
Belongs to familyAraliaceae +
Belongs to genusHedera +
Functions asGround cover + and Hedge +
Has common nameIvy +
Has drought toleranceTolerant +
Has environmental toleranceDrought +
Has fertility typeBee +, Flies + and Lepidoptera +
Has flowers of typeHermaphrodite +
Has growth rateModerate +
Has hardiness zone5 +
Has imageIvy 77uf be.JPG +
Has material partUnknown part +
Has material useDye +, Hair care +, Pollution +, Soap + and Wood +
Has mature height15 +
Has mature width5 +
Has medicinal partUnknown part +
Has medicinal useAntibacterial +, Antiseptic +, Antispasmodic +, Astringent +, Cathartic +, Diaphoretic +, Emetic +, Emmenagogue +, Parasiticide +, Skin +, Stimulant +, Vasoconstrictor +, Vasodilator + and Vermifuge +
Has primary imageIvy_77uf_be.JPG +
Has search namehedera helix + and x +
Has shade tolerancePermanent shade +
Has soil ph preferenceAcid +, Neutral +, Alkaline + and Very alkaline +
Has soil teclayture preferenceClay +
Has soil teheavy clayture preferenceHeavy clay +
Has soil teloamyture preferenceLoamy +
Has soil tesandyture preferenceSandy +
Has sun preferenceFull sun +
Has taxonomy nameHedera helix +
Has water requirementshigh +
Inhabits ecosystem nicheClimber + and Soil surface +
Is deciduous or evergreenEvergreen +
Is taxonomy typeSpecies +
Tolerates nutritionally poor soilNo +
Uses mature size measurement unitMeters +