Three Terrific Native Subs for Ivy

Removing invasive plants is an easy place to start if you are interested in gardening for the Chesapeake.  English ivy (Hedera helix) is so common across the watershed and it is easy to see why.  No maintenance needed; it crowds out weeds; and it’s evergreen.  Even if you are diligent about keeping your ivy under control like this, IMG_6311it still spreads. Birds eat the berries and the rest is history.  Never see any berries on your ivy? They are there — just “inconspicuous” as they are often described.

These three natives are up to the ivy replacement task and semi-evergreen to evergreen depending on your location and garden conditions.  They, like ivy, also tolerate a range of conditions from full shade to partial sun.

IMG_6292Native pachysandra (Pachysandra procumbens), is similar to common Japanese pachysandra with one plus. Native pachysandra foliage has a blue tint providing a subtle contrast. It also grows reliably but not aggresively.


Green and gold, also known as golden star, (Chrysogonum virginianum) is a pretty plant. It spreads easily, needs no care and blooms with small yellow flowers brightening shady spots.

Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) is also a good, albeit taller, substitute for ivy.  While the plants won’t spread in the way native pachysandra and green and gold do, the plants do get more robust each growing season filling in space.


Plus, watching the new fronds of Christmas fern unfurl in spring makes ivy look positively boring!  To look for places to buy these plants, check here.

Once you remove your ivy and plant native replacements, you will need patience and applications of mulch, soil conditioner or compost to keep the weeds out while your new plants grow in.

More information:

For a range map and growing notes about native pachysandra from North Creek Nurseries, please look here.

For more complete information about green and gold from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, please go here.

For an informative overview about using ferns in Chesapeake landscapes, check out this from Piedmont Master Gardeners.





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Nuts for Natives, avid gardener, Baltimore City admirer, Chesapeake Bay Watershed restoration enthusiast, and public service fan.

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