How to Care for Ivy Topiaries

Lisha Utt
Frederick County Master Gardener Program

Thanks for your great question. I love ivy, especially topiaries. Ivy can be grown on so many fun shapes and if you follow these simple care requirements you'll be able to enjoy your new ivy topiaries for many years to come.

First ivy prefers bright light or filtered sun. They also like cooler temperatures (60-75) and high humidity. In the summer you can move your topiaries outside to a shady location. They will enjoy the summer's humidity and fortify themselves for another inside season.

Do not allow your topiaries to dry out. It's best to keep the soil evenly moist. If possible spray or mist the ivy trees with water a few times a week. Instead of misting, I like to put my ivies in the sink once a week and spray the leaves with warm water. This gives the plants a good soaking, washes away any dust or dirt and helps to keep pests away.

And speaking of pests lets talk about the dreaded spider mite, the bane of many ivy plants. Dry air and high temperatures create the perfect conditions for these insects. Spider mites are tiny, sap-sucking insects that infest the underside of the plant's leaves. The top of the leaves will have yellow splotches and the leaves can fall prematurely. When the infestation is heavy you may see white webbing between the leaves and stems. If you suspect you have spider mites it is helpful to spray the leaves top and bottom with lukewarm water. After the leaves dry, spray with insecticidal soap, following the directions on the package. Be sure to wet all the leaves (especially the underside), leaf stems and vines. Spray only in a well-ventilated area and out of direct sun.

Now you already have your ivy topiaries growing, but if you would like to start your own topiary it's easy to do. First find a shape that you like. There is no end it seems to the different shapes that are available. Check your local garden center or the internet. The size of the frame you have chosen will determine the size container you will need. They should be in proportion. Remember eventually the frame will be covered with ivy and heavier than when you first plant it, so make sure your container will be stable. Your container should also have a hole in the bottom for proper drainage. Now you are ready to plant. Using a good quality potting mix, plant a well-branched small-leaved ivy in the container. Then carefully insert the frame into the pot. Next, carefully pull the stems of the ivy plant through the frame so that they drape over the outside of the pot. Then distributing the stems evenly gently twist the ivy around the wires of the frame. It may be necessary in the beginning to use garden string or twist ties to hold the stems in place. As the ivy grows continue to train and twist the stems up the frame. In no time at all the frame will be covered and you'll have created your very own topiary. As a side note, depending on the shape of your frame, it may be easier to plant several smaller ivy plants around the base of your frame, instead of one larger multi-branched ivy plant. These individual plants can be trained up the frame in the same way just discussed and eventually will look like one plant.

To maintain the shape of your established topiary, new growth can be woven into the wire frame or snipped off. Every year or two your topiary will probably need to be repotted. To do so simply remove the plant from its pot and gently loosen the rootball. Place the topiary in a container 1 to 2 inches larger, fill in with additional soil and water thoroughly.

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