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Container-based Ivy challenge

Dave HumbyDave Humby Posts: 1,145
At the rear of the house we have a large terracotta pot with a 'decorative' large leafed ivy that grows up the wall. It was there when we moved in 6 years ago and I believe it's primary function was to somewhat disguise the large white vent pipe. Up until last year it was in quite fine fettle and reached the eaves with several individual 'arms' fanning out up the wall. However they started to die off last summer so I eventually cut them off to where there was still live growth at the pergola height. I pulled all the dead stuff off the wall.



I had thought the whole plant was dying off however I've been somewhat surprised that there is a lot of new healthy growth.



The compost in the pot looks exhausted and I think this is the likely reason for the die-back along with the drought conditions of last year. I tried to keep it well watered but it's difficult with the quality of the compost to get it to retain anything. I imagine it is very exhausted of nutrients as well. In the years we've been here all I've managed to do is scrap away an inch or so (before hitting the roots) and replenish a minimal amount of new compost.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I might be able to address this situation?

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  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,794
    I think you'll need to remove it completely, and get it into something bigger - maybe a purpose built container?
    You can then fill it with a load of soil which will give it more sustenance. Some manure as well. You may need a drip watering system or similar too.
    It probably struggles to get enough moisture, even with regular watering, and once potted plants dry out, it's very difficult to get them rehydrated, especially with a pot that size. You'd need to have it on a big tray of some kind for large parts of the year.
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....



    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Dave HumbyDave Humby Posts: 1,145
    Thanks @Fairygirl. I was really (optimistically) thinking I could do something with the current set-up but I had a feeling a suggestion like yours was coming. I was just in denial  ;)

    The pot is pretty big and it was originally sat on the floor but when I had the patio relaid we noticed the roots of the ivy had made their way out of the hole in the bottom and actually into the pointing of the slabs with resulting damage. The pot now sits on 3 little terracota legs which means no real option to have a tray underneath. Due to the shape of the pot I'm not sure whether it would be possible to get the plant out without destroying the pot itself? I don't really want a bigger planter / pot there so I'm scratching my head a bit. It's survived many years in the current set-up so was hoping I could sort of stay with that concept but it seems unlikely.

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,794
    Tricky. It would certainly be difficult to get it out without wrecking the pot, which is a shame, although it's sometimes possible to get a sharp knife or similar down the insides, and haul the plant out. I've done it with plants before.
    It's also easier when they're really dry, rather than wet. The opposite of the usual advice, but I've done it and find you can pull the plant out in a big lump because they've shrunk away a bit. I did it with a hefty phormium.
    Worth considering, and ivies are pretty tough, so it's unlikely that it would suffer too much. 
    You could then root prune it perhaps. Put it back in the pot and use soil only, and then it would be possible to use a saucer underneath if needed. 
    Just my thoughts of course  :)

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....



    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Dave HumbyDave Humby Posts: 1,145
    Mmm, more head scratching  :)

    There's about three inches between the the top of the current soil / compost level and the rim of the pot. What do you think @Fairygirl about filling the void with decent topsoil? It would mean covering the base of the ivy stems of course so I don't know if it would like that but it's pretty tough stuff generally. I know this would only perhaps be a 'bandaid' but it would be a few litres of soil in total that might help retain the moisture better. I could also scrap away some of the exhausted compost beforehand. Worth a try?
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,794
    Worth a try @Dave Humby.
    It'll probably produce more roots into the new soil, which may be a problem in itself, but it won't mind. I've done that frequently. I think keeping the moisture decent is probably the biggest challenge. If you can get that right, I think you might be ok for a while anyway.
    I have ivy along my back fence in a small raised bed. Last year I made the bed deeper, and I just chucked soil in to get the level up.
    All the ivy is fine, including a small, variegated one, which I would have thought might be less keen on my brutal methods.  ;)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....



    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
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