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Ivy League: Our History with Climbing Vines

June 3, 2024

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Some things are just certain in life. And one of those is that I will always want more ivy. We inherited ivy with our house, and it has been pretty hardy overall. Ivy grows vigorously and has tendrils that grip onto surfaces like brick in such a beautifully dramatic way. But there are some things to know about ivy if you’re thinking of getting some or need to care for what you have.

Chris Loves Julia | Brick home with ivy growing over a breezeway

First, if you’re buying ivy plants, be sure you get a kind suited for buildings. English ivy is really lovely because it’s an evergreen perennial, but unfortunately it can be more damaging as its tendrils anchor onto cracks and gaps in the mortar — plus it is also rather invasive so many states regulate it. We have Boston ivy, a deciduous variety that climbs via short tendrils branched with sucker-like holdfasts onto the surface of masonry or across the ground. I do love how it is a deep green for most of the year and then takes on beautiful fall color. It’s not quite as pretty during the winter, but that’s a short season here in NC.

You should avoid planting ivy against wood or shingle siding because it can take paint and material with it once removed. Another tip is to make sure it doesn’t get into the eaves because then it can get under your roof shingles. We’ve had ours trimmed every year, back to 3/4 of the way up the house (it’s best to do this in the winter once the plant has gone dormant). You know when a guy has a beard and then shaves their face? This feels the same — it takes some getting used to. But then it grows back and it’s like, this is normal again. Other than the annual trimming, it’s relatively maintenance-free, as it’s fairly drought-tolerant once established.

Chris Loves Julia | View from the backyard of ivy growing on either side of the breezeway
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Unfortunately, our climbing vines have really been through the ringer in the last two years during our backyard renovation and exterior window trim painting. We had star jasmine climbing up our chimney, and when they did our backyard renovation they removed it all, and I was so sad. It was just so lovely and fragrant! We tried planting Virginia creeper, which turns a brilliant color in the fall, but unfortunately it never took.

But the Boston ivy was still going strong until…it wasn’t. I found most of it on the ground in a big clump! I thought it just fell off the house during a rainstorm. But I think during the renovation, it was inadvertently detached a little bit. Can I put it back up and get it to reattach? I want it to come back! I’ve read that you can prop it up with some stiff support or cut it back to where it is still attached to the wall and let it re-grow naturally. Even if we have to replace some of it, it does grow relatively quickly (I’ve seen reports of between 3-10 feet per year) so there’s that at least.

Chris Loves Julia | A dark brown pergola over the outdoor kitchen

Light Fixtures (similar) | Cold Plunge | Bar Stools | Stone Vase | Faux Fern

I do have more ideas for climbing vines though! If Chris doesn’t put in something more permanent as a cover, I’d like to have something growing over our pergola above the outdoor kitchen. Not roses because roses + kids are just hard. Plus, I’m not really a flowery girl. (I’ll make an exception for jasmine.)

Another look I’d really like to create is a wire diamond-shaped trellis against the house where we train ivy or jasmine to go up in a checkerboard shape. It would make such a statement wall for the exterior of our home! We have some landscape pros coming over soon to give us some suggestions, so stay tuned.

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What do you think?

  1. Joanie Young says:

    There is a saying about vines…first year they SLEEP, second year they CREEP and third year they LEAP!

  2. Catherine Jacklin says:

    i have to say you are both so inspiring …thank you for all that you share :)
    can you share with me the outdoor colour you chose for your trim ? it looks stunning .
    i am searching for a front door colour to compliment my orange/red brick home….it just might be the colour i need. thank you

  3. Talana Fawson says:

    Honeysuckle?

  4. Yael says:

    Clematis is also really nice with beautiful flowers – will need a trellis though.

  5. Colleen Nathan says:

    According to our brick specialist here in Illinois, he says that allowing ivy to climb up the actual bricks of a brick house, causes premature deterioration of the actual brick. We live in a townhouse community and it is recommended that we detach the ivy when it grows, because of this. Each year this brick guy comes to inspect the brick to make sure it is still functioning the way it should.

  6. Brian Kasstle says:

    You might want to try wisteria pergola . There is a really pretty purple variety and it also comes in white. It can be very vigorous.

  7. Lynette Russell says:

    I have Creeping fig on the front of my house and love it. (For over 20 years) It does have to trimmed twice a year but it holds up in the winter.

  8. Maureen says:

    English ivy (and Boston ivy and the other names it goes by) is invasive in every state (as is Chinese wisteria and Asian jasmines). The states that haven’t banned it yet are just behind. Please, please, do not plant this willingly!

    There are other beautiful native climbing vines, like trumpet vine, Carolina jessamine, and others that will feed hummingbirds and not destroy ecosystems. You can look up native vines by state to find some options in your area. It’s a good idea to double check whether something is deemed invasive before buying and planting, as most home and garden stores still sell plenty of them.

    • Chris Loves Julia says:

      It’s always worth exploring varieties with your local garden center. Many plants have pros and cons depending on the intended environment.

    • Judy says:

      Boston Ivy and English Ivy are not the same. English Ivy is a more aggressive vine!

  9. Patty says:

    Love the climbing ivy on the house! When considering something to climb on your kitchen pergola, I would avoid wisteria. We have it on a deck arbor and it is so, so beautiful but it is the messiest plant in our garden! The blooms are beautiful in the spring but they dry and drop everywhere. If they get wet, the practically adhere to the decking! The leaves are small and provide good shade but when they come off in the fall, they come with stems and just pile up everywhere. As it grows it drops all kinds of sticks and things. we are constantly picking up and sweeping it off the deck. All that being said, if you have a place for it that is visible but out of the way (not dropping on your food or seating area) I would recommend it. The blooms in the spring are stunning!

  10. Jenna says:

    Oh gosh try Virginia creeper again. It needs good soil and watering for a little but then it will take off and the orange color is so stunning!!!

  11. AO says:

    It is so unfortunate wisteria is so invasive here. As a fellow NC girl, I want that stuff draped everywhere, but alas. Forever destined to be distant lovers.

  12. Katie Charpentier says:

    Snakes love to hide in ivy- I personally wouldn’t put it over a kitchen!

  13. Kathleen Dempsey says:

    Virginia creeper causes hives and rash in most people.

  14. Susan MacEachern says:

    How about a vertical walk garden on the outdoor kitchen wall? Herbs are lovely and it would be nice and handy while cooking?
    I’m going to send a picture of mine in your messages. 👍

  15. Jen says:

    Thank you for mentioning the invasive problem with English Ivy right up front. It’s officially a “noxious weed” here in Washington state. It will definitely get under your siding and shingles and concrete, but it also suffocates our forests and parks. Please check the status in your state before planting.

  16. Brenda says:

    This was such a helpful post! I didn’t know anything about ivy!

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