How To: Kill Ivy
Fast-growing English ivy can easily take over your lawn and landscape. Learn how to kill the invasive plant by combining physical removal and topical treatment.
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.
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)
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.
Detach the ivy from the surface 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.
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!)
Select a herbicide made with glyphosate, imazapyr, triclopyr, or some combination of the three chemicals, all of which target the ivy roots. Ortho GroundClear Vegetation Killer (buy online) 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.
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).
TAMING THE BEAUTY: 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.