Boston Ivy

(Question)

Presently I have Boston Ivy on my garage and I love it.

I am erecting a fence along my lot line which will connect or join with my existing fence.

I want to cover the new wood fence also with ivy. My plan is to have a channel drain and secure this at the bottom of the fence. Fill this channel drain with soil and a soaker hose and then the vines will grow up the fence, cling and stick to the fence and I will have a living wall of ivy all along my fence.

I don’t have any dirt ground because the one side of the fence is my neighbours and ‘my side’ is driveway. This little trough at the bottom should do the trick – I hope.

My question:
How big do you think the channel has to be ‘wide and deep’ in order to sustain the ivy? My fence will be about 120 feet in length and I will use seeds and drop seeds all along so hopefully they don’t have super huge roots and can be fine in a 3 inch channel drain co cover?

Anyway let me know if you think that this would work or whether I am wasting my time.

I have been trying to see thin planters for ivy on the web but can’t see any and don’t know the minimum requirements.

Thanks in advance.

(Answer)

Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) is certainly a wonderful vine for quick coverage of brick walls and fences; the deciduous foliage emerges a purplish green in the spring and becomes a brilliant red in the fall; otherwise, the glossy, green leaves provide an attractive cover for walls and fences. The ivy easily adheres to walls and fences due to the adhesive disks on its climbing tendrils; it would not take long for the Boston ivy to cover your new 120 ft. fence.

However, your idea of planting seeds (or cuttings) in a 3″ channel drain attached to the lower part of the fence next to an asphalt driveway would probably not be a successful way to grow the Boston ivy along your fence. Even though you plan to include a soaker hose in the channel drain, presumably to keep the soil moist for the plants, three inches would not provide enough room to sustain a growing Boston ivy. The root of the Boston ivy is a “stout woody tap root” and would definitely need more room to become established. It is recommended when transplanting pots of Boston ivy, that one prepare a hole between 8 to 12 inches in diameter and deep enough to maintain the level of soil of the transplant pot. And even if starting plants from seed, it is recommended that the soil be cultivated to a depth of 6 inches.

Another issue with planting Boston ivy in a channel drain would be that the channel would presumably be sitting above or next to your asphalt driveway. Depending upon which direction your side of the fence faces, the heat generated from the surface of your driveway would be detrimental to anything growing in the channel drain, even though moisture may be provided by the soaker hose to mitigate the soil drying up. The opposite will also be true in the winter as the narrow diameter of the channel will freeze rapidly. Growing Boston ivy in containers anywhere outdoors would be a challenge.

A better suggestion might be to discuss your project with your neighbour, who may be willing to let you plant the seeds or seedlings on his/her side of the fence; you could create some holes in the lower part of your fence and train some of the young vines onto your side of the fence. The fence would be covered more quickly–a win-win-win situation: the plants will thrive and both you and your neighbour would enjoy and share your love for the easy-maintenance of the Boston ivy with the colourful display throughout the seasons.

Thanks for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners. We wish you all the best with your project.