Select the best ivy variety for the type of exterior wall you wish to cover. Avoid vinyl and shingle-sided walls because the ivy can easily grow in the gaps and, in some cases, pull down the material.
Boston ivy and Virginia creeper grow well on any rough surface, but English ivy tends to creep into cracks and damage masonry homes with loose or cracked mortar.
English ivy should only be used on brick and stone homes with sound masonry and no cracks in the mortar; this usually excludes older homes with soft mortar. The tiny rootlets can attach themselves to the smallest crack, which could seriously damage the mortar.
Plant the ivy on the side of your house that would most benefit from the soft accent. Additionally, if you want the ivy to provide extra insulation, plant evergreen ivies such as Boston ivy and English ivy on a side of the house with northern or eastern exposure.
Choose a side of the house that receives plenty of sunlight to dry out the ivy, preventing moisture damage on the wall.
Plant ivy plants a minimum of 6 feet apart along the wall; plant only one plant if desired because English ivy, for example, can quickly spread between 3 and 50 feet wide to cover much of the wall. Plant in well-drained, loam soil a few feet out from the exterior wall.
Work a few inches of compost and other organic humus materials, such as compost and leaf mold, into the soil if you have poor soil. Parthenocissus ivy species do best in full sun to partial shade with about six hours of direct sunlight daily.
Hedera ivy species do well in full to partial shade to full shade with only a few hours of indirect sunlight daily.
Water plants about once weekly until established to provide the plants with medium moisture. After plants start growing, which indicates root establishment, they shouldn’t require much water except during periods of drought.
Spread a 2-inch layer of mulch around the ivy plants, if desired, to retain moisture in the soil and prevent weeds.
Pinch the new growth tips of vines to encourage fuller growth for wider spreading vines. Pinch the tips back to the next leaf.
Direct the ivy vines in the direction of the wall as they begin to grow, particularly if they spread away from the wall. Lift the ends of the vines and prop them against the wall; this isn’t usually necessary because they climb well on their own, but you can encourage the climbing habit.
Cut vines back as they grow close to windows, roofs and gutters. Ivy can spread into the tiny crevices and cause major damage if not controlled. If the ivy spreads before you catch it, simply cut the vines off from the main vine and leave them in place to decay naturally.
Do not pull on the vines because you can severely damage the windows, roof and gutters, as well as the wall itself.
Ivy can accent a house well if grown properly, but it can become a major problem if left uncontrolled. Do not grow ivy on a wall if you cannot dedicate the time and labor to control its growth.
Ivy does not work well for painted and stuccoed houses because the rootlets can pull off the paint and stucco if you try to remove the ivy later. Even with successful removal, tiny pieces of the rootlets remain attached to the wall.