Out of Control: How to Get Rid of Ivy (For Good)

Last update: 2 weeks ago

7 min read

how to get rid of ivy

Hedera, which we commonly refer to as English Ivy (pl. Ivies), is a family of around 20 species of evergreen perennial plants. Depending on their surroundings, these woody plants can be both ground creeping or climbing nearby trees, rocks, buildings, and pretty much anything they can lay their stems on.

Given a solid base, the ivy has the ability to crawl up and reach heights of more that 30m. On ground level it rarely exceeds ½ feet in height.

As gorgeous as this chef-d’œuvre of nature is, it can still cause mischief around your property if left unattended. It’s considered an invasive plant after all, meaning it’ll not knock on your door to ask if it’d be OK to crash in your yard for the night.

So here’s our handy guide on how to get rid of common ivy.


The Dark Side of Common Ivy

Now that you think of it, the ivy is quite the troublemaker. In addition to being an invasive plant which could potentially attach to and damage your property, it is also harmful to children and pets, causing allergic skin reactions from a mere touch, or vomiting if ingested.

The creeping and climbing habits of English Ivy pose a great menace to flowers and trees in your garden, stealing their essential nutrients and water. Its foliage blocks valuable sunlight from reaching other plants, and also creates shelter for different kinds of pests such as mice, rats, birds, bats, and insects. Ivy’s berries also attract wildlife, mostly birds, butterflies, moths, bees, and wasps.

How to Identify Poison Ivy

Nature is unique and it finds extraordinary methods to survive. One of them is for certain species to imitate a dangerous and poisonous lookalike. Poison ivy’s cousins don’t make an exception – there are, in fact, dozens of impostors. Some of the lookalikes are harmless, but others – such as poison sumac or poison oak, can cause even more pain and suffering. To identify the poison ivy plant you’ll need to:

  • Identify the plant’s leaves. Vines with leaves grouped in three are a telltale sign. This is definitely the most outstanding feature amongst all doppelgängers. Remember the catchphrase – “Leaves of three, let it be!“.
  • Check its growth pattern. Even though poison ivy bears the name of the type of plants that grow upwards only, it can spread in any direction. It also grows in bushes or as a single plant.
  • Mind the colour. Even though it is no longer green, poison ivy is still poisonous even in a reddish suit.
  • Identify fruits. Poison ivy has distinct white translucent fruits. As a matter of fact, poison oak has similar fruits, so either way, stay away.

Do you know your ivies? Test your knowledge with our Poison Ivy Identifier Quiz!

Article continues below.

How to Kill Ivy

Your best bet to completely eradicate invasive ivy involves the use of chemicals and about a month’s time for this method to take effect. Before you commence the process, be sure to have the following supplies at hand:

  • Rubber gardening gloves (£2 – £10)
  • Garden shears (£5 – £20)
  • Pruning saw for thicker ivy vines, if any (£10 – £20)
  • Spray bottle or sprayer (£10 – £20)
  • Glyphosate weed killer (£20 – £30)
  • Long sleeves, long pants and boots (£5 – £20)
  • Strong patience (priceless)

Got them all? Good, let’s move onto the steps to kill ivy.

Here are the steps to get rid of ground covering ivy:

Step 1. Find and mark all the plant’s base roots.

Step 2. Leave around 1-2 feet worth of ivy coming from the main roots untreated, for later.

Step 3. Start cutting the ivy in patterns, simultaneously pulling out each section.

Step 4. Pile up everything you’ve cut to dispose of it after the chemical treatment.

Step 5. Spray the freshly cut vines and remaining leaves (from Step 2) with a weed killer containing Glyphosate*.

Step 6. Repeat this process every few weeks until the ivy is defeated for good.

What is a good ivy killer?

Glyphosate is a chemical that can be absorbed by the otherwise impenetrable leaves and enter the ivy’s vascular system. This slow but efficient ivy killer method causes the plant to die out in a matter of weeks. DO NOT spray over plants that you wish to preserve.

Here’s how to kill climbing ivy on trees:

Step 1. Cut its vines at waist level 3-4 feet above tree trunk base with the garden shears, all around.

Step 2. Leave the ivy that remains on the tree to dry out and die off within a month or so. Do not pull the vines unless you’re sure they are dead. Otherwise you will damage the tree’s bark.

Step 3. Remove as much ivy roots as you can around the trunk by hand, leaving a safe zone of at least 3-4 feet radius. This way you can act fast if new ivy vines emerge.

Step 4. For what’s left on the ground, apply the same procedure as killing ground creeping ivy.

Follow the steps below to remove ivy from walls:

Step 1. Pull out each vine gently to prevent damaging the wall.

Step 2. Leave any leftovers to dry out with time, so they could become easier to remove.

Step 3. Apply weed killer containing Glyphosate to the ivy’s ground roots to prevent it from growing back again.

Step 4. Scrape off remaining rootlets and tendrils with a steel brush. For wooden house exterior and wooden fences use a sander instead.

Home Remedy Alternatives

Not a fan of chemistry, eh? No worries, we got you covered. Here are 3 non-toxic, Eco-friendly methods to deal with overgrown ivy. Note that these require time, usually months, before you can see any positive outcome.

The good ol’ white vinegar method

Arm yourself with a garden sprayer or a regular spray bottle. Fill in the container with a mixture of 80% water and 20% white vinegar. Spray the ivy plants thoroughly, making sure you don’t affect any other plants you don’t want to get rid of. Wait for a couple of days and inspect the result of your efforts. Pull out and remove any dead ivy and re-apply the same solution as much as needed.

Duct tape, table salt, and water

This trick is suitable for treating thicker vines. Make a fresh cut on each one using your garden clippers, wrap them around with duct tape to form something like a cup. Pour ¾ table salt in each cup and apply a bit of water. This way you attack the ivy’s vascular system and the plant should be completely dried out within a couple of months.

Sheet mulching

Create thick layers of mulch by using old newspapers, cardboard, dead leaves or grass, or other similar matter, and place them on top of the area where ivy grows. Your goal here is to suffocate the ivy, preventing it from receiving its life-sustaining resources like light, water, and air. As for those mulch materials, they are biodegradable, meaning they will decompose with time and become one with the soil.

Check out our tips on how to get rid of weeds in your garden using natural, organic methods that do not harm the neighbouring plants.

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Did you like this guide? What are your tips and tricks to battling ivy – when it’s not welcomed in your garden? We’d love to hear your take on this matter in the comments below.

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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  • My neighbour planted ivy 2 or 3years ago, it’s taking over my garden, and I’m thinking of killing it off, . He never said a word about it am I in my rights,

    • Hello Trevor,

      When it comes to neighbours being negligent about the consequences from their unruly garden, you can see if you have the legal rights to get in touch with authorities, if you don’t manage to get a calm talk with the aforementioned neighbour. He should understand the situation, but if the ivy is causing too much trouble, you have other options. We’re going to cite Neighbouring Lands Act here. If you:

      1) have previously put your requests in writing to your neighbour;

      2) have checked all mortgages /insurances/credit cards /union memberships for legal expenses cover;

      3) experience that your neighbour is effectively causing legal nuisance, damage and trespass;

      then you should be able to get permission under the aforementioned law.

      So in case you won’t be able to solve this dispute without involving authorities, you should formally send the neighbour a Letter of Notice, which entails the full issue and the solution needed to be taken. If the neighbour continues to not take care of the ivy, it’s possible that he will cover the subsequent cost of removal/restriction.

      You can approach citizen advice bureau if things get out of hand but we advise before everything else to try and have a formal talk with the neighbour, informing him of your civil rights.

      Good luck!

  • All information I have looked for I have found easily. Although I live in sw France your website has helped me greatly in starting to develop a new garden. I am sure I will visit your website many more times for the help and support it has given me so far.

    • Thank you very much for the kind words! And remember – there are no gardening mistakes, only experiments!

  • How can you continue to advocate the use of Roundup when it is classified as a carcinogen by WHO? In any case, this kind of slash and burn approach to gardening is counterproductive. Roundup kills other plants (contrary to Monsanto’s propaganda) and is damaging to all wildlife as well as humans.Pets and young children in gardens are at risk. We must begin to treat our planet with more respect, but also more sense. The use of chemicals is destroying our soil so that we will not be able to grow anything.

    • @Susan Greaves

      “…and is damaging to all wildlife as well as humans.” Ummm, citation needed?

      Hint: You won’t find any.

      Perhaps, the guys behind this blog post did their research on the stuff and that’s why they can advocate its use. From what you’re saying, however, I can only conclude that you haven’t done yours. Worry not, I am here to help you!

      The WHO did a press release on The Lancet claiming that Glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) was “probably carcinogenic”. By the way according to them being a barber or a fry cook is also “probably carcinogenic”. But I digress.

      First, let me point out that NUMEROUS national and international agencies have reviewed Glyphosate and the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) is the only one to conclude the chemical is “probably carcinogenic”. And that only happened in the press release.

      If you actually want to know your facts rather than blindly believe press you can simply READ the full monograph of the WHO’s 2006 report on Glyphosate.

      There are SERIOUS discrepancies between the two.

      The actual monograph doesn’t state that glyphosate can be connected to the development of cancer.

      In fact, it literally states the opposite.

      It is rather intriguing why the WHO found it appropriate to publicly announce otherwise. I will give you a few examples and links for you to check for yourself:

      The Lance press release (you’d have to register an account to access it): https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanonc/article/PIIS1470-2045(15)70134-8/abstract

      The actual full monograph by the WHO, reviewing Glyphosate (page 95 to 171):
      http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/43624/9241665203_eng.pdf

      Here it goes.

      “In male CD-1 mice, glyphosate induced a positive trend in the incidence of a rare tumour, renal tubule carcinoma”. That’s a citation from the press release.

      First off let me point something out. “Positive trend” in scientific terms does not mean a significant effect, which is the term being used for a definitive causation. Let’s further review the study, however:

      There were 50 male and 50 female mice in total. They were given Glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) in varying doses in water over the course of the next 24 months. In the end 5 of the mice have developed the rare tumour. Researches looked back and noted that this kind of a tumour should only appear in 1 out of 725 mice. So far it’s convincing, right?

      Well, here’s the problem:

      1. One of the mice that had developed the tumour was in the control group (control group is the group in which the subjects do not participate in the experiment, or in this case were NOT given the Glyphosate).

      2. The Researches that did the test clearly point out that the statistical method used “often gives incorrect results”. That’s a citation from the actual paper.

      Here’s a question for you: Why were they okay with assigning the test group’s development of cancer to Glyphosate, but the one in the control group to chance (if one in 725 mice develops this type of cancer, which is 0.14%)?

      This is one of the many “free interpretations” that the WHO did, based on the overall absurdly insufficient evidence they chose to cite in their press statement.

      Here’s what the WHO 2006 report clearly states on the subject, by the way:

      “In conclusion, administration of glyphosate to CD-1 mice for 104 weeks produced no signs of carcinogenic potential at any dose. The NOAEL was 1000mg/kg BW per day, the highest dose tested (Atkinson et al., 1993a).”.

      So how come they find it convenient to ignore that conclusion and claim otherwise in the press?

      The very next sentence in the Lancet report is the following “A second study reported a positive trend for haemangiosarcoma in male mice”.

      However, here’s what the 2006 report had to say about that study:

      “Owing to the lack of a dose-response relationship, the lack of statistical significance and the fact that the incidences recorded in this study fell within the historical ranges for controls, these changes are not considered to be caused by administration of glyphosate”.

      I mean, what?

      Let’s proceed to another press release claim with 0 sufficient evidence:

      “Glyphosate increased pancreatic islet-cell adenoma in male rats in two studies.”

      But then again, here’s what the full monograph is ACTUALLY saying:

      “The only pancreatic islet cell carcinoma found in this study occurred in a male in the control group, thus indicating a lack of treatment-induced neoplastic progression. Taken together, the data support the conclusion that the occurrence of pancreatic islet cell adenomas in male rats was spontaneous in origin and unrelated to administration of glyphosate.”

      The contradictions go on and on. But enough about rats and mice. What about humans, right?

      The Lancet press release stated that three previous studies have reported increased risks for non-Hodgkin lymphoma due to glyphosate exposure. Well, guess what the full monograph actually said about these studies? Here it is:

      “However, the results of these studies do not meet generally accepted criteria from the epidemiology literature for determining causal relationships. Generally, the associations were rather weak and rarely statistically significant.“

      Only one of the studies suggested a positive relationship between this type of cancer and glyphosate but only 36 individuals were used in the data. That number is way too small to be statistically significant.

      Are you curious if there is study available with larger sample out there? If yes, you’re in luck!

      The AHS (Agricultural Health Study). That’s a cohort study. The sample here is 15 000 exposed subjects versus 13 000 non-exposed subjects. Both studies are from the same author, too! No cherry-picking here!

      What the motives of the WHO were for their grotesque distortion of information in front of the public, I have no clue to. But I beg of you this – do your research before accusing anyone of anything. The guys that wrote that blog post are in their right to encourage using Roundup, especially when it comes to a notorious menace like the common ivy.

      Regards, Kevin Nash

  • I’m not even a keen gardener and absolutely loved your reply. So many people base their judgements upon absurdly poor research.
    Well done Kevin Nash

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