English ivy (Hedera helix), known for its adaptability, thrives in various soil types, making it invasive in some regions. In my experience, it grows well in well-draining loamy, silty, or sandy soils outdoors, although dense clay requires amendment. For optimal growth, English ivy prefers neutral to slightly acidic soils (pH 6.0 to 7.5) and is somewhat drought-tolerant, flourishing in average nutrient conditions. I find that well-draining soil is vital for these plants to thrive as they hate standing in soggy bases.
The Best Soil Mix for English Ivy
One of my favorite things about English ivy is that it thrives in various soil types. This is also one reason why these evergreen vines are considered invasive in some areas.
In my experience, English ivy grows well outdoors in virtually any type of well-draining soil. Loamy, silty, or sandy soils work well for English ivy, but dense clay soils must be heavily amended. This type of ivy doesn’t require any specialist mediums like ericaceous compost.
I also find that English ivy can tolerate nutrient-poor soils but does best in growing mediums with average nutrients. It’s also somewhat drought-tolerant and hates being waterlogged. These plants prefer neutral to slightly acidic soils with pH levels between 6.0 and 7.5.
If you’re growing English ivy plants indoors, I recommend going with slightly moist soil mixes of potting compost, perlite, and peat moss. In my experience, coco coir or sphagnum peat moss are also good options for indoor English ivy plants.
One essential point to follow is to ensure the container has drainage holes to allow excess water to escape. Indoor English ivy plants are more vulnerable to overwatering than those growing outside.
Signs That You’re Growing English Ivy in the Wrong Soil
Drooping or Yellowing Lower Leaves
If the lower leaves of your English ivy are drooping or yellowing, it can be a sign of waterlogged soil. This causes root rot, a fungal infection that can severely hamper growth. I recommend cutting off any rotting roots and adding some extra drainage to the soil using grit or perlite. Allow the soil to dry out more before watering again.
Dry or Wilting Leaves
If your English ivy has dry or wilting leaves, the soil may be draining too quickly. This means that the plant isn’t getting enough water. In these circumstances, I add some more compost, potting mix, or organic matter to the soil to improve water retention.
How to Improve Your Existing Soil for English Ivy
English ivy struggles in dense clay soils, so amend these heavily with extra grit, perlite, or sand to improve drainage. Some sandy or chalky soils may drain too quickly for English ivy plants, so add extra organic matter, such as compost.
In my experience, using a soil testing kit to determine if your soil has the proper pH levels for English ivy can be beneficial. If the soil is too acidic, mix in some lime to make it more alkaline. If you need to make the soil more acidic, mix in some sulfur.
For more, see our in-depth guide on how to amend soil in your garden.
Why the Type of Soil Matters
All plants require soil to survive, even climbing vines like English ivy (Hedera helix). As they grow, plants anchor themselves in place by spreading their roots through the surrounding soil. Plants absorb water, nutrients, and minerals through their roots to help them produce new growth.
To prevent diseases, the soil should provide good airflow around the plant’s roots. Compacted or waterlogged soils have less airflow, leaving plants vulnerable to fungal infections. Good soil also contains tiny organisms and beneficial microbes that break down nutrients within the soil. When nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are broken down like this, they’re easier for plants to absorb.
Different types of plants prefer different types of soil. Plants growing in the correct soil produce strong, healthy growth. However, if a plant is growing in the wrong kind of soil, it can suffer from serious problems.
Different Soil Types Explained
Different types of soils are made from different materials that influence the properties of the soil. The six main types of soils are chalk, clay, loam, peat, sand, and silt. These different soils have varying levels of drainage, aeration, nutrients, and pH levels.
Looser soils with larger soil particles tend to offer more drainage and aeration at the cost of losing nutrients quickly. Chalky and sandy soils are both loose, well-draining soils. However, these soils often require some added compost or organic matter to add extra nutrients.
Clay and peat soils have poor drainage and aeration because they’re incredibly dense. However, this means that they can retain more moisture and nutrients. These dense soils often require extra drainage in the form of grit, sand, or perlite. Loamy and silty soils are great for most plants because these mediums provide a good balance of drainage, nutrients, and aeration.
Most types of soil are relatively neutral in terms of pH levels. However, some plants prefer soils that are more acidic or more alkaline. Peat-based soils are the most acidic, while chalky soils are the most alkaline.
English ivy is a hardy, adaptable plant that grows well in most types of soils. These plants can even tolerate nutrient-poor soils as long as they’re well-draining. English ivy doesn’t like sitting in waterlogged soil. Loamy and silty soils are ideal, but clay soil works well if amended to provide extra drainage.
Further reading: Discover the best types of ivy to grow in your garden.