The Right Place
Locate English ivy anywhere from full shade to full sun, but keep in mind that a sunny spot may stress it in summer and brown its leaves in winter. Check the variety you are interested in for its optimum light requirements. Ideally, site ivy on the east or north side of a building or tree. Protect new plants in the sun with shade cloth for the first 2 seasons or until the plants are well established.
Soil should be well drained, moist, and contain some organic matter. While ivy adapts to both acid and alkaline soil, it prefers that it be slightly alkaline (pH 7.0 to 7.3). Some ivy cultivars are fairly salt-tolerant, and so are ideal as a ground cover near streets and sidewalks in the north where salt spray from plowed streets is a winter hazard for plants. Do not encourage ivy to climb a white, south-facing wall because it will suffer from too much summer heat in that situation.
Planting Nursery Stock
Transplant English ivy from flats or pots in the spring to allow them a season to develop good roots and spread before winter sets in. Plant on an overcast day, or late afternoon on a sunny day, to protect new plants from direct sun while they recover from transplant shock.
Clear the planting area of weeds and debris, and loosen the soil at least 12 inches deep with a shovel or spade or small tiller.
With a trowel dig each hole 3 to 4 inches deep, a bit wider and deeper than each ivy seedling’s root ball. Plants spaced 6 to 12 inches apart will knit together to cover the area in about 2 years.
Remove each plant from the flat or pots and loosen its roots, pulling apart or cutting any that are densely matted. Remove the lowest 2 to 4 leaves to stimulate additional root growth along the stems, and then place the plant deep in the hole. Refill the hole with the original soil, firming it around the stems right up to where the remaining leaves start.
Water thoroughly to provide good soil-to-root contact. Spread a covering of chopped leaves or other mulch one or 2 inches thick on the bare soil between young plants to discourage weeds and keep the soil moist while the ivy grows into a mat.
Amendments In Planting or Transplanting
There are a number of products at the garden center that will help your newly planted or transplanted plants deal better with the stress inherent in the planting process. All healthy plants have beneficial fungi, called mycorrhizal fungi, living on their roots. You can buy these valuable additions to your plant’s ecosystem. See the file describing Using Micorrhizae When Planting.
In addition, there are a number of products such as seaweed, compost tea, and beneficial soil microbes that when added to the planting process will help your newly established plants get going faster. See the file New Technology In Plant Growth Activators
For more information see the file on Planting Shrubs. For planting tools see Hand Tools For Digging and Planting in Yardener’s Tool Shed.