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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Beautiful Outdoor Ivy Topiary Growing Tips

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Ivy topiaries are a beautiful way to add greenery to your home and garden all year. But, unusually prolonged freezing weather can damage or kill an ivy grown in a container outside.  

Outdoor Ivy Topiary Growing Tips
Ivy is fairly drought tolerant and cold hardy, easy to train on a topiary frame, grows into shape within a year or two, and looks good during every season. 

Ivy grown in containers are excellent plants for decks, porches, and structured gardens. 

O U T D O O R   I V Y   T O P I A R Y 

growing tips 

Outdoor Ivy Topiary Growing Tips


two different kinds of gardening zones

Most gardeners are familiar with Hardiness Zone Maps that indicate a region's lowest average temperatures. More and more gardeners are becoming aware of Heat Zone Maps that indicate a region's number of days above 86°F temperatures. Both maps are important for determining whether or not a plant will grow well in a region. Links to gardening zone maps are at the end of the article so you can determine both of your region's zones. 

North central Texas is in Hardiness Zone 8a (average minimum temperatures 10°-15°F) and Heat Zone 9 (120-150 days with temperatures above 86°F). According to an internet search, ivy grows in Hardiness Zones 6-12 and Heat Zones 5-11.   

North central Texas has both extremes of weather. Below freezing temperatures with occasional ice and/or snow in the winter and above one hundred degree temperatures with weeks of little or no rain in the summer can both occur. Such extremes make gardening difficult. Plants must tolerate both extremes. Ivy plants are one the most reliable plants in my gardens in the north central Texas region. 

However, not every year has extreme conditions in winter or summer. Some years the winters are mild. Shown above is a rainy day in late February a couple of years ago when an ivy plant was just starting to grow up the smaller iron frame after growing in the pot as a bushy plant for about one year. The ivy on the larger iron frame had been growing for four or five years. Notice the green in the woods in the above photograph indicating mild temperatures and the beginnings of spring. 

Outdoor Ivy Topiary Growing Tips


Topiary frames come in many styles. Choices include circular, heart, star, and ball shapes for metal topiary frames for ivy usually grown in 6"-8" pots. Small wooden or iron trellis styles work for larger pots used outside. 

The fleur de lis topped iron trellis shown is about 2 feet tall and was handmade by a family member who welded the iron pieces to make special French-style trellises for me. 

This is the same plant, in September, previously seen in the rainy winter day photo from February of the same year. The ivy tendrils were allowed to grow without trimming them so the tendrils could vine around the iron trellis in a spiral shape. 

Outdoor Ivy Topiary Growing Tips


This ivy topiary was started from a small 6" houseplant and was grown outside in potting soil in a clay pot. Plants flourish better outside than inside partly because of humidity. Indoor heating and cooling systems frequently cause air drafts and dry out plants. 

Outdoor Ivy Topiary Growing Tips
Natural water from rain helps keep the plants moist and clean. Supplementary hand watering is needed during summer months in north Texas, but not as often during winter months. Occasional fertilizing helped feed the plant to promote strong, fast growth. 

The ivy grew to the top of the iron trellis from the rainy day photo in February to September in the same year.  

Outdoor Ivy Topiary Growing Tips


Ivy topiaries grow outside all year in north central Texas and provide beautiful greenery during bleak, barren winter months. They survive normal winter weather, including snow and ice, during normal Zone 8 conditions. Drifts of snow provide festive holiday scenes, especially on a weathered red wrought iron bench. 

The bench was made from a vintage wrought iron bedstead. Rustic antique Chicago bricks lift pots to allow water to drain without pooling on the wood seat. More stacked Chicago bricks are beautiful accessories all year, but particularly in winter. 

The plants grow in partial shade very well and, unlike most blooming plants, look good during every season. Ivy provides the backbone structure to gardens, and topiaries make that backbone structure interesting during winter. 

Outdoor Ivy Topiary Growing Tips


Protect ivy topiaries growing in pots during extremely low temperatures. The ivy plant survived the first snow of this past winter as usual because the temperatures stayed within the Hardiness Zone 8 parameters of 10°-15°F or higher. Plus, temperatures rose above freezing, as normal, fairly quickly after over-night lows below freezing. 

However, when weather conditions were out of the norm this past February and brought deep, below freezing temperatures to 1°F, followed by several days of way below freezing temperatures, the ivy topiary was severely damaged. 

We protected many of our plants by covering them and/or bringing them inside to the greenhouse, garden shed, and house. A handyman brought the ivy on the larger fleur de lis iron trellis inside to the living room using a large plant saucer on wheels. The large ivy was not damaged by the deep freeze and is doing well on the outside deck. 

The small ivy topiary stayed outside. Looking back, I should have brought it inside. 

There were so many things to do to get ready for the severe weather. Our power grids across the state were overloaded, and we, personally, were without electricity for over 31 hours during the most extreme low temperatures. We did what we could while trying to keep ourselves warm, including buying loads of firewood to heat the living room. We were on our last 3-4 sticks of firewood burning when our landscaper delivered more wood... TWICE... during the 31+ hours without electricity. 

Outdoor Ivy Topiary Growing Tips
As with all our outside plants, we waited to see what would sprout new growth. All of the dead ivy leaves were removed from the plant, and the leafless vines lowered to the base of the plant. Still wrapped around the iron trellis, the vines look very much like a dried grapevine wreath. 

Here, in April after two months since the bad weather, the ivy is sprouting new leaves from the base of the plant. Chances are great that the upper vines are lifeless, but new vines will grow from the base. 

Outdoor Ivy Topiary Growing Tips
For now, the damaged ivy plant remains on the iron topiary trellis, surrounded by new spring flowering plants. 

With so much damaged and dead from the winter storm, we are still working on removing, replacing, and/or nurturing damaged plants. Ivy plants are usually available at garden centers during the summer months, whereas, bedding flowering plants and a large variety of shrubs are only available during the spring months. There will be time to work with the ivy plant after we take care of the larger shrubs and flowering bedding plants.

The plan is to transplant the damaged ivy to another pot and to move it to another area to allow it to recover and grow. I will buy a new, lush 6"-8" ivy plant with long tendrils to grow on the fleur de lis trellis on the bench. 


S O U R C E S 

Hardiness and Heat Zones - Gardener's Supply Company 

Fleur de Lis Iron Topiary - Family Member, many years ago

Red Iron Bench - Antique, Forney, Texas, many years ago

Chicago Brick - Local ad, many years ago