Hedera colchica – the parent plant sometimes referred to as Persian Ivy or Bullock’s Heart Ivy – is an extremely hardy evergreen Ivy with large heart-shaped leaves – that has a number of interesting variegated offspring. The four ivies in the group have each been awarded the coveted RHS AGM – the Award of Garden Merit – and not without good reason.
All climb by way of aerial roots which attach themselves to wall, tree trunk, or any other firm surface.
With a little thought, it is easy to see why the all green Hedera colchica has the common name of ‘Bullock’s Heart’ for the broad heart shape leaves probably resemble the heart of a bullock in both shape and size. Once established the leaves are around 4 – 6in long (15cm) and will soon cover a wall or groundcover patch with a spread or height of up to 10 metres.
For a wall of that is green all year – or a ground cover par excellence – Hedera colchica would be a superb choice with the added advantage of being a robust, vigorous climber – or spreader.
Hedera colchica ‘Dentata’ is green leaved with slightly toothed edges (Dentata Lat. = Toothed). This time the leaves are even larger, being up to 10in 25cm long – still heart shaped and a brighter colour than the former. The large leaves are slightly incurved, but not enough to hide their size.
Hedera colchica ‘Dentata Variegata’, is one of the more flamboyant Ivies with large leaves splashed with creamy yellow variegation. This makes it one of the most popular of the oft-maligned Ivy group. This variegated Ivy has so many uses in the garden and is very user friendly in that it is happy in virtually any soil - other than acid.
Added to that, it is happy in full sun or partial shade and once established, is a quick growing evergreen climber that will brighten up a darkish corner, pergola, wall, or fence. All this in every season of the year! I particularly like it in the autumn, not that it changes colour being evergreen, but because it is a bright golden spot amongst the autumn foliage colours. Mix it with the brilliant reds of the Boston Ivy for a dazzling effect in the autumn.
Hedera colchica ‘Sulphur Heart’ or sometimes Hedera ‘Paddy’s Pride’ is fast growing, evergreen and has all the attributes of ‘Dentata Variegata’ but this time with sulphur yellow central leaf splashes which sometimes radiate outwards to the leaf edges. (I am at odds with the RHS who describe the colour as creamy yellow. That surely is the colour description for “Dentata Variegata’) Certainly the one I have photographed in an RHS garden has had the sulphur yellow or lime green splashes rather than creamy yellow.
The yellow flowers are a little insignificant - though loved by honey bees. Birds like a winter feed on the black berry fruits that follow. The foliage is bright throughout the year - rarely suffering any winter damage - though sometimes can be scorched in constant hot sun.
It is self-clinging to more or less any support, and is superb trained up a tree, trellis or along a garden wall.
Plant Hedera colchica types in any but the most acid of soils - either in full sun or light shade. Train against a solid support for the aerial roots to take hold or train with wires or trellis section over pergola.
Prune as and when required, but if you decide to cut back, be aware that you will have to remove the aerial climbing roots from the surface. Far better to be aware of its potential spread rate before planting!
Happy if planted against wall facing whichever aspect the wall is. South, North, East ir west – it matters not!
Can be affected by the usual group of sap sucking insect pests – including aphids and red spider mite. Brown scale insects are also sometimes a problem. First sign of any such pest is normally a deposit of sooty mould on the leaves.
All parts of the plant can cause severe stomach pains if eaten.
Softwood tip cuttings can be rooted – though not easily. Far better to take semi ripe stem cuttings in mid to late summer.