How to Grow Algerian Ivy

Variegated green and white ivy with red stem.

 Megan Hansen / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Algerian ivy is a sturdy, shade-loving plant that makes a reliable and attractive ground cover. It is low-maintenance and adaptable to a wide range of climates and soil conditions. Algerian ivy has both variegated varieties and solid dark green, but the variegated is much more common. The variegated leaves have a glossy, lustrous texture and bold dramatic coloring including shades of dark green, pale green, silvery grey, and creamy white, with a marbled appearance, making Hedera algeriensis popular with home gardeners and garden designers.

The large leaves remain evergreen, lending year-round color and interest. The growth habit lends itself to covering a trellis or gate, scrambling over a bed beneath a tree, or pruned and trained into a sculptural shape, but its most popular use is as a ground cover. Being fast-growing and with sturdy roots, it can help control erosion and is used for this purpose in coastal California. Plant Algerian ivy in the fall or spring, before or after seasonal frost.

Botanical Name Hedera algeriensis
Common Name Algerian ivy, Canary Island ivy, Madeira ivy
Plant Type Evergreen vine
Mature Size 20-40 ft. long vine, 3-ft. spread
Sun Exposure Partial shade to partial sun
Soil Type Neutral, well-draining
Soil pH Neutral, slightly acidic
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Flowers rarely; light green
Hardiness Zones 7-11 (USDA)
Native Areas North Africa
Toxicity Toxic to humans and animals
Variegated ivy leaves with dark green and creamy white.
This planting shows the dramatic coloration of Algerian ivy's variegation.  Jürgen Kornstaedt / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Algerian Ivy Care

Unlike other ground cover ivy, Algerian ivy is salt tolerant and can be used in coastal landscapes.

The plant is native to Northern Africa and Algeria. Birds are attracted to it as a shelter plant, but rabbits and deer avoid it. Something to know: When variegated varieties are planted in deep shade, they may revert to solid green coloring. If this happens, move your Algerian ivy to a sunnier locale.

Light

This ground cover will grow best in partial shade to partial sun. Its color contrast will be strongest in a location with ample indirect light, but it can be grown in shady areas and beneath trees also. Avoid full sun to avoid the leaves getting crisped in summer. If the location is too shady, Algerian ivy may scramble quickly to get a bit more light.

Soil

Algerian ivy can be grown in almost any soil with decent drainage, but it does best in moderately moist soil.

Water

This ivy is drought tolerant, but in warmer zones it should be grown where it won't dry out in full sun. It doesn't generally need extra watering, but some gardeners find the colors are more vibrant if it has steady moisture. During an unusually dry spring, regular watering will help generate spring growth sooner.

Temperature and Humidity

Other than being planted in its recommended hardiness zones, there are no temperature requirements for Algerian ivy. If your area has harsh winters, you will want to plant it where it will have some shelter from strong or drying winds, or places where runoff and freezing could cause it to be encased in ice for long periods of time.

Is Algerian Ivy Toxic?

All parts of Algerian ivy, including the berries, are toxic when ingested by small children and animals. The leaves contain a substance that reacts with cholesterol, and may cause rupturing of red blood cell membranes. Cats, in particular, should be kept from eating this plant, as it can cause inflammation of the stomach or intestines.

It also can create skin irritation to humans after handling the leaves or stems, so be sure to wear garden gloves when handling and wash up afterward.

Symptoms of Poisoning

Cats who ingest Algerian ivy may show symptoms of vomiting and/or diarrhea, excessive drooling or thirst, and pain or discomfort in the mouth. Ingesting large amounts may cause loss of coordination, stupor, convulsions, or coma. Call your veterinarian if your pet eats Algerian ivy.

Signs of skin irritation in humans include itching, reddening of the skin, or blisters at the site of contact. A call to your physician, or a visit to urgent care, may be in order.

Algerian Ivy Varieties

  • ‘Canary Cream’: This variety has green leaves with creamy white margins
  • ‘Gloire de Marengo’ aka 'Variegata': This has large leaves, up to 6-inches long, and great color contrast with deep green leaves edged in white and silvery green patches occurring inside the margins. It is slightly frost-sensitive

Pruning

The vine is semi-woody and responds well to pruning. It can be pruned back heavily in late winter before new spring growth starts; new leaves tend to be very light green. Remove dead or damaged leaves by cutting with small pruning shears or scissors. The "runners" put out by the plant can be pruned back to prevent it from spreading too fast or into unwanted areas.

Propagating Algerian Ivy

Propagate with semi-hardwood cuttings of the vines in late summer. You may try getting it to grow roots by submerging in water for a few days, or simply plant directly in potting medium and keep well watered. Grow cuttings in containers and plant outdoors the following spring after frost danger has passed.

How to Grow Algerian Ivy From Seed

While the easiest method of propagation is to use cuttings, Algerian ivy, like most varieties of ivy, can be grown from seed. Keep the seeds in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 days. This process, called cold stratification, prepares the seeds for germination. Then soak the seeds overnight in a bowl of room-temperature water; this will accelerate the germination process. You can then plant the seeds in a tray filled with potting mix; press them lightly into the surface. Keep moist with a sprayer but don't soak them. They should germinate within a few days.

Potting and Repotting Algerian Ivy

Most ivy does well in containers, but it can outgrow them and start to look messy fairly quickly, so be sure to keep it pruned and transfer to a larger container when the roots get crowded. Watering before and after repotting helps cut back on shock to the plant.

Overwintering

Growing Algerian ivy in containers outdoors is possible if you can avoid the soil getting frozen solid which can lead to root rot. The best way to avoid this if your plants are in an area where the temperature frequently dips below freezing in winter is to have the plants next to a building or wall (especially stone or brick) where some radiant warmth will help prevent freezing. Putting them in a sunny spot for the winter will also help. Also, locate them away from a spot where gutter water or other runoff from melting ice won't cause undue moisture in winter. Remember, container gardens are like a tiny microclimate: Soil will dry out faster, warm up faster, and freeze faster.

Common Pests and Diseases

Algerian ivy is surely an equal opportunist when it comes to the pests and diseases it attracts, and it attracts them all: aphids, loopers, mealybugs, scale, mites, canker, leaf spots, powdery mildew, and stem rot. That's a whole lot of trouble, but don't let it worry you too much as these are easy problems to get rid of.

Pest control is quickly remedied with insecticidal soap or neem oil. Leaf spots are bacterial, and can be treated by trimming away diseased foliage and spraying what's left with copper soap. Powdery mildew and stem rot come from fungi, and can be remedied with antifungal treatments such as sulfur spray. If this doesn't work, you may need to repot ivy in pots, with sterile soil, and be sure you don't over water.