Why Is My Outdoor Ivy Turning Brown? Diagnosing the Cause

Outdoor Ivy Turning Brown

Have you noticed your outdoor ivy turning an unsightly shade of brown lately? Don’t panic, it happens to the best of us. As a gardener, seeing your plants suffer in any way can be disheartening. ‘

But the good news is, there are a few common causes for ivy turning brown, and the solutions are often simple. Before you go ripping out your ivy in frustration, take a deep breath and read on. We’ll walk you through the possible issues step-by-step and have your ivy back to its luscious green self in no time.

The problem could be anything from too much sun to pesky pests, so grab your gardening gloves and let’s get to the root of the problem, literally. With some TLC and the right remedy, you’ll be seeing green again soon!

Common Causes of Browning Ivy

Outdoor Ivy Turning Brown
Outdoor Ivy Turning Brown

If your outdoor ivy is turning brown, it’s usually a sign that something is off. Here are some of the most common causes:

Lack of Water

Ivy needs moist soil to thrive, so if it’s turning brown, it’s likely thirsty. Check if the top few inches of soil are dry – if so, give your ivy a good soak and mulch around the base to help retain moisture in the soil. Make sure not to overwater, though, as too much water can also cause browning.

Sunburn or Heat Damage

If your ivy gets too much intense sun exposure, especially in hot weather, its leaves can burn. Look for brown, scorched-looking patches on the leaves. Providing shade during the hottest parts of the day can help prevent sunburn.

Cold Damage

Cold weather can also damage ivy, causing the leaves to turn brown. Covering your ivy or moving potted plants indoors during freezing temperatures will protect it.

Pests or Disease

Insects like spider mites, aphids, and scale can feed on ivy and cause browning. Check under leaves for any signs of infestation. Fungal leaf spot disease can also lead to browning spots and holes in the leaves. Pruning infected leaves, improving air circulation, and applying a fungicide may help get an infestation under control.

By identifying the underlying cause of your ivy’s browning leaves, you can take steps to remedy the situation and restore your plant to health. With the proper care and conditions, your ivy’s lush green leaves will return in no time.

Improper Watering Practices

Outdoor Ivy Turning Brown

If your outdoor ivy is turning brown, the culprit is likely improper watering. Too much or too little H2O can stress out ivy and cause leaf browning.


Giving your ivy too much water essentially drowns the roots, depriving them of oxygen. To fix overwatering, allow the top few inches of soil to dry out completely between waterings. Only water when the top of the soil is dry to the touch.


On the flip side, if you’ve been slack with watering, your ivy may be thirsty. Ivy needs consistently damp soil, so for most climates, aim to water outdoor ivy 2-3 times a week. Check the soil before watering to determine if it’s dry. If so, saturate the soil until water flows from the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.

Improper drainage

If your ivy is planted in the ground or in a pot without drainage holes, excess water has nowhere to go. This leads to root rot and leaf browning. Improve drainage by amending the soil with perlite or pumice and ensuring any pots have drainage holes.

By properly diagnosing and fixing any watering issues, you can get your ivy back to good health. Consistent moisture, not too much and not too little, is key. Check on your ivy regularly, especially in hot or dry weather, to make sure the soil remains damp but not soggy. With some TLC, your ivy should start producing new green growth in no time!

Extreme Weather Conditions

Extreme weather can take a toll on your outdoor ivy. Temperature swings, heavy rain, drought, and wind can all potentially cause your ivy to turn brown.

Temperature Changes

Ivy prefers consistent temperatures and can suffer damage if there are sudden drops or spikes. Cold weather, especially freezing temperatures, can shock ivy and cause leaf browning. To protect ivy from the cold, cover it or move potted plants indoors when frost is expected.

Extreme heat in the summer can also scorch ivy leaves, especially if the plant is in a spot with reflected heat or full sun exposure during the hottest parts of the day. Make sure your ivy has shade during the hottest hours and the soil stays consistently damp. Mulching around the base of the plant will help the soil retain moisture.

Heavy Rain and Flooding

While ivy needs regular watering and rainfall, too much water can drown the roots and cause leaf drop or browning. If you’ve had an especially rainy season or heavy storms, the soil may have become waterlogged. Allow the soil to dry out before the next watering and consider amending the soil with compost or perlite to improve drainage. For potted ivy, be sure there are drainage holes in the container.

Drought Conditions

On the other end of the spectrum, lack of water during hot, dry weather can quickly lead to leaf browning in ivy. Ivy has shallow roots and depends on regular moisture, so check the soil frequently and water as soon as the top few inches become dry. For the health of your ivy, it’s best to water in the early morning when temperatures are cooler and the risk of disease is lower.

Providing the appropriate care and protection for your ivy based on seasonal changes and weather conditions will help ensure your plant stays green and healthy all year long. Make any necessary adjustments to watering, light exposure, temperature, and soil conditions and your ivy should recover quickly from any weather-related stress.

Pest and Disease Problems

If your outdoor ivy has started turning brown, several pest or disease problems could be the culprit. Carefully inspect your plant to determine the cause and remedy the situation before the damage becomes severe.

Spider Mites

Spider mites are tiny arachnids that spin webs and feed on plant leaves. Look for small webs on the undersides of leaves and tiny dots crawling on the webs. Leaves will turn bronze or brown and dry out. To control spider mites, increase humidity, spray plants with a strong jet of water, and apply insecticidal soap or predatory mites.


Aphids are small, pear-shaped insects that pierce leaves and suck sap. Leaves become curled, distorted, and covered in honeydew. Aphids can spread disease, so control them promptly. Apply insecticidal soap, neem oil, or release ladybugs and lacewings, which are natural aphid predators.

Leaf Spot Disease

Fungal leaf spot diseases cause round brown spots on leaves. As spots enlarge, they may merge and cause leaves to turn entirely brown. Fungicides can help control leaf spot. Also, improve air circulation, reduce moisture on leaves, and remove infected plant debris.

Root Rot

If the entire ivy plant is turning brown and dying, root rot is likely the problem. Roots decay in poorly drained, overly wet soil, cutting off the plant’s water and nutrient supply. Unfortunately, root rot is hard to reverse. Repot the ivy in fresh, well-draining potting mix and reduce watering frequency. The plant may recover if some healthy roots remain.

By observing your ivy closely, you should be able to detect the signs of common pests or diseases and take appropriate action. Early intervention is key to saving your plant. While treatment may not completely cure the problem, you can often get the infestation under control and allow new healthy growth to emerge. With regular monitoring and care, your ivy should thrive for years to come.

Improper Soil Conditions

Outdoor Ivy Turning Brown

If your outdoor ivy has started turning brown, the soil conditions could be the culprit. Ivy needs soil that drains well but also retains some moisture.

Improper pH

The pH level of your soil refers to how acidic or alkaline it is. Ivy prefers slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6 and 7. If your soil is too alkaline (pH above 7), the ivy can develop yellowing leaves and brown spots. You can test your soil’s pH with an inexpensive testing kit and adjust it by adding garden sulfur to lower the pH or lime to raise it.

Poor Drainage

Ivy does not like to sit in water, so soil that drains poorly can drown the roots. Check if your soil feels soggy or waterlogged. If so, you’ll need to improve drainage to prevent root rot. Add compost, perlite or gravel to the soil to create air pockets and allow water to drain freely. You should also ensure any planters have drainage holes and that the ivy is not sitting in a saucer of water.

Lack of Organic Matter

Ivy needs soil that is rich in nutrients like compost or peat moss. If your soil lacks organic matter, the ivy can develop brown, dry leaves due to nutrient deficiencies. Add compost, manure or peat moss to the soil around your ivy. Mix it in well and water thoroughly. The added organic matter will help improve soil structure and provide nutrients to your ivy.

Improper Fertilization

Too much or too little fertilizer can also cause leaf browning in ivy. Follow the directions on your product packaging and be careful not to overfertilize. During the growing season, fertilize outdoor ivy every few weeks. Reduce feeding in the fall when growth slows down. Fertilizer burn can occur if too much is applied, especially in hot weather. Always water ivy after fertilizing to prevent this.

By checking on these common soil issues, you should be able to get your outdoor ivy back to a healthy green color in no time. Let me know if you have any other questions!


Well, there you have it. After checking through the usual suspects like overwatering, underwatering, pests, or disease, you’ve figured out why your outdoor ivy is turning brown. Now that you know the cause, you can get to work fixing the issue and nursing your ivy back to health.

Don’t get discouraged if it takes time and patience. With the proper adjustments to its environment or care regimen, your ivy should start producing new green growth in no time. If after trying several remedies the problem continues, it may help to take a sample to your local garden center for an expert diagnosis.

But for now, you can rest easy knowing you’ve solved this horticultural mystery and your ivy is on the road to recovery.