How to Get Rid of English Ivy in the Landscape

english ivy hedera helixEnglish ivy (Hedera helix) is taking over my garden, the bigger landscape and even my house. How can I kill and remove this aggressive vine for good?

Answer: English ivy, or Hedera helix, is a quick-spreading vine that can invade large areas, often smothering trees and other groundcovers, consuming all the nutrients and blocking sunlight. These aggressive plants are also known to cause wild fires to spread, with flames climbing up the vine-covered trees, igniting the foliage in a blaze of fire.

Here are a few tips on how to get rid of English ivy:
•    Proper attire: It is important to cover up before removing ivy. Put on a pair of durable gloves and remember to wear long sleeves, long pants and proper shoes to keep ivy from touching your skin. Though nothing like poison ivy, English ivy may cause skin irritation.
•    Removing ivy from trees: Make sure not to pull on ivy that is above you—bees/bird nests may be hidden within the ivy.  You should remove any English ivy from the base of the trunk to roughly 3 to 5 feet high—remove the vine at least to waist level. (With its roots thus removed, higher ivy should eventually die off.) To properly eradicate the aggressive vine from the tree, place a screwdriver or any flat, sturdy object—such as a pry bar, under the vine and gently pull away from the tree. Depending on the thickness of the vine, cut with gardening shears or a pruning saw. Be careful not to damage the tree’s bark. Once the ivy is removed from the tree, make sure to pull any roots from the ground, as deep as possible, 6 feet around the base of the tree. Check back often for any regrowth and remove it.
•    General removal: There are several different approaches to removing English ivy that do not require the use of toxic herbicides. Here are a few methods for general ground removal:

  • You can mow ivy groundcover to ground level several times a year to slowly kill the spreading vine.
  • With a pair of thick gardening gloves, pull out any English ivy, making sure to remove all of the roots. A trowel can be used over hand-pulling to help with any stubborn roots. Check the eradicated area often and pull out any new growth or leftover plants that may have survived. Some gardeners suggest waiting until the soil is moist because roots will not adhere as much to the soil and can be removed much easier.
  • Some use white vinegar as an alternative to herbicides for English ivy removal. Put the vinegar in a sprayer or spray bottle, and lather the vine thoroughly—making sure not to squirt any nearby vegetation.  Wait roughly a week or so, and check treated areas for dead/dying ivy. Remove any dead ivy and repeat treatment as necessary until all ivy is gone. Others recommend a solution of salt, liquid soap and water as a natural herbicide.

•    After removal: Make sure to throw away the removed ivy immediately after removal because new plants can grow from cut/broken stems. Do not compost it, as it will root in your compost pile!
    Mulch: Cover the eradicated area with a thick layer of mulch—typically 6 to 8 inches—to keep the English ivy from returning.

Image: Alain.jotterand
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