6 ways to use ivy in your garden – Monty Don calls it something 'every gardener should nurture'

These ivy garden ideas are sure to inspire you

Boston ivy growing in a garden border
(Image credit: Alamy)

Once the bane of gardeners everywhere, ivy garden ideas are rapidly becoming this season's plant du jour – and it's not hard to see why. These evergreen beauties lend themselves beautifully to all of our favourite zen garden ideas.

Ivy is able to thrive in both sun and shade, making it ideal for even notoriously tricky north-facing gardens, and it can tolerate extreme temperature hikes, too, adding some glossy greenery to  our outdoor spaces even in the depths of winter.

Better still? Ivy can be used in so many ways, be it in your garden borders, as part of your Christmas hanging basket display, or using one of our genius ivy garden ideas below...

The best ivy garden ideas

Ivy garden ideas have certainly been given a boost of late – especially as gardening guru Monty Don has cited the evergreen among his favourite garden plants.

'I like ivy as a garden plant and there is no need to fear it,' he writes on his popular blog. 'It is one of our very few native evergreens and has many virtues that every gardener should nurture.'

Where to buy ivy:

Monty Don portrait

(Image credit: Getty Images/Colin McPherson)

'Ivy provides really important winter cover for insects, birds and bats, all of which are an important part of a healthy garden filled with beneficial wildlife,' Monty continues. 

'And it flowers very late in the year so is one of the prime sources of nectar for autumnal insects; honey made from ivy flowers has a particular crystalline quality that is delicious.'

Hey, if it's good enough for Monty, it's good enough for us! Without any further ado, then, here are our favourite ivy garden ideas...

1. A living wall

Ivy hanging over a garden gate

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're looking for living wall ideas to create a stylish vertical garden, look no further than the humble ivy plant.

'Living walls make a fantastic garden feature, especially for smaller outdoor spaces and gardens where the vertical planting will make the most effective use of the space available,' says Morris Hankinson, director of Hopes Grove Nurseries.

Morris Hankinson of Hopes Grove Nurseries
Morris Hankinson

Morris Hankinson is the founder and managing director of Hopes Grove Nurseries Ltd, the UK’s only specialist grower-retailer of hedging plants, which he established after graduating with a Commercial Horticulture Degree from Writtle College, Essex in 1992.

'There are many ways of creating your own living wall display, usually with modular systems that can be fixed in position, but ivy is a brilliant option because of its climbing nature,' continues Morris. 

'Ivy not only gives your living wall a beautiful, vibrant green colour but it also helps you add privacy to your garden and limit wind/noise.'

Riveted Garden Trellis | from £7.99 at Amazon

Riveted Garden Trellis | from £7.99 at Amazon

This heavy duty expanding diamond trellis is ideal for creating a living wall.

2. Winter pots

Pot of trailing ivy

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Oh yes, you'd better believe your ivy garden ideas should include popping this evergreen in pots.

'Ivy is an absolutely excellent spiller plant for your winter pots,' promises award-winning garden designer Zoe Claymore.

Zoe Claymore - headshot
Zoe Claymore

Zoe Claymore is a multi award-winning garden designer based in London. She focuses on creating outdoor places with emotional connection and ecological integrity for her private and commercial clients.

'Use ivy to cover and adorn your winter displays for many months to come,' adds Zoe, suggesting that you choose varieties that grow small, like Hedera helix 'White Knight' from Crocus, so they won't take over your pot but will provide that lucious spill'.

Extra bonus? This particular variety of ivy is counted among the Royal Horticultural Society's plants for pollinator status.

3. Topiary

Ivy in a topiary

(Image credit: Alamy)

If you want a unique ivy garden idea, both Morris and Zoe suggest that you consider creating topiary from English Ivy (Hedera helix), available to buy at Thompson & Morgan

'Ivy is a great plant for creating topiary because it's so versatile and can be trained into the shape of your choosing,' says Morris. 

'When training, it is best to use some sort of wire frame which you can wrap new shoots around. Regular pruning will maintain your desired shape and encourage healthy growth!'

Zoe agrees, adding that you should 'let your inner child loose and create fun creations that can be changed as you see fit'.

4. Hanging baskets

Cyclamen flowers and winter ivy in a hanging basket

(Image credit: Alamy)

Anyone who knows how to hang a hanging basket will know all too well that ivy, in all of its cascading glory, is a must when it comes to deciding which plants to include in a display.

'The versatile and low-maintenance nature also makes ivy perfect for adding to hanging baskets,' says Morris, adding that English Ivy, in particular, creates a beautiful trailing effect where the plants spill out of the basket. 

Tosnail 3 Pack Metal Hanging Planter Basket with Coco Coir Liner |£14.99 at Amazon

Tosnail 3 Pack Metal Hanging Planter Basket with Coco Coir Liner | £14.99 at Amazon

There's nothing that boosts your property's curb appeal quite like a pretty front garden, so why not add a few hanging baskets to the mix, too?

'Being evergreen, ivy also makes the best hanging baskets because it stays vibrant throughout the year. It can also tolerate different light conditions, from full sun to partial shade,' Morris continues.

'This adaptability makes it suitable for various locations, whether your hanging baskets are suspended in a sunny spot on a balcony or in a shaded corner of your garden. Regular watering and occasional feeding are generally sufficient to keep ivy thriving in hanging baskets!'

5. Ground cover

A pot of tulips balanced on ivy ground cover in a garden

(Image credit: Getty Images)

One of the easiest ivy garden ideas going? To use this adaptable evergreen as ground cover, of course!

'It spreads quickly and particularly tough areas,' says Morris, noting that ivy is 'easy to plant and maintain because they grow well in most types of soil and grow well in full sun. If you don't want your ivy to climb, be sure to trim it regularly'.

'Ivy can also be used to great effect to provide ground cover for a bank or garden slope,' adds garden designer Zoe.

6. Wildlife habitat

A blue tit perched on frozen ivy in a garden

(Image credit: Getty Images)

That's right; one of our favourite ways to use ivy in your garden is to incorporate it into your overflowing list of wildlife garden ideas.

'Do you want to encourage more wildlife into your garden?' asks Morris. 'From bees to birds, ivy is an ideal plant for attracting wildlife, particularly because of the small, black berry-like fruits it produces.'

Morris adds that, as well as being a great food source, the foliage on ivy 'is fairly thick which means birds and other small creatures can shelter in it. Where possible, allow your ivy to grow naturally and untrimmed'. 


Is it good to have ivy in your garden?

Ivy 'provides a green wall or surface at a time of year when almost nothing else is giving any kind of display,' points out Monty Don.

Ivy is a fabulous low maintenance plant, not to mention an important habitat for local wildlife, so you'd best believe that garden designers are predicting it'll be a big garden trend before too long.

What is the best ivy to grow outside?

'The type of ivy you choose to grow in your garden is really important,' says garden designer Zoe. 'Not just because of how it looks in your garden, but how great it is for wildlife.'

She adds that it is for this reason that, when filing a big space, she is a 'huge fan of the traditional hedera helix (aka English ivy) as this native species is fantastic shelter and food for wildlife during the winter'.

'It's also great for future christmas foliage and wreath making,' she adds.

Does ivy devalue a property?

Many people believe that ivy is a parasitic plant, and therefore will devalue a property, but Monty Don insists that this is not the case.

'To make it clear, ivy is not a parasite, so does not draw nutrients from the plant that it climbs up,' he says. 'Indeed, if you sever the main trunk of Ivy so that no nutrient is being sent up from the soil, it will invariably die.'

Perhaps, then, it's time to welcome it into your garden.

With so many gorgeous ivy garden ideas to try, you've got more than a few important decisions to make before you get to work.

Until then, we'll see you in the queue at the local garden centre, battling to get our mitts on that last pot of the green stuff...

Kayleigh Dray
Acting Content Editor

Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.