Ground English ivy before it takes over
Sure, English ivy covering the side of your home can make it look like you live in a storybook cottage … but that plant is actually trying to take over. This invasive plant can cause serious damage to your house and be a home for uninvited rodents.
Here’s how to kill that ivy—and fast.
What Is English Ivy?
English ivy, or Hedera helix, is a fast-spreading vine that quickly snakes around trees, shrubs, other plants, and houses. Because of its aggressive nature, it’s considered an invasive species in the United States. It's an evergreen, perennial plant and comes back every year.
The vines, which can reach 90 feet long and 1 foot wide, are either trailing or climbing. Ivy leaves are covered with a waxy substance that makes it difficult for herbicides to properly penetrate.
This plant grows best in moist, rich, well-drained soil in partial or full shade. The ivy tends to grow slowly the first year but, after that, can grow up to 9 feet every year.
Why Should You Get Rid of Ivy?
Contained in a pot or hanging basket, an ivy plant adds a rich pop of greenery to any space. Plus, ivy as a houseplant helps promote cleaner air. And while you may be tempted to use it as ground cover or let ivy climb the side of your house and create a charming country-forest vibe, don’t give in to its charms!
1. Ivy Vine Is Invasive
It may look beautiful but, uncontained, ivy is an invasive plant that grows quickly and is hard to control. And because it comes back every year, the cold winter does little to free your yard, trees, and house from ivy’s grasp once it gets a good hold.
2. It Strangles Native Plants
As ivy creeps around the yard, it covers almost every native plant it meets. It sucks up the sunlight and nutrients for itself, starving everything in its path.
If the ground cover starts climbing trees, there are even more issues. The vines can strangle the tree. The weight of the ivy can damage the tree bark and make the tree less sturdy.
3. Thick Ivy Is a Haven for Rodents
The “ick” factor is high in this argument for getting rid of English ivy. The thick, dense foliage is appealing to rodents, spiders, and snakes. They can reside in its dark comfort, mere feet away from where you’re grilling out or playing with your kids. If you end up with these uninvited residents, find a local pest removal company to get rid of them.
4. Its Root System Causes Damage
Native plants and your favorite backyard tree may not be the only victims of English ivy. Your house can also be taken over by the invasive plant.
As ivy climbs the exterior of your home, it’s digging its roots into the weak points of your walls. It may even work its way under your siding and around your windows. Before you know it, the ivy that looks pretty climbing up your house has caused thousands of dollars of damage.
5. English Ivy Is Poisonous to Humans and Some Animals
An ivy leaf can be poisonous if it’s consumed. It may cause severe vomiting, breathing problems, coordination issues, and hallucinations. Ivy is not a pet-friendly plant. If your dog or cat decides to nibble on a vine, it could poison them and create symptoms like hypersalivation, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, according to the ASPCA.
How to Get Rid of English Ivy
Now that we’ve talked about all the havoc that uncontained English ivy can wreak, let’s look at how to get rid of aggressive English ivy vines in your yard.
1. Spray Ivy with White Vinegar
If you want to use organic weed control for an eco-friendly yard, a natural remedy for ivy removal is household white vinegar. It’s a good non-toxic alternative to herbicide and you probably already have it in your house.
Pour your vinegar into a spray bottle or, even better, a garden sprayer. For extra potency, add 1 tablespoon of salt to every gallon of vinegar.
Before heading outside, put on some sturdy shoes, long pants and a long-sleeve shirt, work gloves, and safety glasses. While battling English ivy isn’t as fraught with danger as, say, trying to kill poison ivy, it can still irritate your skin.
Get close to the vine and thoroughly cover every leaf, root, and surrounding soil with white vinegar. Make sure you don’t spray any of the other plants close by.
Check the ivy in a week to see if it’s dying or dead. Dead ivy will be brown. If it’s dead, pull up the ivy and place it in a heavy garbage bag. If you see green leaves on the ivy, re-apply the white vinegar mixture and check it in a few days.
2. Cut Up the English Ivy
One of the most effective ways of getting rid of English ivy is to chop it. You can use a weedeater, pruners, or heavy-duty gardening shears. You can even use a lawnmower if you know there aren’t any rocks or tree limbs under the ivy.
Ground: Mow the ivy ground cover slowly. Rake the ivy pieces up and put them in a large garbage bag. Otherwise, they’ll figure out a way to root back into the ground.
Trees: For ivy growing on trees, don’t yank the ivy off because it will damage the tree bark. Use pruning shears to chop the ivy down near the tree trunk. Look at the tree’s roots and cut any ivy you see around them to keep the tree from being strangled. The dead ivy will fall off the tree.
House: Ivy removal from walls takes some manual labor and patience. Start by cutting the vines at the base of your wall, right above ground level. Check it in a few days as dead ivy is easier to pull off the walls. Dispose of it immediately.
3. Dig Out the Roots
English ivy roots typically grow 2 to 5 feet into the soil surface and may spread 10 feet from where they originated.
Cut the ivy. Dig a spade into the soil as far as it will go. Work the spade under the ivy root until you can see it. Pull it up if you can. If it’s anchored by other roots, cut those away ad pull the root structure out of the ground.
If the ivy’s been in your yard for a long time, you most likely didn’t get every root on the first try. Continue working your spade around the soil and pull out any additional roots you expose.
4. Use a Herbicide
The easiest way for getting rid of English ivy is with a herbicide. If your ivy has been around for many years, or it has spread to a large area of your yard or house, vinegar and digging out its roots may not get rid of it completely.
When you’re purchasing a herbicide, glyphosate is your best choice. It’s a popular weed killer that’s widely used for controlling broadleaf weeds.
Spray the herbicide on your offending ivy when it’s cooler weather. This gives it more time to penetrate through the plant’s waxy leaves and decreases the chances the herbicide will evaporate before doing its job.
Wait a few days and check the ivy. If it’s dead, pull it up (or down) and dispose of it carefully.
5. End With Mulch
Ivy removal is one thing; keeping it gone is another. After you’ve sprayed, dug, cut, and pulled it out of your yard and off your trees and house, diligently watch for new sprouts of the aggressive plant and remove it immediately.
Use a thick layer of mulch on the area of ground you cleared of ivy. If it tries coming back, the mulch will be a powerful obstacle in keeping it from spreading.