English Ivy Has Bugs or Disease: Prevention and Removal

When working with plants, a gardener will run into a variety of different problems. English Ivy, in particular, is at risk of a variety of diseases, infestations, and damages, depending on its environment. Whether you are growing your ivy inside or outside, there are risks of damage that may overtake the plant if it is not properly cared for. 

You can prevent or remove bugs or disease from English Ivy by removing dead leaves and stems, watering the plant early in the day, applying fungicide treatments, picking bugs off, spraying with pesticides, or applying oil extract. The appropriate treatment depends on the exact nature of the issue. 

In order to better tend this plant then, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the types of problems that you may face while growing English Ivy. In order to properly do this, though, we first need to look at how English ivy is grown. 

How English Ivy Is Grown

Generally, English Ivy is grown as a houseplant, often in hanging baskets. It’s usually grown on gardening frames, and into various forms of shapes. The growth of ivy spreads quite far, so maintaining the health of your ivy is even more important in that respect.  

When growing ivy indoors, the chances of getting a disease are quite low, as it’s easier to control the environment. However, if your soil mix doesn’t drain properly, or is being watered too often, you may be at risk of giving your ivy a disease. Therefore, it’s important to be familiar with the types of diseases that are out there and how to prevent and control them.

Diseases: Identification and Prevention

The most common diseases that face English Ivy are anthracnose, bacterial leaf spot, edema, and pathogens such as phytophthora. Now generally, these diseases should not overcome your ivy if it is being grown indoors, which is most common. 

However, if you’re working with this plant outside, or if you have tricky soil, there is a greater chance that it will gain a disease. Therefore, it is vital to familiarize yourself both with the types of diseases facing ivy and how to prevent/ control them. 

Anthracnose

Anthracnose is not one particular disease, but a series of diseases that affects plants in a similar way. Besides English ivy, it is most known for the damage that is done to trees. It is caused by a fungus, and similar to rust, survives and thrives upon moist and warm conditions; it’s generally spread during watering. 

Prevention and removal: In order to control anthracnose, you need to be careful to practice good sanitation. There are various methods for this, including:

  • Removing dead leaves and stems, and other debris on a regular basis.
  • Water early every day so that the plant is dried by the end of the day.
  • Refrain from handling plants while they are still wet.
  • Make use of fungicide treatments in accordance with their label directions.

It’s important to note that chlorothalonil plant products used for cleaning are known to cause some foliage distortion and discoloration upon application to English ivy. Therefore, it is advisable to properly research cleaning products before applying them to your ivy. 

Bacterial Leaf Spot

Bacterial leaf spot is often confused with anthracnose, as the symptoms are quite similar. It’s caused by a bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris and is the most common disease for English ivy. It’s most severe in hothouse nurseries or landscapes where the levels of humidity are high. This bacteria is generally known to leave green-brown, brown, and black water-soaked spots, resembling oil. 

Prevention and removal: In order to control and prevent the presence of bacterial leaf spot, there are a few main techniques that you can use, including:

  • Avoiding overhead watering if that’s possible.
  • Don’t work near the ivy while it’s still wet.
  • Discard all of the diseased plant foliage in the area where your ivy is growing (infected plants, crop debris, etc.).
  • Use a compatible disinfectant to clean all tools and materials used to tend your ivy.
  • Use protective chemical sprays.

Edema

Edema is a disease caused by excessive water levels in a plant. It’s generally spotted on greenhouse plants; however, it is also found on landscape ivy. Symptoms tend to be water-soaked blisters on the underside of leaves. These blisters often grow larger and more severe during continuous wet and cloudy weather.

Prevention and removal: In order to control and prevent edema, it’s important to practice monitored irrigation, especially if you run on a timed watering system. Be sure not to overwater, and space the plants around your ivy in order to prevent additional problems. Unfortunately, there is no chemical treatment for edema, so controlling it’s growing environment through natural methods is the best way to prevent this disease from overcoming your ivy. 

Phytophthora Root Rot/Leaf Spot

Phytophthora is a pathogen that causes root rot and leaf spots, though rot is not as common. This pathogen is particularly found in landscape and greenhouse ivy. Generally, the symptoms of this disease cause poor color and growth. Usually, the leaves will brown. 

This pathogen is spread by movement of infected plants, soil, and water. It’s generally caused by excessive moisture in the plant soil. Therefore, it is important to note that growing English ivy on grounds known to flood, or in poorly drained soil will increase the chances of phytophthora infecting it. 

Prevention and removal: In order to control or prevent this pathogen from infecting your ivy, consult the following methods:

  • Use pathogen-free potting and stock plants.
  • Dispose of all your diseased plants.
  • Use treatments that prevent fungicide in the greenhouse or nursery.
  • Clean tools and materials used to tend the ivy with disinfectant.
  • Clean pots used to grow ivy with disinfectant.
  • Mix soil with amendments that will increase water drainage.

It’s very important to read through these diseases and symptoms, in order to prevent your English ivy from becoming infected. Many of the methods used for each individual disease can be used for most of them, such as preventing overwatering, cleaning out dead foliage, and cleaning/sanitizing your tools properly. Nevertheless, you are further ahead to consult the methods specific to each disease in order to extend the life of your plant more effectively. 

Bugs/Infestations: Identification and Prevention

When growing ivy as a houseplant, the most common insect infestations are from aphids, mealybugs, mites, whiteflies, and scale. There are a variety of methods you can use to prevent or control these infestations. Some simple ones are pruning out the infected parts of the ivy, washing it regularly, and lining the pot with foil or plastic.

However, you are further ahead to review the cleaning and controlling methods specific to each individual pest so that you can better maintain the lifespan of your ivy. 

Aphids

Aphids are tiny bugs that feed on new plant growth, usually on the underside of leaves or on the surface of roots. They absorb up plant sap, which is how they cause damage to plants, by yellowing and misshaping the leaves through the sap. When aphids eat, they exude a sugar-like substance called honeydew, causing the leaves to become sticky and give off a shiny hue. Moldy fungus tends to grow upon the honeydew, resulting in dark splotches upon the plant.

Prevention and removal: There are a number of ways to prevent and remove aphids from your ivy. If you have a minor infestation, you can try the following methods:

  • Handpicking the bugs.
  • Spraying down the ivy with water.
  • Removing bugs using a cotton swab coated with rubbing alcohol.
  • Washing ivy with insecticidal soap.
  • Washing with neem oil extract.

If your infestation is heavy, you may want to consider disposing of the plant altogether. However, if you catch aphids early on, you should be able to reasonably control the infestation and remove them before any real damage is done. 

Mealybugs

Mealybugs are small creatures. They have a pale coloration, and are often related to scales. The female bugs cover themselves in a white wax-like material that makes them resemble the look and texture of cotton. The wax on mealybugs acts to prevent pesticides from acting, which makes these types of bugs very hard to control. 

These insects are generally found on the lower surface of leaves, as well as leaf axils. Similar to aphids, these bugs produce honeydew, which allows moldy fungus to grow on ivy leaves. 

Prevention and removal: In order to prevent and control the presence of mealybugs, try the following:

  • Handpick them off the plant. If your infestation is new and/or light, this method is easy rather effective. It’s not recommended, however, if the infestation is heavier. 
  • Wipe off with a cotton swab coated in rubbing alcohol.
  • Spray them with neem oil, imidacloprid, pyrethrins, cyfluthrin, permethrin, or acetamiprid.

For a more serious infestation, you may consider throwing out your ivy plant if you find it’s hard to control. If you take care to familiarize yourself with aphid signs and habits, however, you may be able to catch them before any real damage has been done. 

Spider Mites

Spider mites aren’t generally considered insects, but rather a type of arachnid. They are very small, so visible damage to plants is usually the initial sign of an infestation. Normally you’ll spot spiderwebs when the infestation is more serious. Spider mites harm plants by consuming their sap, which results in speckled leaves, giving your ivy a faded look. 

It’s important to keep on top of mites, for if they are left alone too long, the leaves will become yellowed, and your ivy will die. It’s important to note that mites are more prevalent in indoor houseplants than on outdoor plants, making outdoor plants a lower risk. 

Prevention and removal: In order to properly control and remove the presence of spider mites, take advantage of the following methods:

  • Spray ivy all over forcibly with water, in order to break up the spiderwebs and flush out the mites.
  • Spray once a week for several weeks with insecticide-coated soap, an insecticide that contains sulfur, or neem oil extract.

If you are growing your ivy indoors and this problem is persistent, try placing it outside during the summer in order to reduce the number of mites. 

Fungus Nats

Nat larvae tend to feed on the fungus present in plant soil. Some species of fungus nats also like to eat roots. If you have a heavy infestation, the leaves from your ivy plant may fall off. When growing your ivy indoors, nats are generally an issue when you’re potting soil that has a lot of organic matter. This is usually caused due to overwatering the plants. Therefore, taking the time to water your ivy evenly will enable you to prevent your ivy from nats altogether. 

However, if they presented themselves before you were able to catch them, consult the following method:

Prevention and removal: The solution to fixing this problem is quite simple. If your plant can stand it, let the soil dry off in between watering. If your ivy is living in drier conditions, the larvae will naturally die off. 

Whiteflies

Whiteflies are not actually flies, but rather are more similar to the above-mentioned aphids and mealybugs. They have a similar appearance to white moths. While resting, their wings are held at an angle and cover the body like a roof. The damage they cause is similar to aphids, as whiteflies give off honeydew, promoting the growth of moldy fungus. Ultimately, the infested plant may end up stunted in growth, and the leaves will turn yellow and die. 

Prevention and removal: The solution to removing whiteflies is very simple. All that is required is to spray the ivy with insecticidal soap, in particular on the lower surface of plant leaves. Placing imidacloprid plant spikes in the soil will also contribute to warding off the files.

When whiteflies are disturbed, they flutter around before settling again. It’s therefore easy to spot them, enabling you to catch the infestation before it grows too heavy. 

Scale

Scales are insects that appear in a variety of species on houseplants. They come into basically two categories – soft scales and armored scales. Both groups create a waxy seal over the top of their bodies; however, it is only an essential part of the soft scale body and not the armored scale. This wax can be removed from the armored scale in order to identify and locate the insect beneath it. 

Scales can vary widely in appearance, depending on gender, age, and species. They are often found on the surfaces of stems and the underside of leaves. However, you can also find them on the upper surface of leaves as well. 

They also harm the plant by consuming the plant sap. Similar to the above-mentioned insects, scale is known to excrete honeydew, causing mold on the plant and its stems. However, these creatures don’t excrete honeydew. 

Prevention and removal: In order to prevent and/or remove scale, refer to the following methods:

  • Handpick/ scrape off the plant using your fingernail (this works well if the infestation is early or not very heavy).
  • Spray with canola oil and/or neem oil extract to control adult scales.
  • Wash plant with insecticidal soap, pyrethrins, permethrin, cyfluthrin, imidacloprid, or acetamiprid.

Other Minor Care Methods

Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the cleaning and prevention methods for bugs and diseases, it’s important to consider a couple of minor tasks to develop into your plant care routine for further maintenance. 

  • Water ivy thoroughly, and allow the soil to dry before watering again.
  • Give your ivy plenty of light, but don’t place it in the direct sunlight. This will ensure that the plant’s natural color will stay intact.
  • Plant your ivy in a container with decent drainage. This was mentioned earlier in the article, but it cannot be overstated. You will avoid a lot of work and plant maintenance simply by choosing the right type of planter for your ivy, as well as the soil that you have chosen to plant with. 
  • Fertilize the ivy while it is actively growing. Use a foliar fertilizer specific to its labeled directions. However, make certain to refrain from fertilizing once the plant has finished growing, and/or when temperatures begin to drop.
  • Re-pot the ivy if it’s getting too heavy at its top, if the roots are overtaking, or if it’s beginning to dry out. Be careful not to plant with a pot too large, as the soil may take longer to dry, which may lead to root rot. 

Final Thoughts

When working with plants such as English ivy, it’s important to be familiar with all types of diseases and infestations it may get. Problems such as anthracnose, bacterial leaf spot, and edema can be solved by doing such things as rooting out dead foliage, using protective chemical sprays, and monitoring your irrigation. 

Infestations such as aphids, mealybugs, and scale can be controlled by washing the ivy with insecticidal soap, handpicking insects off the plant, and spraying with oils. 

There are a handful of other practices you can develop into your regular plant care routine; giving your ivy proper sunlight, using containers that have proper drainage, and fertilizing are all simple tasks that can help you to extend the life of your ivy as well as help prevent the causation of diseases and infestations.

As you continue to better familiarize yourself with these practices, you will not only be able to properly maintain your ivy, but you’ll improve your skills as a gardener and further your enjoyment in plant care. 

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