Boston Ivy Cuttings: How To Propagate Boston Ivy

By: Anne Baley

Boston ivy is the reason the Ivy League has its name. All those old brick buildings are covered with generations of Boston ivy plants, giving them a classic antique look. You can fill your garden with the same ivy plants, or even recreate the university look and grow it up your brick walls, by taking cuttings from Boston ivy and rooting them into new plants. It roots readily and will grow slowly indoors until next spring, when you can plant the new vines outdoors.

Taking Cuttings from Boston Ivy Plants

How to propagate Boston ivy when you’re faced with a clump of plants? The easiest way to get your cuttings to root is by beginning in the spring, when most plants want to grow the fastest. Spring stems of ivy are softer and more flexible than those in the fall, which can become woody and more difficult to root.

Look for stems that are flexible and growing in the spring. Clip the end of long stems, looking for a spot that’s five or six nodes (bumps) from the end. Cut the stem straight across using a razor blade that you’ve wiped with an alcohol pad to kill any germs it might carry.

Boston Ivy Propagation

Boston ivy propagation is more about patience than anything else. Begin with a planter or other container with drainage holes. Fill the container with clean sand, and spray the sand with water until it’s damp.

Break off the leaves on the bottom half of the cutting, leaving two or three pairs of leaves left at the tip. Dip the cut end into a pile of rooting hormone powder. Poke a hole in the damp sand and place the Boston ivy cuttings into the hole. Push the sand around the stem gently, until it’s firmly in place. Add more cuttings to the pot until it’s filled, keeping them about 2 inches (5 cm.) apart.

Place the pot into a plastic bag with the opening facing upwards. Seal the top of the bag loosely with a twist tie or rubber band. Set the bag on top of a heating pad set on low, in a bright spot away from direct sunlight.

Open the bag and mist the sand each day to keep it moist, then seal the bag back up to keep in the moisture. Check for roots after about six weeks by gently tugging on the plants. Rooting can take up to three months, so don’t think you’ve failed if nothing happens right away.

Transplant the rooted cuttings into potting soil after four months, and grow them indoors for a year before transplanting them outside.

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Read more about Boston Ivy

Boston Ivy Plant Profile

Ivy League universities get their nickname from the Boston ivy that climbs their storied walls. Boston ivy vines not only lend greenery through the summer, but they also provide fall color. In spring, the new leaves of Boston ivy are reddish. The leaves typically turn green in summer, before reverting to a reddish color in fall. The plants produce inconspicuous flowers, yielding to clusters of dark blue berries that feed birds. The vine length of mature plants may reach 50 feet or more. These colorful and versatile plants have several uses in landscaping.

Botanical Name Parthenocissus tricuspidata
Common Name Boston ivy
Plant Type Perennial, deciduous, broadleaf vine
Mature Size 30 to 50 feet
Sun Exposure Full sun, part shade
Soil Type Loamy
Soil pH 5 to 7.5
Bloom Time June to July
Flower Color Greenish white
Hardiness Zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Native Area China and Japan

How to grow Boston ivy

Grow Boston ivy in moist but well-drained soil in full sun to shade. Provide support, such as a small trellis, for the first couple of years, until it starts self-clinging to the wall or fence you’re growing it up. Throughout summer you may want to tie in or remove wayward shoots, along with dead or damaged leaves. Then, in autumn, prune back to keep its growth in check, particularly if growing up a house, making sure it doesn’t encroach on windows or gutters.

Boston ivy: jump links

Where to grow Boston ivy

Boston ivy will tolerate most garden soils. It’s ideal for a position in full sun or shade, but bear in mind that its autumn foliage won’t be as impressive if growing in a shady spot. Being such a vigorous plant it will need a large wall – an obelisk or trellis will not do.

How to plant Boston ivy

Plant in autumn or spring for the best results. Improve soil by digging in plenty of organic matter beforehand, and water in well. Use canes or a small piece of trellis to offer support for the first two years, until its suckers develop and it clings to the fence or wall itself.

Caring for Boston ivy

Boston ivy will require a little maintenance to keep it in check. To prevent it from taking over your entire house wall, prune side shoots back hard to the woody frame in late autumn and winter. When doing this, look out for stems that have self-layered, so that they can be potted on to create new plants. Keep stems clear of guttering and windows. The leaves are large and need raking up after falling in autumn. They make the perfect addition to leaf mould.

How to propagate Boston ivy

Boston ivy is a self-layer. This simply means that if a stem touches soil, it develops roots. In order to produce more plants, dig up a self-rooted stem. Cut away from the parent plants and pot on. You can do this anytime, so keep an eye out for rooted stems. Follow our guide to taking summer cuttings.

Growing Boston ivy: pests and problem-solving

Boson ivy is rarely troubled by pests or diseases.

How to Care For Boston Ivy

A fast-growing tendril-type vine, Boston ivy grows well in full sun or shade and tolerates most soil conditions. Count on this salt-tolerant plant to grow well in slow-draining clay and quick-to-dry sandy soil and every soil type in between. It does an admirable job of controlling erosion on troublesome slopes.

Growing Boston ivy does come with some challenges. The vine clings to vertical surfaces by using adhesive holdfasts (also known as sucker disks) that stay on the structure long after the vine has been removed. For that reason, you may want to reconsider growing this climber on structures with painted, wood, or shingled exteriors. If you are comfortable letting this fast-growing ivy cover your house or garage, prune it annually to prevent it from growing over windows and into gutters.

Boston ivy does best in light conditions that range from full sun to part shade (choose full sun for the best fall color) and average well-drained soils. Plant container-grown transplants from nurseries in spring. Water the plant well during the first season after planting and spread a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch around the root zone to keep it cool. After plant is established and begins growing rapidly, plan to prune annually in early spring before the leaves emerge. Trim the leafless vines back significantly to maintain the desired length and shape of the vine.

Comments (2)

Brandon7 TN_zone7

If taking cuttings this time of year, choose firm hardwood cuttings with at least three nodes (four of five wouldn't hurt). You can plant the cuttings almost horizontally, with only the top node above ground level. Grow them in a frost-free location (garage/greenhouse/etc). Bottom heat (if growing outdoors) and rooting hormone can be beneficial.

BTW, when looking for info about propagation try using the scientific name (in this case Parthenocissus tricuspidata) along with the word cutting or the word propagation. I didn't spend time closely examining the results, but a quick google search (as described above) looked like you'd get plenty of good info.

Ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

cutting need three things [if not more] :

1 == a properly wetted media . and the moisture must be maintained.. properly . not too wet.. not too dry .. etc .. for the duration of the rooting .

2 == proper light . and the windowsill may or may not be sufficient for such . and there is no way to tell from the facts .

3 == ambient humidity . of which there are no facts . w/o roots.. the plant must rely on the leaves to suck in enough moisture for the plant to survive.. until some roots develop . this is as simple as a clear plastic bag. etc . it is possible.. for it to shed all the leaves.. so as to maintain the buds under.. until roots develop . its not the best world.. but it is still possible .

all that said . a 50% success rate is not all that bad . you really dont expect 100%, do you.

if only a couple roots.. so be it.. and when they start getting leggy.. make some new cuttings . etc . presuming you are not working in a greenhouse.. you most likely have limited space.. so fear success .. lol . you have a long time to hold over new rootings in z5 until the spring .

i would start by insuring humidity.. if you have not been providing such

Other Options For Plant Propagation

Hardwood cuttings are only one type of cutting to take in your garden. If you have plants that are not usually propagated in this way, there are other types of cutting you can take: softwood cuttings, and semi-ripe cuttings.

Softwood cuttings are usually taken in spring, during the first flush of growth. But certain semi-ripe cuttings can also be taken at this time of year. So this is something else that you may like to look into this month.

Propagating plants by seed (collecting your own), by division, or by layering are also all interesting things to consider. These are all other ways to increase the number of plants in your garden for free.

It can take time, and there is a lot to learn about plant propagation. But it is often much easier to achieve than you might think. And it is definitely worthwhile giving these things a go if you want a truly beautiful and productive garden.

Elizabeth Waddington is a writer, permaculture designer and green living consultant. She is a practical, hands-on gardener, with a background in philosophy: (an MA in English-Philosophy from St Andrews University). She has long had an interest in ecology, gardening and sustainability and is fascinated by how thought can generate action, and ideas can generate positive change.

In 2014, she and her husband moved to their forever home in the country. She graduated from allotment gardening to organically managing 1/3 of an acre of land, including a mature fruit orchard,which she has turned into a productive forest garden. The yield from the garden is increasing year on year – rapidly approaching an annual weight in produce of almost 1 ton.

She has filled the rest of the garden with a polytunnel, a vegetable patch, a herb garden, a wildlife pond, woodland areas and more. Since moving to the property she has also rescued many chickens from factory farms, keeping them for their eggs, and moved much closer to self-sufficiency. She has made many strides in attracting local wildlife and increasing biodiversity on the site.

When she is not gardening, Elizabeth spends a lot of time working remotely on permaculture garden projects around the world. Amongst other things, she has designed private gardens in regions as diverse as Canada, Minnesota, Texas, the Arizona/California desert, and the Dominican Republic, commercial aquaponics schemes, food forests and community gardens in a wide range of global locations.

In addition to designing gardens, Elizabeth also works in a consultancy capacity, offering ongoing support and training for gardeners and growers around the globe. She has created booklets and aided in the design of Food Kits to help gardeners to cool and warm climates to grow their own food, for example. She is undertaking ongoing work for NGO Somalia Dryland Solutions and a number of other non governmental organisations, and works as an environmental consultant for several sustainable companies.

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