How To Grow Trailing Ivy-Leaved Toadflax: Perfect for Informal Cottage Gardens!

Ivy-leaved toadflax is a beautiful Perennial trailing plant with evergreen leaves and dainty lilac flowers. Mostly found creeping on old walls and in the cracks and crevices of pavements and shingle beaches. This romantic plant is perfect for informal cottage gardens and partial shade. Find out how to grow it and how to use it…

ivy leaved toadflax

A plant Of Many Names!

Ivy-leaved toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis) has been known by many names! Such as wandering sailor, Kenilworth ivy, Oxford ivy, mother of millions and coliseum ivy…to name a few! But these names were not just plucked from the air, this plant has been on quite the journey..

‘Mother of Millions’ and ‘Travelling Sailor’, gives a nod to the plants easy ability to colonise its environment many miles from its Italian homeland. ‘Kenilworth Ivy’ due to its vigorous growth on Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire. Coliseum ivy, named after the structures it once grew on.

In the book ‘ Reading The Landscape of Europe’ May Petrea Theilgaard Watts (1893-1975), an American naturalist, writer, poet, illustrator, and educator, calls the plant ‘Runes-de-Rome’.

“Clinging to the massive masonry that lifts Chateaudun above the Loire Valley, it undoubtedly felt the breath of molten lead poured on the enemy from the apertures above and received many a misdirected arrow from below.”

But how did this robust plant get here?…

Ivy-Leaved Toadflax history

Ivy-leaved Toadflax was originally brought to the UK from southern Europe in the early seventeenth century. It is believed the seeds had stowed away in the packing materials which protected imported marble statues from Italy.

When the statues arrived in Oxford, so did Ivy-Leaved Toadflax! (Hence why it is sometimes called Oxford ivy) Over the centuries it has taken a liking to our climate and our walls, and happily naturalised far and wide!

Ivy-Leaved toadflax Characteristics

This delightful trailing plant is a member of the plantain family, which also includes flowers such as snapdragons and foxgloves.  It is easily recognised with its evergreen ivy shaped leaves and pretty mauve flowers (which resemble tiny snapdragons).

The leaves are heart-shaped, or kidney shaped and often blushed with purple on their undersides.

The flowers are veined in deep purple with a yellow ‘throat’ and in the UK, the plant has a long bloom period from May-September.

The plants reddish creeping stems root as they grow, forming a low growing mass reaching heights of upto 10 cm with a spread of 50 cm. Its roots are thin and fibrous, perfect for reaching into cracks.

ivy leaved toadflax

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Not Just a pretty flower!

Did you Know That Ivy-leaved Toadflax is edible? Yep, leaves and flowers can be tossed in salads and enjoyed al fresco! They are also high in Vitamin C and taste a little like watercress.

You can also use toadflax flowers to dress up your summer drinks!…

Ivy leaved toadflax

Simply pop some Ivy-leaved toadflax flowers and leaves in an ice cube tray, top with water and freeze! Add them to summer drinks to impress your guests!

How To Grow Ivy-leaved toadflax

Ivy-leaved Toadflax can be grown via seed or by removing sections of stem…

Ivy-leaved toadflax Growing happily in my Garden

Growing From A Cutting 

  • Take cuttings in spring or summer. Select a cutting that is roughly 4-6 inches long and remove all the lower leaves.
  • Dip the cut end in rooting hormone, and plant in a good quality compost. Place it in a sheltered but sunny location
  • Keep the soil moist and wait for new growth to appear before planting it in its final place

Growing From Seed

Buy Ivy-leaved Toadflax seeds

  • Sow indoors or under glass in spring (March-June)
  • Surface sow onto moist, well-drained compost. Cover lightly with a sprinkling of compost.
  • Place on a sunny windowsill and cover with a propagator lid or cellophane bag. Germination may take 2-4 weeks.
  • When seedlings are large enough to handle, pot them on into individual pots and grow on.
  • Plant out once all risk of frost has passed. * Be sure to Harden off indoor raised plants first.

What Does Hardening Off Mean?
Plants raised indoors or in a greenhouse environment, need to be acclimatised to cooler temperatures and increased air movement for about two to three weeks before they are planted outdoors permanently. This is a ‘toughening up’ practice to prepare the plants for their new environment.

How to Harden Off
Place your plants out for a couple of hours in a shady part of the garden. The next day, leave them out again for two hours, but this time allow the plants an hour of direct sunshine in the morning. Gradually continue to increase the length of time the plants are in direct sunshine over the course of roughly two weeks.

Where to Plant Ivy-leaved toadflax

It prefers any moderately fertile soil in a semi-shade/ sunny spot. Perfect for cracks in paving, or for trailing down walls.

Will Ivy-Leaved Toadflax Self Seed ?

Yes it self seeds readily

Is Ivy-Leaved Toadflax Invasive?

Although it will readily self seed, Ivy-Leaved Toadflax is a non-invasive plant, meaning it will not spread too vigorously and take over your garden.

Suggested planting and garden types for Ivy-leaved toadflax

  • Cottage and informal gardens
  • Gravel gardens
  • Rock gardens
  • Wildlife gardens
  • Patio and container plants
  • Ground cover
  • Walls, steps, around paving and side borders

More Beautiful flowers to grow…




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