I recently bought some English Ivy for indoors, at first everything was going well, it was growing fine and technically it still is mostly, but some leaves start getting brown on the edges and the brown spots get bigger and bigger until the whole leaf is dead. What's happening?

I read that it can be either too much water or not enough or a fungus or low humidity etc. and I hope you'll be able to help me identify the issue.

Here are some photos: https://i.sstatic.net/j3poE.jpg - please note that the holes in some of those leaves were already there as I bought them, new leaves don't get any more holes and the issue with those brown spots also starts to affect some new leaves.

  • Hmm .. it's obviously some sort of ivy, but the native English ivy that grows outdoors in my part of the UK (hedera helix) has glossy leaves, unlike yours - unless that is a symptom of your plant being very sick. woodlands.co.uk/blog/woodland-flowers/white-flowers/…
    – alephzero
    Commented Sep 5, 2018 at 11:47
  • OK so... is that a sign of overwatering or underwatering? And what about the brown spots? Commented Sep 5, 2018 at 11:55
  • This is a sign of overwatering
    – kevinskio
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 11:54

4 Answers 4


baltic ivy

You are overwatering. I think it would do better with more light, less watering. Do you know what fertilizer had been used on this plant before you purchased it? Looks fine for fertilizer right now. Plants taken from a sunny or highly lighted space and placed in a very low light space will start having thinning and larger leaves. As well as losing any gloss. Gloss is made by the plant when the epidermis is acclimated to actual sun. I think this plant is trying to survive in lower light levels with too much water.

What are you doing for fertilizer? Don't do anything for a while for sure. Also, more air flow.

I thought I already asked this question, I shall do it again. Did you transplant this plant in new soil, new pot? Learn the heft of the plant when soaked/watered. You will easily feel a marked difference in weight that will let you know when this plant needs to be watered. Do not water until your pot with plant and soil are light in weight.

  • 1
    Thanks for your input :) I don't know what fertilizer was used, I purchased it online, each one came with just a little bit of soil holding the root and the soil was quite dry with some white... dots (?) in it. I haven't specifically fertilized it yet as the (standard) soil I bought for it apparently has some fertilizer in it so I don't want to add even more to it. Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 11:31
  • Doesn't need fertilizer now at all. More light less water. Keep feeling the weight of the pot when watered and then the difference when dry. It is easy to know when to water and when to not water. I am glad you know that fertilizer was already in the mix you used! Next batch of soil make sure they did not add fertilizer (fertilizer is never a one size fits all), no added compost that wasn't sterilized and no added water holding gimmicks like gels or sponges. The cheapest potting soil as long as it has been sterilized is the best stuff for all plants in pots. No fertilizer for awhile!
    – stormy
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 22:16

When we imagine ivy growing in a natural context we imagine the plant with its roots in the forest soil at the base of a tree, the top part climbing up into the tree, or clambering over a shed or trained up a wall. We think of medium to low light, combined with almost constant soil moisture, not wet, and rained on by tree leaves that decompose to provide continuing weak fertilizer. Leaves sometimes glossy, other times matt but still substantially leathery making fungus possible but unlikely.

Your plant seems to have a history. See the base of one of the multiple plants has been cut at some time forcing the plant to send out shoots further down. My guess is the plant has been in the same soil for some time, the pruning has removed much of the nourishment that was available and now the reserves are very low. It has probably had water but needs weak feeding. Consider repotting to refresh the growing conditions.

  • Thanks for your input. I bought the plants merely 1 month a go and that's when I potted them so it's been in fresh new soil for just 4 weeks. Commented Sep 5, 2018 at 13:58

That looks to be quite a shallow pot its growing in, unless we can only see the top of it, so repotting into something with a little more depth might be useful, using new potting soil.

When you water, do you empty out the outer pot after 30 minutes if there's any sitting in there? If not, then do so - water when the surface of the soil feels just about dry to the touch, water thoroughly, allowing the excess to drain away freely from the bottom of the pot. And empty out the outer pot 30 minutes later so its not left sitting in water.

It is a Hedera helix variety, not sure which. When you repot, or if you don't, turn it out of its pot and inspect the roots/rootball for signs of invaders, just to make sure there's nothing that shouldn't be there at the root.

Otherwise, has it been in direct sun? If so, remove it from direct sunlight - it will prefer medium to bright daylight and relatively cool temperatures. If the humidity is very low indoors, that can cause browning at the edge of the leaves, so don't stand it near any heat source (radiator, computer and so on). Otherwise, it looks relatively healthy, evidenced by the new and glossy leaves growing at the top.

UPDATE: Now you've posted an image showing the whole pot and the plant, far from the pot it's in being too shallow, it's actually too large. It's always best to pot up by one or two sizes at most; too large of a pot means a lot of soil that is unoccupied by roots, yet you need to keep that soil moist or the small rootball of the plant dries out. This means the plant is either sitting in sour, waterlogged soil, or has insufficient water - either way, it suffers. I suggest you repot into something of a more suitable size, then move it into the larger pot once its grown on some.

  • Thanks :)The pots only looks shallow, in reality their depth is 15cm and 17cm, that's how the full pot looks like: imgur.com/a/NAXg8FO The plants are never in direct sunlight, they hang on walls in a room facing north so it only has indirect light from the windows. As for watering, since it's a very new plant (I bought it 4 weeks ago) so far I only watered it 3 times (once per week) and not too much so there wasn't any excess water to remove. I suspect I might have overwatered them as the soil was still moist. Not sure if I should spray them with water while the soil dries a bit. Commented Sep 5, 2018 at 14:16
  • Don't fuss too much over watering, so long as you don't overwater. They are tough as old boots growing outside. I've spent years trying to kill some that are growing up my house wall, "rooted" in the quarter-inch-wide crack between the brickwork and a solid concrete driveway! Cutting them down to ground level doesn't work - they just start growing again from the roots next spring. And glyphosate doesn't work either! (They are growing in the full midday sun with no shade at all - so much for "liking" shady damp conditions!
    – alephzero
    Commented Sep 5, 2018 at 14:42
  • Spraying them will be a waste of time, if they have healthy looking glossy leaves. The water will just run straight off, or form droplets that don't get absorbed by the plant.
    – alephzero
    Commented Sep 5, 2018 at 14:47
  • Hmm, the pot, far from being too shallow, is actually too big for such a small plant - its always best to move up one size, two at the most, when repotting. The problem with too large pot is you have to water more to keep all that empty soil moist, and then the plant stuck in the top towards the middle becomes waterlogged and the empty soil may 'sour'. If you don't water enough, the rootball dries out... so actually, it needs a smaller pot till it's grown on some.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Sep 5, 2018 at 16:24
  • Reg. pot size - that's interesting, I thought the bigger the pot the better. In fact, the plants in the bigger pot suffer from this leaf browning much less than the ones in the smaller pot, I suspect that because there's so much soil in the bigger pot, the overwatered part of it is much deeper so the plant doesn't sit in water as much as the one in the smaller pot did. Anyway, thanks for the feedback, I'll see what I can do :) Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 11:34

You can mist it. I’ve been misting mine every couple days. And my plant looks better already. I water once a week also unless it feels moist when I stick my pinky in it. I let the water run threw till it starts to come out of the bottom.

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