Boston Ivy vs. English Ivy - What's the Difference?

Boston Ivy vs. English Ivy - What's the Difference?

boston ivy vs english ivy

Besides the obvious difference of one being named for a local variety and the other named for having been grown across the pond, there are a few other differences you should be aware of when selecting an Ivy for your landscape!

Both varieties of Ivy are lovely for covering areas, hillsides, rocky retaining walls, trailing down in hanging baskets, and climbing over buildings to create a magical-looking landscape!

But there’s a place for everything, and everything in its place when selecting which of these lovely vining perennials to choose!

All About Boston Ivy

Boston ivy, japanese creeper

The Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) is a very hardy flowering plant in the grape family. Native to eastern Asia in Korea, Japan, and northern and eastern China. Unrelated to the true Ivies, Boston Ivy is also commonly known as Grape Ivy, Japanese Ivy, and Japanese Creeper.

Boston Ivy is a remarkably fast-growing, deciduous woody vine with tendrils that can grip onto surfaces. The glossy dark green leaves may be reminiscent of grapevines because they are in the same family! Not to be confused with Virginia Creeper, Boston Ivy is not as difficult to remove once attached. Adhering with cute little suction cup-like ‘feet’, they can take off the paint on older buildings but do not damage rock or metal siding.

Boston Ivy ID

Big broad foliage with pointed lobes that have three distinct points, with younger leaves having three leaflets. Combined with their reddish stems, they can sometimes be confused with Poison Ivy! The Boston Ivy is a deep green and has an alternating stem pattern. In the fall your Ivy will turn a deep scarlet in preparation for the coming winter, and in more sun-exposed areas, the fall color becomes an even deeper red. In mild climates, Boston Ivy can remain semi-evergreen

Autumn Ivy

Incredibly tiny greenish-white flowers appear in the spring and will be buzzing with pollinators! By early summer small black berries soon develop.

Most people won't notice until leaf drop, but the birds will partake of the feast you've provided them. Birds often use this dense vine for nesting too!

Because the anchoring roots of Boston Ivy adhere pretty well, it is recommended that you avoid planting them on wood or shingle siding, because they will take some paint and the material with them when removed.

  • Iconic Fast-Growing Vine Covering Buildings & Walls
  • Cold Hardy Glossy Green Leaves - Growing Zones 4-8
  • Full Sun & Partial Shade
  • Vertically & Horizontally
  • Drought Tolerant
  • Wonderful Fall Color!
  • Greenish-White Flowers & Small Black Berries For Birds
  • Insulates & Shades Sun-Baked Walls
  • Avoid Planting On Wood or Shingle Siding
  • Mature Height - 30 - 50 feet
  • Mature Spread - 5 - 10 feet

The Robusta Boston Ivy is even more cold-hardy than Boston Ivy, thriving throughout USDA growing zones 3 to 7, displaying red/orange fall color. 

Growing Boston Ivy is oh-so-easy! Once established, there is barely any work for yourself at all!  It’s easy to grow, deer resistant, and pollinator-friendly shrub will do the job!

Japanese creeper, Woodbine, Boston Ivy, Ivy in autumn

  • Autumn color is guaranteed whether planted in full sun, partial, or full shade, Boston Ivy looks amazing regardless of the amount of sun!


  • Boston Ivy doesn't have a soil type preference, tolerating acid or alkaline, chalk or clay. All it needs is consistent moisture access while establishing. Afterward, provide average moist, well-drained soils. Then, these are even drought-tolerant!

Boston ivy texture

  • Boston Ivy benefits from support at first but ultimately is self-clinging and hangs onto its surface through storms and wind. It can cover almost any surface quickly and with ease and even adapts readily to pruning. As with all vines and climbing plants, keep away from gutters and roofs.


  • A generous layer of mulch helps retain soil moisture as well as insulate the root system from heat and chill.

All About English Ivy

English Ivy is a clinging evergreen vine plant

English Ivy (Hedera helix) is native to Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa, and is a broad-leaved evergreen perennial vine and member of the Grape family, that can also be known as Common Ivy, and European Ivy. Steeped in history and fairytales, English Ivy has many superstitions and even health benefits in its family background!

For hundreds of years, these instantly recognizable trailing vines have graced wedding bouquets and created the glorious vine-cover walls on historic buildings on Ivy League campuses. English Ivy covers the ground to suppress weeds under trees and works great as 'living mulch'.

indoor english ivy

Here in the US, English Ivy thrives in sun and shade and makes a fantastic groundcover, and hides vertical and horizontal eyesores! Indoors, English Ivy even thrives as an indoor houseplant, porch and patio spiller, and hanging baskets. This way they purify the air and improve health! Though English Ivy is not to be confused with the smaller leaved indoor cultivars that are not winter hardy grown as hanging baskets or topiaries.

English Ivy ID

English Ivy

The rippled to shallowly lobed leaves have a dull sheen and the easily recognizable fan-shaped leaves are alternate, growing along each side of the vine. The foliage grows in an alternate fashion along the vine, which can look a bit hairy as it ages and matures. The clusters of flowers feed pollinators and small purple/black berries that develop afterward are eaten by birds. Both flower and fruit resemble others in the Grape family but are held in rounded clusters, partially concealed beneath the leaves.

This gives you a lush look quickly. This is the classic Ivy that stays deep green through winter and is a strong growing, trailing variety that's great for baskets, containers, or as a groundcover.

These plants have dense growth and abundant leaves which form a thick canopy just above the ground. As you can imagine, they'll prevent sunlight from reaching other plants. They make perfectly poised weed suppression!

  • Mature Height - 20 - 60 feet
  • Mature Spread - 3 - 30 feet
  • Water-Wise
  • Root Hairs Cling to a Wide Range of Surfaces Without Support
  • Cold Hardy & Heat Tolerant
  • Greenish-yellow blooms & purple-black berries
  • Pollinator & Bird Friendly
  • Widely Adaptable
  • Use as a Vining Groundcover or Climbing Vine
  • Evergreen Vines Deliver Color All Year - USDA growing zones 4 to 9

Ivy backgroundThe only downside to this fantastic variety is that English Ivy cannot be shipped to all areas of the country, as it performs 'too well' in certain climates where mild temperature climates allow these plants to outcompete the locals. In any state where this plant is restricted our Plant Sentry™ software prevents the sale of this plant so we are doing our part to prevent invasive species from being shipped.


Where it can be grown safely, there is nothing like the charm and grace of beautiful English Ivy. This ornamental plant will beautify your landscape but should be used appropriately.

  • English Ivy prefers to grow in rich, well-drained soil but will tolerate either full sun or partial shade.
  • Provide it with a regular schedule of moderate, regular water.
  • Mulch in the coldest USDA growing zones to protect against winter damage.
  • Watch the spread of your English Ivy, and trim up the edges with a pair of garden shears at any time.
  • Rejuvenate your vine periodically by pruning out woody stems back to a bud. You'll have a flush of green new growth from that point.
  • Plant in part shade or shade in colder zones so the foliage does not winter burn in the drying northern winds. 

The darker green foliage of the Thorndale English Ivy is a great variety that grows a bit shorter than the Common Ivy but handles much hotter growing zones 5 through 11!

Ivy Care & Maintenance

Ivy Care Infographic

When choosing a location it is best to find an area that is in full sun or partial shade and has good organically enriched soil. These conditions help get better results with the plant growing faster and healthier. Choose a site that is very well-drained. When watering new plants, use the Finger Test to ensure you keep them perfectly watered.

Plant them closer together if you want faster coverage on a wall or trellis, try planting 18 to 24 inches apart for quicker coverage on a wall. Space 2 to 4 feet apart for less aggressive coverage. Be sure to plant at least 12 inches away from the wall to allow the roots more room to grow.

We grow these plants in containers so they can be planted throughout the growing season. This is a hardy plant that will be able to grow even if planted in the summer; however, it will need plenty of water. Provide regular yet moderate moisture throughout their first year in the ground and during times of drought after these Ivies are established.

  • Sunlight - Boston Ivy can take a wide range of sun exposure, from full sun to partial sun, but it does best in full sun.
  • Watering - These plants should be well-watered when first planted in order to get established. Once the plants get going, there is no need to worry about watering unless there is a severe drought.
  • Mulching - Use mulch to help conserve moisture for the plants. This helps prevent weeds from growing around the vines and protects the roots in the winter.
  • Fertilizing - Fertilizing is not necessary but feel free to use all-purpose granular fertilizer in the spring. Don't overdo it since too much could hurt the plants.
  • Winter Care - A thick layer of mulch is a good idea to insulate the roots from heat and cold. This is also the best time to prune.

Pruning Ivy Vines

The only chore you need to really worry about when caring for Ivy in the winter or early spring is pruning when the plant is still dormant. Prune off any vines heading into trouble or rambling close to where they shouldn’t, careful not to remove more than a third of the plant at a time.

The vines grow vigorously when given the right soil, water, and sun conditions. Sometimes it is necessary to trim these plants back to a more desirable size, especially around doors and windows. The best time to prune Boston Ivy is in the winter. Even though this is a very tough plant, you can prune it anytime during the year if you are careful not to trim too much. 

Happy Ivy Vines!

Join many that already enjoy these incredible climbing plants! These are just a few of the rewards awaiting you when you plant these versatile Ornamental Vines! Cover almost anything with vivid greenery and color with the beauty of Boston Ivy and English Ivy! 

Head over to to learn more about these and other great Ornamental Vines, now available to beautify your landscape today!

Happy Planting!

shop ornamental vines here

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