Hedera helix (English Ivy) is a popular perennial groundcover in many parts of the southern United States because it is drought tolerant, comes back year after year, spreads quickly, resists all pests and diseases and thrives in the shade.
It would seem a plant with these stellar qualities is just too good to be true, and, indeed, it is.
English Ivy is not just a vigorous, carefree ground cover. It is also an invasive plant.
In this article, we discuss the damage caused by English Ivy and share advice to help you avoid, control, and eradicate it. Read on to learn more.
What Damage Does This Invasive Plant Cause?
Even though some cultivars, such as the variegated Gold Heart, are said to be slower growing and safer for planting outdoors, this is untrue.
The fact of the matter is when you plant one of these so-called safe cultivars in your garden, it will soon revert to its original, aggressive form.
This also holds true for miniatures and cultivars intended to be kept as houseplants.
If you set them outside to enjoy the warm summer months, they are very likely to ramble off, set root, revert to their more aggressive form and take over your garden.
When left to its own devices English Ivy and all its cultivars run rampant over more desirable garden plants, native plants, and trees, covering and smothering them with its clinging roots and blocking the light with its large leaves.
English Ivy will also cause damage to buildings, fences, and other structures.
It can completely cover a wall or house in a short period.
It’s aerial ivy roots dig into all manner of building materials, including bricks, wood, and stucco, causing a great deal of damage.
Furthermore, the leaves and vines provide hiding places for rodents and insects and other pests that you do not want to live on your garden structures and certainly not in your house.
What Can You Do to Get Rid of English Ivy?
How do you kill English ivy? The best defense against English Ivy is prevention.
Simply Don’t ALLOW It In Your Yard.
If it’s too late for this, you’ll need to take some drastic and aggressive measures to eradicate and remove ivy.
If you have a heavy infestation, you’ll need to sever any vines climbing up trees and dig up the roots of any spreading vines.
English Ivy vines attached to tree trunks must be handled with care.
Pull, pry and remove English ivy by using a screwdriver, crowbar, or similar implement and then cut through them with pruning shears or pruning saw.
In very severe cases, you may need to use a chainsaw.
Be careful not to cut into the tree you are attempting to save.
You will need to completely separate English Ivy climbing a tree from its roots.
Cut through all the vines completely a couple of feet above the ground.
Follow this up by cutting them again at ground level all around the foot of the tree you wish to save.
Pull down as much of the English Ivy from the tree trunk as possible.
Perform this procedure when it’s hot and dry so the vines in the tree will dry up and die quickly.
When you do this, the vines up high in the tree will be completely separated from their roots with no chance of reconnecting.
With time, they will die and fall from the tree.
Dispose of the cutout and pulled down sections by burning or placing them in a sealed plastic bag for trash pickup.
If you leave them lying around, they’ll take root.
When the dried vines fall out of the tree, don’t take any chances.
Dispose of them properly, too.
It is fairly easy to deal with and kill English Ivy rambling along the ground.
This is best accomplished after a rain when the ground is soft.
The roots don’t run very deep, pull up great swaths of the plant all at once after a big rain.
It’s important to note the English Ivy sap is rather toxic and irritating.
When you are eradicating and removing Ivy from trees or the ground, wear protective clothing, gloves, and eye protection.
Don’t allow the sap to come in contact with your bare skin or your eyes, and be sure to wash up thoroughly when you finish your job.
Follow Up With Herbicide or Goats!
To remove English Ivy manually, successfully, you may need to repeat the process multiple times.
For very stubborn Ivy, you may need to use an herbicide.
These chemicals are most effective on very young growth, so use the herbicide after you have manually removed as much English Ivy as possible.
When it begins to grow back, kill ivy by treating the new growth with an herbicide such as Glyphosate or Triclopyr.
Keep in mind both of these herbicides are dangerous to desirable pollinators as well as to desirable plants.
Take great care when applying them.
Follow all the packaging instructions to the letter.
Protect plants you wish to save, and don’t allow any of the chemical to come in contact with tree bark or you will kill the very trees you wish to preserve.
Furthermore, be sure to apply these chemicals in the evening so they will have less likelihood of coming in contact with bees, butterflies, and other desirable insects.
A natural alternative to keeping English Ivy under control manually and with herbicides is to control it with goats.
Goats make short work of English Ivy, and even though there is some information suggesting the sap of this plant may be toxic to goats, many professional goat herders will attest to the fact this is not the case.
Goats tend to mix-and-match their forage, thereby self-regulating the amount of potentially harmful plants they ingest.
As ruminants, their systems can handle a wide variety of plants that are toxic to non-ruminants such as cats, dogs, horses, and people.
Keep a few goats or the possibility of renting some, it’s worth looking into enlisting these friendly, comical critters to help free your property of English Ivy and other pesky, undesirable plants.
Just Say “No” to English Ivy!
Even though English Ivy is attractive and there are many interesting variants, it is a very bad idea to add this plant to your landscape.
It may seem delightful at first as it covers the ground quickly, but before you know it, it will be killing off your trees and causing them to topple over, and if you’re not careful, it will soon be climbing in your windows.
Follow the above advice to avoid, control, and eliminate English Ivy.