Killing ivy on trees

Tips For How To Kill English Ivy

The same traits that make English ivy (Hedera helix) a wonderful ground cover can also make it a pain to remove from your yard. Ivy’s resilience and lush growth make killing English ivy or removing ivy from trees a difficult task, but not an impossible one. If you are wondering how to kill an ivy plant, you will find some help below.

How to Kill English Ivy

There are two ways how to kill English ivy. The first is with herbicides and the second is through manual labor.

Killing English Ivy with Herbicides

One of the reasons that killing English ivy is difficult is because the leaves of the plant are covered with a waxy substance that helps prevent herbicides from penetrating into the plant. So, in order to be effective at killing English ivy, you have to get through that barrier.

The first thing you can do to make herbicide more effective for removing ivy is to use it in the winter on a sunny day. The cool temperatures make sure that the spray does not evaporate quickly and gives the herbicide more time to penetrate into the plant. The sun helps keep the wax on the leaves more pliable and more easily penetrated.

The other thing you can do to make herbicide more effective in killing ivy is to lacerate or cut the plants’ stems. Using a weed whacker or other device on the plant that will damage the stems and then applying the herbicide will help the chemical penetrate into the plants through the wounds.

Removing English Ivy with Manual Labor

Digging and pulling up the English ivy plants can also be an effective way to remove ivy plants from your garden. When removing English ivy manually, you will want to make sure that you remove as much of the plant, both stems and roots, as possible as it can regrow from stem and root pieces left in the ground.

You can make digging and pulling the ivy out more effective by following the directions for applying herbicides after you remove the ivy by hand as best as possible.

Removing Ivy from Trees

A particularly tricky thing to do is to remove ivy from trees. Many people wonder will ivy damage trees? The answer is yes, eventually. Ivy damages the bark as it climbs and will eventually overtake even a mature tree, weakening branches through its weight and preventing light from penetrating leaves. Weakened plants and trees are more susceptible to problems like pests or disease. It is best to always remove the ivy from the tree and keep it away from the trunk of the tree, at least 3 to 4 feet, to prevent it from climbing up the tree again.

When removing ivy from trees, do not simply rip the ivy off the tree. The roots will be firmly hooked into the bark and pulling the plant off will also remove some of the bark and damage the tree.

Instead, starting at the base of the tree, cut an inch or two section out of the ivy stem and remove it. Carefully paint the cuts on the still attached stem with a full strength non-selective herbicide. Repeat the process every few feet up the stem of the ivy as high as you can reach. You may need to repeat this a few times before you fully kill the English ivy. Once the ivy has died, you can then take the stems off the tree as the roots will break away rather than cling to the tree.

Note: Chemical control should only be used as a last resort, as organic approaches are more environmentally friendly.

How To: Kill Ivy


Characterized by its showy, star-shaped foliage, English ivy (Hedera helix) might seem a fine choice for landscaping as a potted plant, ground cover, or groomed exterior wall accent—but don’t let down your guard just yet. Left unchecked, the evergreen perennial can become an invasive enemy to your yard. Ivy knows no bounds: It grows quickly in all directions, both horizontally and vertically, clinging to other vegetation and depriving it of all sunlight. If the vining plant doesn’t smother and kill trees, shrubs, and grass, it’ll infect them with rot or disease. If you’ve already seen such destruction, save your property from the aggressive greenery by following these steps for how to kill ivy and prevent its return.

How to Kill Ivy

  1. Don appropriate protective gear for the project choose a day with suitable weather.
  2. Detach the ivy from the surface on which it’s been growing.
  3. Dispose of the ivy with your household trash (i.e., do not compost ivy).
  4. Apply herbicide to the area in order to kill remaining roots.
  5. Monitor the area (and repeat Steps 2 and 3 if necessary)

Read on for the full tutorial on how to remove ivy from your house or yard—and just as important, how to prevent it from returning.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
– Gardening gloves
– Brush cutter
– Gardening shears
– Herbicide (with glyphosate, imazapyr and/or triclopyr)
– White vinegar (optional)
– Spray bottle (optional)

STEP 1: Protect yourself and your plants

First things first: Protect yourself and your plants. To do so, suit up in gardening gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, and pants—exposed skin may be bothered by the oil that ivy secretes. Then choose a day with the right forecast to ensure no mishaps during chemical treatment. Topical chemicals used for killing ivy are only effective when the temperature is somewhere between 60 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll also want to work on a day with minimal wind in order to prevent any chemicals from blowing onto nearby gardens and landscaping.


STEP 2: Detach the ivy

Detach the ivy from the surface that it’s covering, whether across the lawn or up a tree.

  • For ivy on the ground, mowers may shred the leaves but generally aren’t effective for attacking the vines. You’ll need to use a tough brush cutter or a long, sharp pair of gardening shears to separate ivy from the ground. Working in small sections a couple of feet wide, cut straight through the ivy’s vine system where it meets the earth. Then roll up each section like a rug, tugging and clipping with the shears or brush cutter along the way to entirely detach all pieces of ivy. Repeat as needed until all ivy has been sectioned and rolled. A word of caution: Ivy only needs one remaining vine to take root again, so take your time and don’t leave any pieces attached to your lawn.
  • For ivy on trees, there’s no need to detach every strand on the trunk. In fact, since ivy adheres strongly to a tree’s bark, removing it may harm the tree. Instead, concentrate only on detaching the three to five feet of foliage closest to the bottom of the tree, where the vine connects to its roots. Or, if the ivy doesn’t reach the ground, concentrate on the bottom two or three feet of the climbing vines. Separate the ivy from the tree with sharp shears, and take care not to cut into the bark—that will only weaken the tree further.

STEP 3: Dispose of the ivy

Bag up the ivy and throw it away. If you leave your detached ivy in clumps on your property, it can quickly snake its way back into the ground or up a tree trunk, undoing your hard work. (It can even take root in your compost pile, so do not don’t try to compost ivy!)

STEP 4: Apply herbicide

Select a herbicide made with glyphosate, imazapyr, triclopyr, or some combination of these chemicals, all of which target the ivy roots. Ortho GroundClear Vegetation Killer (view on Amazon) works well for the purpose.

If you prefer a more natural approach, you can substitute vinegar in a large spray bottle instead. Application for either is fairly simple: Thoroughly cover the whole area you’ve freed from the ivy with the liquid. If working on a tree, also cover the bottom foot or so of the vines remaining on the tree.

Herbicide alone isn’t necessarily the best way to kill ivy, because the waxy cover on ivy leaves blocks the chemical from properly attacking the root system. But by applying the deterrent soon after removing ivy from a tree or ground (Step 2), you can increase the commercial or DIY herbicide’s effectiveness.

STEP 5: Monitor the area (and repeat Steps 2 and 3 if necessary)

Every two or three weeks, examine your property and make sure ivy vines haven’t popped up again. If you spot any new vines, pull them out with a gloved hand and gardening shears (Step 2), then a repeat spray with your herbicide or white vinegar to spot-treat the stems (Step 3).

Note that if you purposely grow English ivy as part of your landscaping, you must follow some strict guidelines in order to prevent it from overrunning the place. Keep the vines contained by surrounding them with mulch and trimming the edges whenever they begin to creep. Ivy can be a charming addition to any yard, but containment and maintenance are critical if you want to keep your other vegetation thriving alongside it.

Killing Ivy on Trees

Step 1. Get your equipment ready.

The most important tool you’ll need in order to kill ivy is a sharp pair of clippers or loppers, depending upon the thickness of the vines. Older vines can grow as thick as one’s arm, while newer vines are as thin as flower stems. In addition to gathering appropriate cutting supplies, put on a thick pair of gardening gloves to protect your hands as you pull the ivy back.

Step 2. Cut the vines around the base of the tree.

One by one, walk around the tree and cut through every vine growing up the tree at ankle height. Even one remaining uncut vine can nourish the ivy further up the tree, so it’s important to make sure no vine is left behind.

    • For very old, thick vines, use a handsaw to carefully saw through the vine.
    • As you work, be careful not to make cuts on the tree itself. Ivy weakens trees and makes them more susceptible to disease. Cutting through the bark could cause further damage.

Step 3. Cut another circle around the tree at shoulder level.

Use the same technique to cut all the vines again. This time, pull the cut sections of vines gently from the tree as you go. By making two cuts and pulling away the section of ivy at the bottom of the tree, you’re blocking the vines higher up the tree from getting essential nutrients, and they’ll soon die. Put the cut vines in a pile, then mulch them later so they won’t take root again.

    • As you pull the cut vines from the tree, be careful not to remove too much bark with the holdfasts.
    • The same method works for removing ivy from outdoor walls.

Step 4. Remove the Ivy from the Cut section

Pull gently, removing carefully any roots that have attached underneath the bark layer.

Step 5. Examine the tree trunk for uncut vines.

Take a close look to make sure no vines were left uncut. Cut and remove any you happen to find, taking care not to damage the bark.

Step 6. Cut away the ivy on the ground.

If the tree is surrounded by a mat of ivy on the ground, you’ll need to remove the ivy from the ground so that it won’t climb back up the tree. Removing a donut-shaped mat of ivy from around the base of the tree is sometimes referred to as a “lifesaver” cut. Here’s how to do it:

    • Start by cutting a line through the ivy along the ground, from the base of the tree to a distance 4–6 feet (1.2–1.8 m) away. Cut several more lines radiating from the tree. Cutting the ivy into sections will make it easier to remove.
    • Make a cut that connects all the lines 4–6 feet (1.2–1.8 m) from the base of the tree.
    • Start pulling up the mats of ivy section by section. Keep removing ivy until you’ve cleared the area around the base of the tree such that no ivy reaches within 4–6 feet (1.2–1.8 m) of it.

Step 7. Wait for the ivy to die.

Now that you’ve cleared the base of the tree, the ivy growing above shoulder height will begin to shrivel and turn brown. Do not attempt to cut away or pull off vines that have grown above your shoulders. Yanking off the holdfasts will pull away the tree’s bark, leaving it susceptible to disease. The dead ivy will look unattractive at first, but eventually the leaves will fall away and it will become less noticeable.

Step 8. Monitor the area for new ivy growth.

After you’ve taken these measures, check back every few weeks to make sure new ivy isn’t crawling in the vicinity of the tree. When you find some, cut it away.

Killing Ivy on the Ground

Step 1. Cut the ivy into sections.

Cut lines through the ivy along the ground in order to divide it into large sections. This will make it much easier to remove the ivy from the ground. Pull the sections apart from one another as you cut. Work carefully around plants and saplings you want to keep.

    • If you’re working on a hill, cut vertical lines from the top of the hill to the bottom to create sections that you can roll downhill.
    • Roll the ivy section downhill using gravity for momentum. But always pull any stray vines in an up-hill direction so you don’t fall backwards downhill.

Step 2. Roll the sections off the ground.

Lift the edge of one section of ivy and roll it forward on top of itself. Keep rolling the ivy forward until the entire section has been rolled up into a big log of ivy. Move the log to a separate area and continue rolling up sections until you’ve cleared the area.

    • Drying the ivy rolls on a tarp in the sun until brittle is the best way to dispose of them and ensure they won’t take root in the area again.
    • Vines that are viable can root where they lay on bare ground.

Alternative Method: Use herbicides.

English ivy is difficult to kill with herbicides alone because the plant’s leaves contain a waxy barrier that is difficult for products to penetrate. Therefore, the most effective method is to combine manual removal with the use of a herbicide. Glyphosate is the chemical that works most effectively to kill English ivy.

    • Spray the area of ivy you wish to kill, but be careful the glyphosate doesn’t reach other plants you want to keep.
    • Herbicides are slow-acting, and must be reapplied every six weeks or so.

I accompanied my son’s class on an overnight Environmental Education trip to Rock Eagle one year. One of his classmates was a great source of fascination to me.

Whenever I stood next to him he was a model of decorum: well-behaved, intelligent and respectful. When I let him out of my sight he turned into a rascal: throwing milk cartons across the lunch hall, smashing another kid with a soft drink bottle and starting innumerable fights.

The child has great potential but there is an uncontrollable urge for chaos buried deep inside him. I returned from the trip with great respect for the teachers who deal with irascible adolescents for nine months each year.

I was thinking about English ivy in a similar light on our recent Memorial Day weekend. Much of Saturday was spent crouching under hydrangea, aucuba and big native azaleas yanking ivy vine from around their trunks. My neighbor has an untended swath of woodland bordering my back yard and his English ivy has encroached several feet into my landscape over the past couple of years. My ferns, trillium hosta and azaleas have been shrouded by a dense green quilt.

The ivy plant has such potential! It tolerates all but the densest shade, accepts drought with aplomb, has few pests and grows in any soil. Why, when I take my eyes off it for just a little bit, must it become such a rogue?

English ivy has been declared flora non grata in Oregon. Some gardeners consider it a pest on a par with kudzu. It adds weight to overburdened trees and shades lower branches. It suffocates all that it covers, leading some to describe “ivy deserts” in their landscapes. Give it an inch and it takes a yard!

Terry Kane, in Sandy Springs, turned me on to a great Web site about English ivy removal. The Ivy Removal Project ( is based in Portland, Oregon. Over the past ten years, they have developed several specialized techniques for eradicating ivy. From “Make a Lifesaver” to “Roll it Like a Log”, their approaches are tested and refined by real-life experience.

I’m often asked for tips on the best method to attack English ivy. As you already know from my holiday weekend, manually ripping it out is one of my recommended techniques. It is sweaty and laborious but it is often the only way to proceed when ivy runs close to ornamental plants. It is also surprisingly fast since a long length of vine can come out with a single heave.

Herbicides like and will kill English ivy but the process is slow. Ivy’s leathery leaves and frequent roots aid in its survival from chemical attack. I use chemicals to maintain a ivy-free swath between my azaleas and another neighbor’s viney plot. Death is not immediate; I spray every six weeks or as needed.

Given a large area between trees, I think an initial mowing would get chemical control off to a good start. Be sure to check for hidden stones, stumps, wire and sinkholes before you push your mower into an ivy sanctuary. When new leaves emerge a few weeks later hit them hard with one of the herbicides mentioned above.

English ivy is not parasitic. It does not suck sap from the tree it ascends. Nonetheless it should never be allowed to climb a tree unchecked. When I find a vine that has grown far above me in a tree, I use a flat prybar to prize the vine from the trunk so I can sever it with my loppers. Not content with a single snip, I usually cut a twelve inch section out of the vine at waist height. This gives me a better view of smaller vines that may be hiding beneath the larger one. After cutting, I immediately spray the lower vine stump with to prevent resprouting.

Don’t expect anything immediately. In my experience I don’t see damage until two weeks after an application. The leaves get brown spots, turn yellow, and gradually fall off. Also, I notice that if there’s a lot of ivy, the first spraying only kills the top level of leaves. It takes a second spraying to get the lowest level of leaves and vines killed as well.

Like my grade school acquaintance, English ivy is full of potential and contradictions. With proper care it’s a champion. With neglect it becomes a rampant, rapacious pest. As my teacher friends have proved, patience, perseverance and lots of forethought are essential when faced with barely governable kids …. and plants.

dead English ivy three months after clipping

English ivy controlled with glyphosate

Tags For This Article: english ivy, vines

How to Control Ivy

About Ivy

Ivy is a creeping/ climbing, evergreen plant, which has distinctive arrow-shaped leaves arising direct from the woody stem in its juvenile form and larger more rounded leaves once it reaches maturity.
Only the mature stems produce flowers in Oct/Nov. producing clusters of round green –black berries at the top of the stems.

It thrives in shady conditions and will act as a ground creeper, putting down adventitious roots as it spreads along the floor, or very often as a climber. It can also be found climbing up trees, fences, walls, and brickwork.

Many ornamental varieties have been bred in variegated forms but all can cause damage to buildings and fencing if left to grow unchecked.

How to Control Ivy?

Best products to spray on ivy: Roundup ProActive 360 , Roundup ProVantage 480g/L and Kurtail Evo
Ivy is resistant to most herbicides due to the thick, waxy cuticle on the leaf. This makes it difficult to penetrate and liable to run-off by most herbicides so we recommend the addition of adjuvants (below).
The following options are available for using a non-residual, total weedkiller spray such as Roundup or Kurtail Evo. They produce excellent results and at peak treatment times in spring will produce results in 2-3 weeks.

Ivy controlled with Kurtail Evo after 21 days

How to kill Ivy with Roundup?: Spray Application

  • Best results for English Ivy control will come from a spray applied to young, soft leaf growth in the spring, usually May at the earliest. Over-wintered leaves have tough, thickened wax layers as they are hardened in the cold weather, which are more difficult to penetrate
  • If treating in late summer/ autumn cut back old growth as far as possible and wait for new leaves to emerge
  • Apply the highest rate of Roundup Pro Active recommended. In a knapsack this rate is 50 ml per litre of water sprayed to just before run-off
  • Add Biosyl or Validate as excellent adjuvants to stick to the ivy, improve the spray mixture and help the penetration of the waxy leaf surface
  • A weedwiper with 1 part Roundup ProActive to 2 parts water could also be used where decorative plants are growing intimately with the ivy
  • Monitor and retreat the sites as necessary over a period of three years

How to kill Ivy: Cut Stump / Stem Injection Treatment
Where ivy is mature and growing up masonry or trees there may be a woody trunk which can be treated in the dormant season. This method is a very effective method of ivy control.

Ivy must be dormant, this usually occurs between November and February, although in some seasons and in the most northern parts of the country, this could extend until the end of March.

Cut Stump Method

  1. Chop the woody ivy stem at approx. 10-20cm above ground level. Clear at least 30cm of stem above it
  2. Rate: 20% solution of Roundup ProActive (ie, 4 parts water: 1 part Roundup)
  3. Method: application must be made to a fresh cut so that uptake into the phloem is maximised
    Use a paintbrush and apply immediately after cutting. (Uptake is almost immediate from a fresh cut and will be rainfast within 10 minutes. Application to a cut that has partially sealed means absorption is slow and rain within 6 hours will wash some of the product off).

Cut Stump Method #2
Use Ecoplug Max as a safe, clean alternative to liquids on woody ivy stems

  1. Ecoplugs contain granulated glyphosate that dissolves in contact with the tree sap and is carried to the growing points in the stump roots
  2. Use a drill & Ecoplug drill bit to create a hole (purpose built drillbits use depth gauges) around the outer edge of the (freshly cut) tree stump face or into the sides of the stump.
  3. Knock in the Ecoplug with a hammer – ensuring the top edge is flush with the stump – this ensures it cannot be removed.

Chemical Thinning

  1. Rate: 2 mls of neat Roundup ProActive for each 10cm diameter of the stem.
  2. Method: neat weedkiller is introduced straight into the phloem through a hatchet cut into the bark of the ivy leaving the plant in tact.
    A spot gun with a solid stream nozzle is recommended and it is advisable to make a second cut under the first to catch any surplus herbicide. Work out how many hatchet cuts are needed according to the diameter of the trunk and space them round the girth e.g. trunk of 20cm diameter requires 2 x 2mls cuts. Alternatively the concentrate can be introduced through an 8mm drill hole, about 40mm long, aimed slightly downwards and radially towards the centre of the stem.

Unsure of which application method is best for you? Call for FREE technical advice – freephone 0800 032 6262

Need help with what to do in your garden?

Q How do I kill ivy?

Caption: Ivy make not be the foe that it first appears to be

A Before you start, it’s worth thinking about whether the ivy really has to go as it’s a good habitat and pollen and fruit for wildlife, doesn’t harm trees unless the tree is weak, and does not damage walls if the mortar is sound and can provide useful insulation.

If the ivy is growing on a wall, cut through the stem with a sharp saw, dig out the root, and wait for the foliage to die before removing the stuck-on stems carefully with wire brush.

If it is covering the ground, dig it out with a mattock, spade or fork and dispose of it away from the garden. Alternatively, if the ground is not needed for planting, clear away all the top growth, then cover the ground with weed-control fabric and a 10-15cm deep layer of bark mulch and leave it in place for at least two growing seasons.

Alternatively you can spray it with a tough weed killer containing glyphosate, although be careful as this will kill any plant it touches. As the ivy leaves are waxy, spray lightly so the weedkiller doesn’t drip off or, even better, crush and damage the leaves before spraying to encourage them to absorb more weedkiller. Several applications may be needed.

Q Are there concerns about glyphosate use?

A The main concern is that glyphosate can cause cancer. A second concern is the negative effect glyphosate use has on bee health. However it is legal to use. Find out more about glyphosate.

How to Get Rid of Ivy for Good

There should be a support group for people trying to remove massive amounts of ivy from their yards. It’s a miserable job. Sometimes it leaves you feeling hopeless. But I’m here to tell you that you’ve got this.

You Can Remove Out-of-Control Ivy

Here’s what I was dealing with back in 2014. My ivy spanned the entire width of the backyard, reaching up to one end of the patio and all the way down the slope to the back fence. What had probably started as slope control was turning into lawn cover-upper, staircase rotter and yard destroyer.

It was even starting to smother other plants in the yard. My trees and rhododendrons were suffocating from the vines, and I couldn’t get to them to pull the ivy off because they were surrounded by even more ivy.

Nothing was safe. From the looks of it, in another season or two the house would be buried in vines. And not in a charming English cottage way, but in an abandoned foreclosure house kind of way.

I had to stop the ivy. It seemed impossible, but eventually I got rid of every last root and vine of ivy in my yard. It can be done. I’ll walk you through the steps.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Learn more on my Disclosures page (and thanks for your support!)

Don’t Try to Start by Cutting It Back

If you’re dealing with massive amounts of ivy, it will take approximately one lifetime to cut it back. I started with this method, and it was like giving a St. Bernard a haircut using nothing but a pair of nail clippers.

Here I am on day one of ivy removal. Happy. Innocent. Completely unaware of the work to come. I started by cutting back the ivy with an electric hedge trimmer, then straining my back to rip the pieces out by the roots.

It took all my strength, and after a hard day’s work I had barely made a dent. I’m pretty sure the next day it all grew back and then some. This method works better for removing smaller patches of ivy.

When ivy has been left to grow wild for a few decades, it stops being a plant and turns into something more like a low-growing evil tree. The vines aren’t green and flimsy. They are thick and woody. It’s not a fair fight. But there’s a better method.

Plastic + Time = Bye, Ivy

After spending a summer getting nowhere with brute force (and cutting through two electric cords with the hedge trimmer…it’s the ivy’s fault), I decided it was time for a new method. Eric and I researched the solarization method, which involves scorching the ivy under plastic. You don’t need a lot of back strength, just a lot of patience.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Completely cover your ivy with thick black plastic sheeting.
  2. Stake down the plastic or hold it in place with something heavy.
  3. Wait for 1-2 years.

OK, I know having 1,000 square feet of black plastic in your yard doesn’t sound too great, but it’s better than killing your back and getting nowhere. It sounds like a long time, but this is actually faster than trying to do it all yourself. With this method, you have the sun on your side.

Under the plastic, the ivy is deprived of water and cooks in the heat. The sun does most of the work while you turn your attention to other projects until the time is up.

Every few months, peek under the plastic and check if the ivy is cooked. When it’s ready there will be no greenery left. Just dry, brittle, lightweight vines. That’s when you can start doing some real work on this ivy.

When your ivy looks like this, it’s ready for removal. (Ignore the fresh ivy that grew through the fence…that can be cut back by hand.)

Remove the Dead Ivy

Now you can cut and pull the ivy with relative ease. Hack away at the vines and pile up the debris. There will be a lot.

You can also try mowing over the vines to break them apart and make them easier to pull up.

Eric mows through a cloud of ivy dust.

Your biggest problem now is getting rid of all those vines. My suggestions: s’more fuel and wreath materials. The twisty vines are especially fun for spooky Halloween wreaths.

Patch Up the Ground Underneath the Ivy

After being buried under thick ivy for many years, the ground may have some weird holes. Now’s a good time to smooth them out.

My yard had an erosion hole and random spots of unevenness. We filled the erosion hole with gravel and smoothed out the rest of the ground with mud. Make sure your ground is fairly smooth before moving on to the next step.

Lay a Barrier to Prevent Rebound Ivy

It was no easy feat getting rid of that ivy, and I know the last thing you want is for it to come back. Since it died under the plastic, it should be gone for good, but let’s call this next phase a safety precaution. It’s time to cover that ground.

Here’s what I did to prepare for planting the area, but you might alter this if you have other plans in mind.

  1. Lay overlapping pieces of cardboard over the former ivy area. This can help block any roots from sprouting up as the cardboard decomposes.
  2. Cover the area with jute mesh. I did this to help provide erosion control on my slope while waiting for the future plants to fill in.
  3. Cover the area with weed barrier landscape fabric. The dead ivy doesn’t stand a chance.

Use landscape staples to secure these layers as needed. Pound them in with your trusty mallet.

Ready for planting!

Ivy Removal Kit

To sum up, here’s what I used to kill the ivy and then cover the area to prevent regrowth.

Reclaim Your Yard

At this point you probably want to fill in your newly reclaimed piece of yard. Will you create a fire pit area, build a shed or studio, or plant a new lawn?

In my case, I added plants right away to help fill in the slope and provide some erosion control. If you’re looking for ideas, here’s what I planted.

Sunnier Slope:

  • Blue fescue grass (evergreen icy blue-green grass)
  • Forsythia (irresistible yellow blooms in late winter or early spring)
  • Candytuft (my go-to evergreen throughout the yard, with springtime blooms)
  • Sedum ground cover (one of my favorite un-killable plants)
  • Dwarf golden arborvitae (tiny yellow-green and slow-growing evergreen shrub)
  • Blue star juniper (pretty blue-green evergreen shrub)
  • Heather (drought-tolerant evergreen mini shrub with purple-pink flowers in the summer)
  • Creeping thyme (perennial ground cover herb that has little purple-pink flowers in the summer)
  • Strawberry vanilla hydrangea (my favorite…the blooms on this sun-loving hydrangea start off white and turn to pink by the end of the summer)

Shadier Slope:

  • Huckleberry (shade-loving evergreen shrub that will eventually give me some berries…can’t wait!)
  • Fern (the evergreen staple of the shade garden)
  • Hosta (perennial shade lover that comes back each year and usually grows bigger with time)
  • Hellebore (a hardy evergreen with buttercup flowers in the winter…this one is a must-have for me)
  • Daylily (a crowd favorite that flowers every year and tolerates some shade)
  • Rhododendron (large evergreen flowering shrub that loves the shade)
  • Hydrangea (my favorite flower, but it needs more water and attention than any other plant on this list)
  • Sedum ground cover (seems to survive in any part of the yard)

Here’s my backyard a few years after removing the ivy. It’s still all clear, with the ivy gone for good!

So did you survive getting rid of your ivy? Tell me all about your progress in the comments.

Ivy Removal in a Home Landscape


I moved into a new house in May 2008 that had (perhaps literally) a ton of ivy. It covered the fences to the extent that I couldn’t even open the gate without removing some of it. Removing enough ivy to open the fence was my first project. Next, I mowed it back to keep it from spreading further into the yard, until the mower decided it didn’t like that anymore.

Then, since we needed some ivy removal pictures at the office, two of us tackled the English ivy on the Douglas fir tree in the back, using the tree life-saver method similar to that used by the parks department in the City of Portland.

English Ivy (Hedera helix) is a European forest that has become invasive in the US, where it is officially considered to be invasive by most states. Because it is such an effective ground cover, it has been recommended for years as a landscape staple—at least until we began to recognize its full potential as an invasive species. Ivy league schools and ivy-covered brick buildings are icons of a gracious and privileged way of life. Ivy motifs decorate tablecloths, botanical texts, and artwork. In art, at least ivy doesn’t produce seeds, but in nature, the spread through seeds is causing serious economic harm. So, it needs to be controlled. Mow it, discourage it, pull it, whack it down, remove it’s flowers and fruits, and most importantly, keep it from growing into its mature form (more on that later).

Note: Some people are sensitive to English Ivy and develop a rash when they touch it or work with it. Use caution until you know how your skin reacts to it.

Life-Saver English Ivy Removal from Trees

Basically the method is to remove ivy from the base and trunk of the tree to give it some “relief” while more complete ivy removal is in progress. The picture sequence gives some of the details. It took two people about 2 hours to complete this sequence for the one tree shown in the photos. “Life-saver” refers to making a circle 3-5 feet from the tree free of ivy, the life-saver candy—the tree itself is the hole in the middle.

First, cut the ivy “trunks” or vines all the way around the tree at about eye level. Clippers work well for the smaller vines and for exposing the vines themselves. The vines attach to the bark with aerial roots, but with persistence, they can be peeled away. Some of the vines cut more easily with a hand-held pruner, at least once they get to be a half inch or more in diameter. For the larger vines, a small hand saw does the work well. Again, persistence is in order since the growing vines seem to “fuse” with one another when they overlap, creating quite a strong bond as the vines get larger in diameter. For very large vines, I’ve have heard of people getting out their chain saw, but in those cases, the ivy has been growing a very long time indeed!

As you cut the vines, you can sometimes hear a very satisfying “snap” at the tension in the plants vascular system is released. As you cut the vines, begin to peel them downward from the bark, one at a time, or several if they are fused. Then by folding them back, you can sometimes snip off the branches on the bottom of the peeled sections. Just toss the pieces you remove on the ground—clean-up can come later. Work your way down the trunk to the base of the tree and pull back the ivy from the tree at ground level at least 3 to 5 feet.

To clear the ground-at least 3-5 feet from the base of the tree, you may need to do some serious pulling. Inevitably, vines will pull away from the roots, but you can try to come back later to get them when they re-sprout. As you remove vines, lay them “roots up” in the cartoon “dead mouse” pose, so the roots dry out and the vine dies. This is sometimes called “sheet composting” and seems to work short-term at least.

Now sit back and watch as the ivy that remains on the tree dies. This can take several months in the winter. By the time I am writing this at the end of July 2008, the ivy is already dead in the upper reaches of my Douglas fir. As it starts to decay, it will shrivel, the leaves will fall off, and the entwined dead ivy branches will eventually fall off, probably during a winter storm. This may take several years, but meanwhile, it is doing little harm to the canopy of the tree and is not producing seeds.

Tackling the Fence Line

I’ll get back to pulling the ivy on the ground underneath the Douglas fir this autumn, but at least it is still in its juvenile phase and not reproducing. Now, I have turned by attention back to the fence, because ivy at the top of the fence is taking on the characteristic mature ivy look. When ivy is ready to reproduce, usually when it has had a chance to reach sunlight, the leaves change from the juvenile form (the classic ivy leaf shape) to larger heart-shaped leaves—look at the pictures for a comparison. When this happens, the English ivy produces flowers and seeds, which are eaten by birds. The birds often swallow them whole and the seeds are deposited in the droppings. Very few birds, except starlings use the seeds for food. Since the seeds are sticky, they also stick to bird’s feet as they move around from tree to tree. They germinate easily and grow quickly so even when you have completed ivy removal you can get new seedlings regularly; these are very easy to hand-pull when they are young.

It takes me about 2 hours to clear 2 linear feet from a 7-8 ft tall cedar fence. Because the ivy has been on the fence so long, the fence underneath is in pretty bad shape, but that’s another issue. In a few more years, the entire fence would have just toppled over into my yard, ivy and all. So far, I’ve cleared maybe 14 linear feet and the ground about 6 feet into my yard. With clippers handy, I just started at one end, cutting the ivy vines into about 2-ft lengths and piling them up until the yard waste bin is available again for biweekly pickup. The composting system at the city yard waste depot will almost assuredly finish the process of killing the vines, especially since they have to sit in that pile for up to a month before I even get to the recycling part, and are mostly dead by the time they get into the yard waste bin. I wouldn’t recommend this for all invasive species, since many can re-sprout from even the tiniest fragment, but for ivy, I think it is probably OK. I wish I had taken a “before” picture, but the later pictures give an idea of the magnitude of the problem.

My neighbor on the other side of the fence is helping by lending me an extra yard waste container—he plans to replace the fence once I am done with the hard section and he has a chance to finish cleaning up “his” side of the fence. He has been trying to control the ivy on his side for years, so that won’t be as bad as the task still ahead on my side. Nice when neighbors work together on these issues! Guess the word is getting around

More Information

I hope this description has been helpful to you. Here are a few other links for more information if you are interested in your own ivy removal project.


When kept in line, ivy can really add some character to a house. However, it becomes a problem when that ivy starts to creep into your chimney, wind its way into your window frames, and generally become too much to handle. Whether you just want to trim your ivy back a little, or remove it from your brickwork completely, read on to discover how to do just that!

The first thing you’ll need to do is get out a ladder and start pulling the ivy away from the wall. This is easier when the ivy is damp, since this makes the vines more pliable. You may therefore want to wait for the winter months to do this, or at least until after it’s rained. Living ivy also comes away easier than dead ivy, so you shouldn’t need to use any weed killer here. You don’t have to be all that careful at this point, since you’ll be getting all those little roots later on. For now, just grab those vines and start pulling!

Of course, it’s not just about the vines- if it was, then this process would be a snap. You’ll also have to contend with the little hairy tendrils that fix onto the brickwork and keep the ivy attached. A lot of the time, these tendrils will just die off when the main vine has been removed. If not, then you may need to use a putty knife to get in there between the bricks and pry the tendrils away. This time, you will have to be gentle, as if you scrape too hard, you might end up chipping some of the mortar away. In extreme cases, a little chemical assistance might be needed. Again, it’s all about how long the ivy has been growing for. If it’s had many years to worm its way into the brickwork, then it could take a few more years before all the evidence of the ivy disappears. Just be patient, and keep an eye out for any new shoots to eliminate them before they start climbing again.

Disposing of Dead Ivy

The easiest way to get rid of all that dead ivy is to simply burn it in a garden incinerator, along with any other garden waste you might have. Depending on the extent of your ivy issue, you may well end up with a mountain of ivy to dispose of. While it can be a pain, you should dispose of the ivy asap, or like a zombie, it can reanimate and take root wherever you leave it. There’s also the risk of spreading seeds all over your garden, so it’s a smart idea to keep the dead ivy on a tarpaulin instead of letting it sit directly on the ground. Burning dead ivy is sure to destroy the seeds, so it is the only way to completely eradicate the ivy for good. That being said, you should be careful when burning ivy that’s been treated with weed killer. You don’t want to breathe these chemicals in, so wear a mask around the bonfire to keep yourself safe. You could also put it through a your garden shredder first to if yo you plan on bringing it to the recycling centre.

It can be tempting to add ivy to your compost, since you’ll likely end up with quite a lot of it. It may seem a shame to let all that go to waste, but if there’s any green ivy left in the pile, then throwing it on the compost heap will allow it to recover and start growing again. Before you know it, you’ll have another ivy problem on your hands, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you really want to add some ivy to your compost, then we suggest that you only do so a little bit at a time. Put some of the dead ivy into a bin bag for a few days to ensure it’s completely dead, and then add it piece by piece to your compost pile so that it can decompose properly. If you used weed killer to treat your ivy, then do NOT compost it- especially if you used glyphosate. The chemicals contained in the weed killer will then seep into your compost, and could easily end up killing whatever you spread it on.

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