Boston Ivy

Boston Ivy
Introduced from Japan and China, Boston ivy has now naturalized in a number of states. This species is a suitable choice for pollinator gardens as it provides nectar and pollen.

Boston ivy gave the Ivy League campuses their name since this vine covers the buildings’ walls. Also called Japanese ivy, this densely leaved species tends to look more refined than its native counterpart. Usually, the vine is 20 to 50 feet in length. Less vigorous cultivars are available with some only being ten feet long.

In warmer regions, this plant can be semi-evergreen. Sometimes toothed, the foliage is glossy on both surfaces. The undersides can feature soft hairs.

Usually, the foliage contains three leaflets, five to ten inches in length and almost as wide—especially on the older stems. In some cases, this can be entire. This vine features juvenile leaves that are quite variable in shape. Cultivars with small, petite foliage, only 1½ inch or less in length, can be found.

Clusters of the greenish blossoms typically begin appearing in mid-Summer over a period of several weeks. These are largely concealed among the foliage. Bees typically visit these blooms from mid-morning until about noon or so.

This plant bears shiny, black-blue fruits that are pretty much concealed by the foliage. Birds love these.

For the most part, this plant appears to suffer few insect or disease problems. Hardy to zones four through eight, It is well suited to urban conditions. It favors northern and eastern exposures.

Boston ivy is an excellent source of nectar and pollen for four to six weeks. The pollen ranges from yellow to pale green. This can provide a small surplus of 25 pounds or so of honey per colony. The dark colored, reasonably good quality honey reportedly has a pleasant flavor, but can have a slightly unpleasant odor.

Growing Boston Ivy

Suitable for both sun and shade, this vine thrives in most any type of well drained soils. It prefers a reasonably moist loam. The plants is propagated by seeds, cuttings, and layering.

The most common insect and disease problems are Japanese beetles, soft brown scale, and caterpillars. When the plants are grown in damp shady sites, the vines can sometimes experience leaf spots and powdery or downy mildew.

Boston ivy is often trained on walls, particularly masonry ones. Both species will also readily grow on fences and trees. They benefit from a regular pruning every year or so. This helps to promote the young, vigorous growth and lessens the weight of the vines, which can be an important factor if these are allowed to grow on trees.

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