If you are looking for a groundcover that does well in shaded areas, you may want to consider growing ivy. However, the plant is highly invasive in some regions of the country. So you may want to consult with a professional horticulturist before planting.
Also referred to as “Hedera”, ground cover ivy exists as 12-15 species of evergreen climbing or ground-creeping woody plants that are native to western, central and southern Europe, Macaroneisa, northwestern Africa, central-southern Asia, Japan and Taiwan.
Ground cover ivy creeps along level ground and does not grow more than 5-20 centimeters tall. However, they can climb on suitable surfaces offered by trees, natural rock outcrops and man-made structures including quarry rock faces, built masonry and wooden structures. They are capable of climbing to at least 30 meters high above the ground.
Ground cover ivies attract bees and birds due to their nectar and fruit that bloom during the time of the year when few other nectar or fruit flora appear. Range birds including thrushes, blackcaps, and wood pigeons eat the fruit. Larvae of different species of moth and butterflies eat the leaves.
There are two main groups of ground cover ivies and they are categorized based on their leaves, which either have a scale-like appearance or a radiated look that resembles a star.
The species with the scale-like leaves include:
· Algerian ivy
· Canaries Ivy
· Persian Ivy
· Cyprus Ivy
· Iberian Ivy
· Madeiran Ivy
· Moroccan Ivy
· Himalayan Ivy
· Pastuchov’s Ivy
· Japanese Ivy
The species that have leaves with a radiated star-like appearance include:
· Azores Ivy
· Common Ivy
· Atlantic Ivy
The popularity of ground cover ivy is based on its evergreen foliage and its ability to attract wildlife. It is also favored for planting in narrow spaces and for its knack of growing up tall or wide walls. It is ideal for hiding unattractive walls, fences and tree stumps.
There are some issues surrounding the growing of this foliage. For example, there are some who claim that ivy climbing on trees can damage them. There can be some competition between the ivy and tree for soil nutrients, light, and water. Moreover, trees that are deteriorating due to age that include heavy ivy growth could be vulnerable to wind damage.
Problems are more significant in North America than in the ivies’ natural habitat because of the absence of natural pests and diseases that curb its stamina. Photosynthesis and structural strength of a tree can be besieged by aggressive growing ivy resulting in the death of the tree or attack by insects or disease due to the weakness of the tree caused by the duress.
If you have ivy climbing one or more of your trees and you wish to remove it, don’t rip it off because that could damage the tree’s bark. Instead, cut the ivy at the base of the tree where it begins its ascent. Such an action will deprive the plant of water and it will eventually wither and die.
Several species of ground cover ivy are considered extremely invasive in the western and southern regions of North America where the winter climate is milder. Ivies can become a dense, vigorously smothering ground cover plant that grows well in the shade and can spread quickly throughout underground stems, along with runners located above ground and over natural plant communities and overwhelm native vegetation.
Ivies have gotten so overwhelming in some regions of the country; authorities are discouraging gardeners from planting them. For example, ivies as ornamental plants in horticulture in California and other states are discouraged or even banned in some jurisdictions.
People who grow ivy are encouraged to trim it during the spring to keep it manageable and to discourage bacterial leaf spot disease. It should be grown in soil that drains well in part or full shade. Many people grow ivy in hanging baskets letting them cascade over the sides. This particular application is encouraged because it allows for the plant to be enjoyed for its beauty without spreading out of control.