A Guide to Growing Ivy in Water

Growing ivy in water is an easy and reliable way to propagate the plant. The most commonly found version is Hedera helix or English ivy.

An easy to grow plant, it can be grown as an attractive indoor plant, or incorporated into flower gardens. Ivy is also a great way to add structure to a living wall or garden. They are also pleasingly easy to propagate. Even a complete beginner can master the art of growing ivy in water.

This guide to growing ivy in water will take you through everything you need to know from taking a cutting to transplanting your successful cuttings into their own containers.

Be warned some states consider ivy to be an invasive species. This is because of its ability to thrive in most conditions and situations. While some people view this as an annoying trait, for other people, particularly those keen on growing ivy in water, it is actually a benefit.

1 Growing ivy in water is a great way to propagate this evergreen plant

Growing ivy in water is a great way to propagate this evergreen plant. Hedera helix can then be used as a houseplant or to add structure and color to a garden.

Varieties of Ivy

Before we discuss the process of growing ivy in water we will take a little time to look at the different varieties of plant that you may encounter. The majority of these plants are hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9. The exact hardiness of a plant depends on which variety it is. A member of the Araliaceae family, the Hedera genus comprises 12 different species of ivy.

Ivies are woody, perennial climbing plants. They are primarily cultivated for their quick growth habit. The evergreen foliage of the plant is also a great way to cover brick walls or add color during the winter months.

A hardy plant they are also a popular way to provide ground cover as well as working in shade and rock gardens. Ivies can also be grown as houseplants, and look particularly attractive when allowed to trail from a hanging basket. While many varieties produce flowers or berries, however the foliage is the main interest.

The most commonly found varieties are:

English Ivy, also known as Hedera Helix. This is hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9. There are around 200 different cultivars of hedera helix available each with its own distinct color or leaf shape. Many cultivars produce dark berries and yellow-green flowers. If left unchecked Hedera Helix can reach a height of 50ft. It can also be grown as ground cover or as a houseplant.

Algerian Ivy or Hedera Canariensis is hardy in USDA zones 7 to 9. During the winter months its green, heart-shaped foliage darkens to a pleasing bronze shade. Like Hedera Helix it produces yellow-green flowers and dark berries. Reaching up to 30 ft in height this is a salt and shade tolerant plant. It can also be grown as ground cover or as a houseplant.

2 While the different Hedera varieties may all seem similar
While the different Hedera varieties may all seem similar if you look closely you will notice differences in the shape and shade of the foliage. 

Persian Ivy or Hedera Colchica is hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9. Producing leathery, dull green heart shaped foliage the plant can reach up to 50 ft tall. Tolerating partial shade and sunny positions the plant can be used as ground cover, grown in containers or trained up a trellis to cover an unsightly wall. Hedera Colchica produces insignificant green-white flowers.

What do I Need?

To attempt growing ivy in water you need:

  • A garden scissors, sharp knife or shears
  • Healthy ivy plants
  • Water
  • A container such as a glass vase

If you are growing ivy in water with the aim of cultivating the plant as a houseplant you also need a flowerpot or container with drainage holes in the bottom and fresh, general purpose compost.

Warning Ivy is poisonous to both humans and pets. The sap of the plant can irritate skin or trigger allergic reactions. Always wear gloves when handling these plants and wash your hands afterwards.

Preparing Your Cuttings

Water your plant the day before you take any cuttings.

Taking cuttings correctly is key to successfully growing ivy in water. Always take cuttings from a healthy plant. Sick or diseased plants are more difficult to propagate. It is also better to take cuttings from fresh, or this year’s growth.

If you are unsure where to take cuttings from, inspect the plant. You will notice some leaves are lighter than others. The lighter leaves are younger than the darker leaves and are more suitable for propagation.

The stems of the cutting should be healthy and not overly woody. Tougher, woody stems are more difficult to propagate. While successful propagation can be done from older stems they are also more prone to failure.

Taking several cuttings is a good insurance policy. Even if some fail, you should still have a few that succeed.
3 Take clean fresh cuttings that are at least 4 inches long

Take clean, fresh cuttings that are at least 4 inches long. There should also be at least one healthy set of leaves on each cutting. 

How to Take Cuttings

To take the cuttings use a sharp clean garden scissors. A knife or shears can also be used. Each cutting should be between 4 and 6 inches in length and have several sets of leaves. The vines you cut should also have nodes if possible. Don’t worry if there are no visible nodes, we can create some later.

Alternatively, instead of taking lots of shorter cuttings you can cut one longer vine from the plant and cut it up into shorter sections.

When taking your cuttings try to make clean sharp cuts. Don’t saw or break cuttings away from the plant. Messy cuttings can become diseased.

Encouraging Roots to Emerge

Inspect your cuttings for nodes. These are little bumps on the stem of the plant. From these nodes leaves or roots emerge. When you identify a node strip away the foliage from around it, this can then be placed in the container. If the node is kept covered, roots will soon emerge.

If nodes aren’t visible you can create your own. To do this you need to carefully remove the bottom two inches of foliage. Cut away the leaves as close to the stem as possible. From these points new roots can emerge. When placing the cutting in the container make sure that this part of the stem is fully emerged.

Alternatively you can create a larger area for roots to emerge from by wounding the plant. To do this strip away the bottom two inches or so of foliage from the cutting. Then with a sharp, clean knife or shears, carefully peel back the outer layer of the stem. This creates a larger wound from which roots can emerge.

Pleasingly hedera helix is so hardy that you can probably just place the cutting straight into a liquid filled container and it will produce roots. However exposing the nodes helps to encourage root production. This gives your cuttings the best chance of succeeding.

Positioning Your Cutting

Fill your chosen container the day before you take your cutting. Let the liquid filled container sit out overnight on top of a kitchen work surface or table. This allows any chlorine present time to evaporate.

Once you have prepared the cutting place it in your chosen container. While any container that holds liquid can be used, a glass container such as these, allows you to see the roots as they grow. This helps you to judge when it is time to transplant your successful cutting without disturbing the plant.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCM7cGJbNj4 

Place the cutting in a bright position. Remember, when positioning your cutting, that hedera helix dislikes direct sun and lots of heat. Placing the cutting near but not in a bright window is ideal. The best position will be a bright spot filled with lots of indirect light.

Your cuttings will thrive in room temperature conditions. A range of 65 to 80 ℉ is ideal. Prolonged exposure to temperatures noticeably outside this range may cause the cuttings to fail.

Change the water once a week, or more often if it looks dirty. You may also need to top up the liquid level on a regular basis to make sure that the nodes remain completely submerged. Keeping the nodes submerged is key to encouraging roots to emerge. When refiling the container, always refill it with liquid that has been allowed to sit out overnight. This allows any chlorine or other chemicals present in the liquid time to evaporate.

How Long Does Growing Ivy in Water Take?

Hedera helix is a pleasingly hardy and quick growing plant. If you have properly prepared your cuttings and positioned the container in a favorable position, roots will emerge within three weeks.

Successful cuttings can be transplanted within 6 weeks.

In some cases the process may take longer. Don’t be disheartened if roots are slow to emerge. As long as your cutting remains green and healthy the roots will eventually develop.

Transplanting Growing Ivy in Water

When your hedera helix cutting has developed sufficiently long roots it can be transplanted. It is best to transplant cuttings into a container first even if you intend on growing them outside. This allows you to harden off the plant before transplanting.

There is no rush to transplant the cutting into the soil. You can continue growing hedera plants in water for as long as you like. However plants allowed to grow permanently in liquid may not flourish as well as plants growing in the soil.

Generally it is a good idea to wait until the roots are at least two inches in length before transplanting. Growing ivy in water in glass or clear containers allows you to easily monitor the length of the roots. Plants with roots that are at least two inches long will be able to easily establish themselves in a new position.

4 Once roots have emerged the plant can be potted on or left to grow in water

Once roots have emerged the plant can be potted on or left to grow on in a liquid filled container. If you are planting outside, pot the plants into small containers and harden off before transplanting into their final position. 

To transplant your cutting fill a clean container with good quality general purpose or houseplant potting soil. The container should also have drainage holes in the bottom.

Make a hole in the center of the container large enough to hold the roots of the plant. Take the growing ivy plant out of the container and place in the hole. Gently firm down the soil around the plant and water well.

Keep the soil consistently damp for a few weeks. This helps the roots to establish themselves. Once the plant is established you need only water it when the soil becomes dry to the touch.

Common Growing Ivy in Water Problems

Growing ivy in water is a largely problem free process. Making sure the cutting has enough water, that is regularly changed, negates most issues. As long as the plant remains healthy you should not worry, even if the root system is slow to emerge.

Water quickly becoming foul is often caused by some of the remaining foliage being below the water line. Foliage left in permanent contact with a liquid can rot and decay. This can cause harmful bacteria to form.

If the plant is receiving too little light it may become spindly or pale. If you are unable to provide enough natural light, try placing the cutting near a grow lamp.

Too much direct sunlight can cause the plant to become scorched. This can cause the foliage to brown. Repositioning the cutting so that it is away from direct sunlight or no longer directly under the grow light should cure this issue.

A wilting plant may be a sign that the nodes or wounds are not sufficiently covered with water. Regularly topping up the container prevents this problem.

Remember sometimes propagation may fail even if you do everything correctly. For this reason many gardeners like to take more cuttings than they need. This insurance policy is great for delicate plants as well as more robust plants such as hedera helix.

5 Growing in water is an easy way to propagate a range of plants including hedera helix

Growing in water is an easy way to propagate a range of plants including hedera helix. This allows you to replicate this reliable evergreen plant, filling your home or garden with color all year round. 

Growing ivy in water is a great way to add year round color and interest to your home or garden. During the winter months a trellis filled with a flourishing green hedera  plant can bring a bit of needed color and life to an outdoor space. Growing ivy in water is also a reliable alternative to the often expensive purchase of a large hedera plant.

Growing ivy in water allows you to propagate as many plants as you like quickly and easily. This propagation technique can also be used on other plants such as pothos. Just remember to make good, clean cuts and ensure the nodes are always submerged in fresh water. With a little care you will soon see roots emerging.

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