Hydroponic Ivy Growth Encouragement

by Solomon Mansoor
(Los Angeles)

I am about to build a restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. Part of my design calls for an indoor brick wall 16' high, receiving no sun at all, where I would like to plant NOW a hydroponic Ivy system and nurture it's growth during construction. I plan to open in 7 months. The idea would be to protect the ivy by day with a plastic sheet wall, and then turn on grow lights at night with the plastic down.

Two questions. Any cool Ivy recommendations?
Any cheap but effective lighting recommendations? Thank You!

Answer: Solomon- First of all, I love the idea. Most Ivy varieties thrive in near full sun; however, they will tolerate shade. This makes them a very good choice for an indoor plant. You may even want to incorporate a few ferns into your green wall! They would require the same lighting and hydroponic nutrient strength- about 700 ppm of a 10-10-10 formula, and would add a great bit of variety to the area. The Ivy itself can be all one strain, or a combination of dark green and variegated varieties. A combination of different shades of green, or a combination of two different leaf shapes would also be very eye-catching.

The more light your Ivy plants receive, the more quickly the plants will grow....and they will use slightly more nutrients also. While slow growth might be preferable once your restaurant opens (for ease of maintenance you can reduce light and fertilizer), you may desire faster growth rates in the 7 months leading up to your grand opening. Fast growing varieties can add two or three feet to their length in one year.

If you use sizable Ivy cuttings to start with (for example, 3 feet in length), you will be able to cover about 5 feet of your wall with each Ivy plant by the time you open. For more coverage, you will need to either start with longer Ivy plants, or you will need to plant some of the Ivy into the center of your wall....and somehow figure out a good hydroponic system for feeding and watering these Ivy plants. Hopefully you have time to consider this before building your wall. I have pictures here of at least one wall-hung hydroponic system. Others can be designed using many different techniques.

One other method of growing to consider would be to plant the Ivy at the top of the wall, and allow the Ivy to hang down as it is grown. This encourages faster growth of the runners, as long as you prevent them from coming into contact with the wall and attaching themselves. Once you have substantially long runners, you can then train them onto the wall in any position you like and allow them to attach to the wall. This method is used by commercial growers who produce Ivy for florists for use as fillers in flower arrangements.

If having a skylight is an option, this would be an excellent solution for lighting your Ivy wall. Or, if the wall can be positioned near a South facing picture-glass window, this would also be very good. In the absence of any natural light, you have two options. You can use a 400 watt or 600 watt metal halide light, which would cover a larger area and encourage a faster growth rate, or you can use fluorescent lights....which would support slower growth rates and which illuminate a much smaller area effectively. Be sure to follow the links above for more information on each lighting option.

Lastly, I am no Ivy expert. With a little additional research, you may be able to find a faster growing Ivy variety. I hope this helps Solomon, and Happy Growing!

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Jul 19, 2010
by: Solomon

Very appreciative for the feedback on Ivy, and for taking the time to answer. Please be sure to keep track of my progress, as I will gladly buy you a meal when you are in town, once my place is open, lol. I will be posting questions frequently in the coming months, I am sure. Cheers.

Added Response: Yes, I would be very interested to hear about your progress Solomon. Feel free to write whenever you have additional questions, I am happy to help when I can.

Jul 12, 2010
Plant Weight
by: Kevin

What a nice, cool idea - to plant Ivy in that manner. If I may, I'd like to add my little bit. Ivy is heavy, and by heavy I mean that the Russian Ivy ("Mile-a-Minute" Ivy) I planted many years ago brought down it's metal chain-link fencing support in under two years, and needed lots of maintenance to manage it. For you, this means making sure that your Ivy support is substantial. Hopefully it is not the sort of Ivy that likes to put it's tendrils into the mortar-work of the bricks for support. Also, my mother had a small cafe one time and installed a water feature. Some customers complained about the noise of the water making them wanting to use the toilet, while others delighted in its therapeutic effects and the wash of negative ions that the splashing water creates. Good luck with both ventures!

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