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Fast Growing Ivy for Groundcover Under Trees

by Karyn Maier, Demand Media
    Ivy is the most popular groundcover to plant under trees.

    Ivy is the most popular groundcover to plant under trees.

    The term “ivy” refers to a group of woody, vine-like plants in the ginseng family that climb or run along the ground. While many plants are called ivy, true ivies belong to the Hedera genus. Because these plants are evergreen, they provide year-round interest as border edgings or foundation groundcovers. Many ivies are fast growing and will quickly fill in bare spots. This makes ivy a good choice as groundcover under trees, where other plants refuse to grow.

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    Baltic Ivy

    Baltic ivy (Hedera helix “Baltica”) is a fast-growing variegated species of ivy that features small, 3-to-5-lobed dark green leaves that take on a purple tinge in the fall. The leaves are unique from most other variegated species because they have white veins instead of edging. While this ivy prefers loam soil, it will tolerate a variety of soil conditions as long as there is adequate drainage. Because this plant also prefers shady locations in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 8 through 10, it’s ideal to plant as a groundcover under trees. This plant is also forgiving of moderate foot traffic.

    Bush Ivy

    A hybrid of Fatsia (Fatsia japonica) and English Ivy (Hedera helix) developed in France, bush ivy (Fatshedera lizei) is so-named because it can be trained as a spreading vine or as a shrub. The 3-to-5-lobed leaves are star-shaped with a glossy shine and may reach up to 8 inches in width. White flowers appear in summer, but the foliage remains green all year. Bush ivy is rapid-growing, shade-loving and tolerates clay, sand, loam, acidic or slightly alkaline soil, but will not do well in salty environments. Bush ivy can be planted year-round in USDA zones 8 through 10.

    Persian Ivy

    Persian ivy (Hedera colchica) is a fast-growing groundcover that performs well in full sun or shade in USDA zones 5 through 11, preferring full shade in zones 7 through 11. Also known as Bullock's heart ivy, this species has dark green, heart-shaped leaves with a glossy appearance. Variagated Persion ivy (Hedera colchica “Dentata Variegata”) has the longest leaves among ivies and offers a contrasting color mix of cream, forest green and mint-green. Suitable for USDA zones 6 through 11, variegated Persian ivy is drought-resistant and can handle heavy, clay soil.

    Russian Ivy

    Grown as a groundcover in USDA zones 3 through 9, Russian ivy (Hedera pastuchovii) has the widest cultivation range of all the ivies. This species, which occurs naturally in the region of the Caucasus Mountains near the Black Sea, has heart-shaped leaves that turn burgundy in in winter in cooler climates. Hedera pastuchovii “Ann Ala” produces dark green, arrowhead-shaped leaves and blue-black fruit that attracts bees and birds.

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    About the Author

    Karyn Maier has been a full-time freelance writer since 1992 specializing in health, particularly botanical therapies. She has written many feature articles and columns for numerous national magazines, including "Better Nutrition," "Your Health" and "Mother Earth News," and she has authored numerous natural health-related books currently published in four languages. She also has more than 10 years' experience as a legal assistant.

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    • Siri Stafford/Lifesize/Getty Images
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