Why is My Ivy Dying? 5 Potential Causes and Solutions

Hedera helix, otherwise known as English ivy, is a beautiful houseplant that is known for its foliage and minimal maintenance.

English ivy was my first houseplant, and after a few weeks of having it, the leaves started to turn brown.

You may have the same issue, and are wondering, “why is my ivy dying?”. It can be scary when ivy develops brown leaves, so I am here to help!

If you are working with outdoor English ivy, the causes and solutions for death are essentially the same.

If you find yourself asking, “why is my ivy dying?”, there are five potential causes and solutions of brown leaves when considering the ivy plant.
1. brown crispy ivy
English ivy is the most common houseplant and outdoor form of ivy. When the leaves of the beloved plant begin to turn brown (pictured above), it can be stressful. You don’t need to worry though, because most dying ivy plants can be fixed!

Why is My Ivy Dying?

If your ivy is dying (developing brown and yellow spots, wilting, etc.), five key issues could be behind this.

  • Watering issues

The ivy plant prefers part shade and dry conditions, so many people overwater their ivy.

Underwatering symptoms for most plants include dry, crispy leaves versus the flimsy brown spots which develop with overwatering.

To reduce the risk of overwatering, you could ensure that you have the correct size pot.

2. potted ivy

Pictured here is an ideal pot for an ivy plant. The pot is clay so will drain and dry evenly, and the pot is not too big. Ivy likes to be rootbound, and it is best to have drainage holes in the pot. 

Also, practice judging soil moisture; the ivy plant should fully dry out before a heavy watering. If you are having trouble with overwatering, bottom watering when dry could be beneficial.

Bottom watering allows the roots to suck up the water as they need it due to the soil’s gravitational forces.

My ivy plant (now seven years old) started in too big of a pot. Therefore, I find it useful to wait a month to water or more depending on moisture, and then bottom water to avoid root rot.

Since many people overwater their ivy, root rot is a common fungus that develops which can be deadly.

Tell-tale signs of root rot include wilting when wet, brown spots on leaves, and brown roots.

If your ivy develops root rot, clean and trim the roots, spray them with neem oil, and repot in fresh soil. Alternatively, you could propagate the plant via stem cuttings.

If you’re asking, “why is my ivy dying?” and come to the conclusion that it is a watering issue, you may also be underwatering.

No matter what watering irregularities you have, to fix the issue of a dying ivy, it is beneficial to learn how to judge soil moisture and the plant’s needs.

To solve a watering issue, you could adjust your watering schedule and wait a few weeks for the plant to improve.

  • Incorrect environmental conditions 

Indoor ivy sometimes needs less light and more humidity.

Symptoms of insufficient light and humidity include brown, crispy leaf edges and chlorosis (yellow leaves).

Outdoor ivy usually dies because it is too bright and hot, and the same symptoms of crispy, brown leaves will occur when this happens.

To fix both your indoor and outdoor ivy, be sure that your ivy is in part shade conditions.

For indoor ivy, provide extra humidity by spritzing the leaves with water every week.

3. ivy&humidity

If your ivy is dying due to a lack of humidity, spraying your ivy lightly with water every week can help to boost humidity levels. The water will also help to keep the plant clear of dust and pests. 

  • Pests 

The common pests that attack ivy include mealybugs, anthracnose, aphids, scale, mites, and many others.

The symptoms for each pest vary, but all of them commonly include brown and yellow leaves and a wilting plant.

If you ask yourself, “why is my ivy dying?” and conclude that it is a pest, you can treat your plant in various ways.

Spraying neem oil or an antibacterial soap and water mixture frequently will help deter and injure the insects. I also recommend physically removing the pests and either squishing them or dropping them in alcohol.

If the infestation is severe, consider tossing your ivy to help protect your other plants.

To prevent pests, keep your plant area or landscape clean from debris and dead plant material.

Check your ivy every week for signs of pests, for they can develop quickly. Most of the pests that infect ivy are easy to see with the human eye.

4. mealybugs

“Mealybug” by Rinaldo R.  / CC BY 2.0

Mealybugs are the most common pest of indoor ivy, and they are easy to spot due to their white, powdery appearance. Ivy usually survives this pest if the bugs are removed right away and either squished or put in alcohol. 

  •  Dust 

English ivy is one of the main plants that can effectively purify air, which is why their stomata become frequently clogged.

Stomata are like pores that are located on the undersides of plants’ leaves, and they are used for gas exchange. Since ivy respirates so much, the pores or stomata underneath the leaves become clogged.

If your ivy is dying and you cannot figure out why, it could be because your ivy needs to be dusted. The stomata can easily become filled with dust particles which causes brown spots on ivy leaves.

To avoid this problem, you can dust your ivy every other week with a damp paper towel. This will ensure that your ivy can continue to purify the air and effortlessly perform gas exchange.

5. dusting plants

Dusting your plants should become a part of daily maintenance, especially if you want to prevent your ivy from dying. You can dust your plants by using warm water and a soft cloth or paper towel.

  • Nutrient problems 

Nutrient issues are uncommon with English ivy plants because they are so tolerant, but problems can develop.

Nutrient problems can cause ivy to die, and most indoor and outdoor ivy plants are under-fertilized.

Indoor ivy can die from salt buildup in the soil if you don’t water the pot thoroughly or don’t have drainage.

Excess salt will cause brown and yellow spots on the ivy leaves, and it can be fixed by watering thoroughly once the plant dries out. Once the plant is ready to be watered, water until the liquid comes out of the bottom so that the soil is rinsed out. Also, avoid bottom watering.

If you water your ivy correctly and the pot has drainage, then your indoor ivy may be under-fertilized. The key to identifying the issue is to analyze your routine with the ivy.

You could fertilize indoor ivy in the spring with a water-soluble fertilizer or an extended-release one.

Outdoor ivy can suffer from nutrient issues when it is initially planted in unfavorable soil.

Symptoms include necrosis (browning), chlorosis (yellowing), wilting, and death.

To increase ivy growth and to help the ivy from dying, add mulch or soil conditioner to the area.

Adding organic matter (like mulch) can be more beneficial than liquid fertilizer because it is more natural and is less likely to leach from the soil.

6. ivy and nutrients

To prevent nutrition problems for your outdoor ivy, it may be beneficial to add mulch to your area before planting. The mulch not only helps with nutrition issues but also water retention since outdoor ivy often dries out. 

Why is my Ivy Dying and What Can I Do? 

Since your ivy may be dying from one of the five causes, you can identify the issue and move on to the treatment phase.

Five potential solutions:

  • Regulate the watering schedule 

The frequency at which you water your ivy depends on the size of your plant and the environmental conditions surrounding it.

The best way to regulate your water schedule could be to evaluate the soil moisture in the pot. If you stick your finger all the way down into the soil and it’s dry, the ivy probably needs to be watered.

Also, you may be able to tell if your ivy needs to be watered based on how heavy the pot is (light pot = needs watered).

It may be helpful to establish a schedule based on your conditions. Establish a consistent watering schedule so that the plant is not stressed out from inconsistent moisture.

Regulating a watering schedule can be tricky, especially since it can stress your ivy out which can cause disease issues.

After a few weeks of experimenting, I was able to regulate my ivy’s watering schedule, so I am positive you can too!

7. soil moisture

Learning how to adequately judge soil moisture can take weeks of practice but is a crucial skill when it comes to watering plants. Sticking your fingers in the soil or feeling how heavy the pot is can help you decide if your ivy needs water or not.  

  • Adjust the environmental conditions

Ivy plants die when they receive incorrect light, and they prefer shade conditions.

Try placing your ivy in the middle of a room versus on a windowsill and adjust its position until your plant begins to perk back up.

It may be beneficial to make sure that your ivy is not in too hot of conditions or receiving cold damage since house environments can be so seasonally flexible.

It can be common to see dry, crispy leaves on dying ivy, and this could be due to humidity problems.

Households tend to be too dry for ivy, so to adjust this, add some humidity to the environment.

This could be achieved by spraying the leaves with water once a week, buying a humidifier, or placing a tray of wet pebbles under the ivy pot.

  • Treat your plants with organic chemicals and take preventative measures

If your ivy is dying from a pest problem, you will notice symptoms of wilting and dying leaves. Inspecting the plant can help you further identify the pest, and a guide such as this can help as well.

Once you identify the pest, you can begin to craft a treatment plan. For indoor ivy, you can physically remove the pest and treat the plant with a mix of neem oil and antibacterial soap.

8. aphids

When dealing with indoor ivy pests (such as aphids, pictured above), the best approach is to pick all of the specimens off and squish them. Afterward, you could treat it with organic chemicals like neem oil. 

For outdoor ivy, you could do a broad neem oil and soap solution every day (in the evening). If the infestation doesn’t clear up within a month, contact your local agricultural extension office for them to recommend you a stronger chemical.

If your ivy is infected with a pest, it could be best to remove any dead plant tissue to keep the area clean. Also, do not fertilize if there is a pest because this will give them more plant growth to feed on.

You could prevent pests by keeping your area clean, planting in the correct conditions, and keeping a consistent watering schedule. You could also spray your plants twice a month with a strong neem oil concentration to deter pests.

  • Dust your Ivy

Once I started dusting my ivy, the dry brown spots on the leaves started to clear up. Dust is harmful to plants because it interrupts their processes of photosynthesis such as gas exchange and light absorption.

To dust your plants, you could use a damp cloth and warm water to wipe the upper and lower side of the leaf. This will help with photosynthesis and prevent pests.

It may be helpful to dust your ivy twice a month depending on your conditions.

If your leaves develop hard water spots, use one teaspoon of vinegar to one quart of water and wipe the leaves with the mixture. Once you pat down the leaves with vinegar, rinse them off with regular water to prevent acid damage.

9. ivy dusting

Wetting your ivy leaves not only dusts your plant but also washes off potential pests and raises the humidity. You can dust your plant by either spraying the leaves and wiping them off or overhead watering in a place like a sink or a tub. 

  • Fertilize or repot the Ivy

Ivy commonly begins to die when it needs to be fertilized or repotted. The most common symptoms are brown spots on the leaves.

Even though ivy likes to be rootbound, it occasionally will need to be repotted and would benefit from fresh soil.

You may know that your ivy is dying from this cause if you haven’t transplanted or fertilized in two years or more.

To fertilize, you could use a water-soluble fertilizer that is either quick-acting or extended-release.

To repot your ivy, it may be helpful to softly break up the root ball and rinse off the roots before putting the plant into a pot with fresh soil. If your ivy has white roots, you’re in good shape!
10. repotting

When repotting your ivy, the pot selection is crucial. A pot like the one pictured above may be helpful because it is clay and includes a drainage tray at the bottom. Also, remember to slightly increase the pot size, or else the plant could die from shock. 

Key Takeaways

  • Ivy is a beautiful, versatile indoor and outdoor plant
  • The plant requires part shade, dry conditions (drought tolerant)
  • Ivy is tolerant and can generally recover
  • Dust your ivy plants
  • Many people overwater their indoor ivy
  • Add mulch or a soil conditioner to your outdoor ivy as needed
  • Ivy likes to be rootbound
  • Most pest problems can be solved with organic chemicals

11. dying ivy

Dying ivy plants can be startling, but all five of the key potential causes can be fixed and prevented. If your plant looks like the one pictured here, with this information it will now be back to luscious green growth again!


Q: Should I cut back my ivy if it’s dying?

A: Yes. This will allow the plant to focus on creating new growth and recovery versus spending energy to kill off the dying tissue.

Q: Will my dead ivy come back?

A: Probably. Ivy is a very tolerant plant. As long as you trim off the dead plant material and treat for pests, your ivy will recover. In case it does look like the ivy will die, you can propagate it and start again!

Q: Why is my ivy drooping?

A: Indoor ivy will often droop when it is being attacked by a pest or needs watered.

Q: Why is my outdoor ivy turning brown?

A: Drought or a pest is the most common cause.

Q: Why are my ivy leaves dry and crispy?

A: This occurs when there is an incorrect watering schedule established for the plant. Dry, crispy leaves can also be caused by too much sun or sunburn.

Q: Why is my indoor ivy dying?

A: The most common causes are overwatering, lack of humidity, or a pest.

why is ivy dying 2 why is ivy dying