Hedera helix takes it common name, Duckfoot ivy, from the shape of its charming leaves. Hardy in zones 5 to 9, it's a nice spiller, or trailing plant, for containers, and spreads easily in sunny or shady landscapes. If your winter is very cold, dig some of this ivy to overwinter indoors; it's adaptable as a houseplant.
A traditional evergreen vine, Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) is famous for clinging to the sides of buildings, especially in the Northeast. There, it decorates buildings on venerated college campuses known collectively as Ivy League schools. Boston ivy doesn’t need a support to climb. It attaches to surfaces using special holdfasts, sort of a botanical glue. Removing this vine from buildings often results in damage to surfaces. Boston ivy grows 30 to 50 feet tall by up to 10 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-9. Why we love it: The fall color is spectacular, including shades of red, wine, purple and burgundy. Please note that Boston ivy is considered invasive in some areas.
Shrubs and trees planted too close to your house can trap moisture, damage siding when the wind blows, and fill gutters with debris. “I want to be able to walk behind shrubs — they need to be at least three feet from the house and from air conditioning units because they block airflow,” says Steve Gladstone, owner of Stonehollow Fine Home Inspection in Stamford, Conn. “With trees, you don’t want them rubbing against the house at all. If the sun can’t dry your house, you’ll have to repaint more often because mold and pollen will build up.” Prune regularly to keep your house envelope clear.
Climbing vines like ivy, although beautiful, can splinter and rot wood siding and even weaken the mortar between bricks. Prune any existing ivy so that it stays away from windows, gutters and trim. If your heart is set on adding a climbing vine, choose a twining vine that wraps around a trellis or other nearby structure rather than a vine that climbs by tendrils or rootlets that cling to the surface of your house.
In the summer, a wall of Boston Ivy climbs the side of the garage, making for an eye-catching visual that the owners can enjoy right in their backyard. While structural architecture is constant, landscape features such as this have the ability to grow and adapt over the years.