Updated February 26, 2022 by Mark Marino
Many categories created by humans quickly break down on close inspection, or even cursory inspection. Is a hot dog a sandwich? Is your butt part of your legs? Is a coffee cup a box? These are all invisible lines drawn by people in order to understand the world better. But while some categories are clearly silly, some make sense.
Plants, for instance, are far easier to categorize with a degree of authority. This is because the differences between most plants are extremely different. There is very little overlap, for instance, between moss and sunflowers besides that which identifies them as plants, to begin with.
The most common types of ivy you will find are English Ivy and Irish Ivy. Under a similar naming convention, there is also Japanese Ivy and Algerian Ivy. Although these are less common, they are still sought after due to their exotic origins. Finally, there is Persian, Nepalese, and Russian ivy.
But what are the differences between these ivies? Why have different names for them in the first place? Well, there are actually answers to these questions, though it is not surprising that most people do not know them. To begin with, the three groupings made in the previous paragraph were no accident.
Essentially, there are three groups of ivy that all those different types of ivy fit into. The first is potted ivy, the second is wall ivy, and the third is garden ivy. They all grow differently and have different environmental needs, but they are all similar plants. So, to begin with, consider the differences between them.
What Is English Ivy And Irish Ivy?
These two are members of the “potted ivy” group. As you might imagine, this means they grow best in pots, where they can spread their roots, but never need to compete with other plants for water.
In short, these plants benefit from exactly the environment that plant pots create. Not many people fully understand this, but a plant pot is a unique environment for a plant to be in. This will be covered in further detail when talking about garden variety ivy, but the natural state for plants is usually more competitive.
Potted plants have the advantage of not needing to compete for resources, as well as the resources that go into them being allowed to mix in very close proximity. If it rains on a plant, even if that plant is in isolation the rain might run through the ground and out of the reach of the plant before its roots can absorb it.
Similarly, this means that the nutrients in the ground can miss out on ever mixing with the water. Everything about being in a pot is amplifying to a plant’s health, so long as that plant can stand being in a pot.
What Is Persian, Nepalese, And Russian Ivy?
This leads to the discussion of the garden variety ivy. This ivy is defined by needing a garden, which means that it cannot easily be grown in a pot. Or rather, it can be grown in a pot, but it will certainly be smaller than usual and will require a higher degree of caretaking in order to keep it alive. This is due to ivy’s nature.
Garden ivy requires a garden because this kind of ivy has especially long roots. While this might seem like an innocuous and inconsequential feature, what it means is that it could potentially grow into itself, if not grow completely wrong, if it is forced to grow inside the confines of a pot.
Imagine trying to grow a tree in a pot. The tree would quickly outgrow the pot, either curling over the edges or piercing straight through it in order to search for sources of water. This has been known to happen, like a slow-motion octopus groping for life. If it can not find it, the tree will simply stunt its own growth it survives.
This is a harsh environment for a plant to grow in. As such, garden ivy should be grown in the earth, where its roots can stretch out. Even living among other plants is more comfortable than being jammed into a pot for garden ivy, as garden ivy is usually good at keeping its roots from fusing with other roots.
What Is Wall Ivy?
Also known as “climbing ivy”, this plant is a variety of ivy that is known for being useful in a great many scenarios. Although, “useful” is not the reason most people grow it, nor is it the first thing people think of when they see it. Usually, people grow it for aesthetic reasons, and the first thing they think is how beautiful it is.
This is because climbing ivy is great at growing on vertical surfaces. As you might have guessed, this means it can grow up walls, covering them with a lush, green coating. It is cheaper and more easily maintained than paint, that is for sure. And not only that, but it features some of the uses that were alluded to earlier.
The primary use of wall ivy is that it is a good insulator. Insulation is interesting, as it is usually only understood to mean keeping things warm or cool. Well, which is it? Aren’t warmth and coolness opposed? Well, what insultation really means is that it keeps temperatures under control.
Insulation means that if there is heat inside an insulated space, it will not leave. Similarly, heat will have trouble getting into that space from the outside. Obviously, both are possible. Humans would never have developed heating and air conditioning if insulation could do that all for them.
But still, wall ivy is not only good for decoration, but also as a method of insulation. The best part is, there is really no limit to having wall much wall ivy can grow. With enough patience and resources, you could grow wall ivy up an entire skyscraper. Though there are other obstacles, like wind and birds, that would get in the way.