Ivy- Its Benefits, Disadvantages, and How to Kill it
However ivy really isn't all it is cracked up to be, it grows almost virulently, is extremely difficult to remove, and can cause all manner of damage to the things that it chooses to grow on. Yes it can look wonderfully aesthetic, but given half the chance it will inevitably grow out of control, becoming ragged, overgrown and wild looking. If you do wish to have ivy growing in your surroundings then at the very least you should be looking to perform maintenance on it bi-annually to prevent it getting out of control.
The two main areas that ivy is usually grow on are brick walls, and trees or forest land. These are discussed below along with the best courses of action to take if you wish to remove the ivy:
Effects of ivy on trees Back to top
Ivy is commonplace within woodland areas, sometimes with the whole woodland floor consisting of an Ivy carpet. Such low locations are useless to the Ivy, the shade of trees keeps the light levels low, reducing photosynthesis; additionally pollination and seed dispersal is difficult. Ivy needs to establish itself as high as possible within the canopy and is programmed to achieve this through climbing. Once established on a tree, ivy offers a home for many insects and nesting places for many birds. However, it can also be the cause of many problems and may even lead to the total demise of the tree. Ivy is an evergreen, producing leaves all year round. Once located around the trunk of a tree, its leaves prevent any light from reaching the tree bark and thus prevents activation of any dormant buds. This does not necessarily represent a problem and in some cases may even be desirable. It does however become a problem when ivy grows into the trees crown and prevents the development of new and existing buds. Buds produce leaves and leaves produce food for the tree through the process of photosynthesis; without adequate supplies of food the tree starts to suffer.
Ivy growth around the tree trunk can produce a localised humid microclimate which wood decay organisms enjoy; such a climate may increase the rate of decay on already damaged areas. Tree Inspection becomes difficult with possible hazards being hidden from view and for these reasons it is normally recommended that the ivy be killed and removed and the tree be inspected again.
Removal or Maintenance of Ivy on Trees Back to top
It may be prudent to prevent ivy from growing onto trees altogether unless this is essential for some aesthetic reason. If this is the case then ivy growth should be limited to the tree's trunk only, with it being regularly trimmed back as it begins to enter the trees crown. If the ivy is already established then it can be either removed or simply cut at the base. Removal is a messy business, as any tree surgeon will tell you, dust, dirt, dead leaves, bird nests and insects invariably end up down your neck, in your mouth and in your hair. The easier method is simply to cut each and every Ivy stem around the tree trunk at around waist height. This will kill the ivy above the cut, causing its leaves to first turn brown and then fall; this could take 1-2 years. Eventually the ivy stems will rot, disintegrate and fall way from the tree branches; this may take anything from 3-10 years depending upon the diameter of the stems.It is possibly to pull the ivy off of the trees at any stage, however it is much easier once you have killed the ivy and let it dehydrate for a while. Also there is less chance of you damaging the tree if you pull of dead ivy, as it is less likely to cling to the bark and pull said bark off with it when you remove the ivy. If a tree is stripped of too much bark it may become sick and die.
Effect of Ivy on Brick Walls Back to top
Despite its often beautiful appearance on building work, pruning this fast-growing plant is necessary in order to keep it away from wooden house parts (window frames, roof eaves, siding, etc.) or else it can ruin finishes and works its way into the house. Ivy does not cause mortar to crumble unless that mortar if it already unsound. It does not harm fired, clay bricks. Think of all those ivy-draped, romantic-looking English structures that have been standing for centuries. There are other advantages to having ivy grow on your walls:
1. It adds a very effective additional insulating layer for keeping heat in, thus reducing your overall heating bill (something that might be quite significant in an old country house). See also energy saving tips for other (better) ways to cut your heating bill.
2. Ivy provides accommodation of birds and wildlife, and so provides a natural habitat for animals in your garden.
3. It can be an effective way of covering up or blending an unsightly wall into the surrounding area.
4. There is evidence that the ivy helps keep walls dry. Although both the ivy and masonry can thrive if the masonry and mortar is of very high quality, periodically the ivy may have to be removed (pruned back to the ground) to limit root penetration and excessive growth, to inspect the condition of the wall, or to allow building maintenance. Typically this is done in winter or early spring when ivy leaves don't block your view and add weight.
Removal of Ivy From Brickwork Back to top
If you ever want to remove the ivy, be very cautious as you can easily pull the mortar off with the ivy. You may want to consult with a mason, who can help you evaluate the consequences of removing it or leaving it alone.
1.Cut the stems: Working in late winter or early cut the ivy stems as low down to the wall as you can manage. If you have some ivy-killing herbicide then paint this onto the exposed cuts parts of the ivy that connect to the root system, this will help prevent the roots from re-growing, note this will only help prevent the roots from re-growing, see 'Permanent removal of Ivy' for more details on how tokill ivy completely.
2. Prune Aggressively: As with removing from ivy from trees it is best to leave the cut ivy to die for 1-2years before attempting to remove from the brickwork. However it is not so beneficial to wait as the ivy tends to come away from walls easier, and there is less chance of it pulling the material that it is clinging to away with it.So either immediately or after a period of time simply prune, cut and generally pull the ivy off the brickwork. Whatever the state of the ivy, be prepared for this to behard-work!
3. Scrape off Tendrils and Suckers: Use a stiff-blade scraper to remove the part of the vines that remain fastened to the wall. Work slowly and scrape at a relatively low angle (about 20 to 30 degrees) to minimize scratching brick, and wear gloves to protect your scraping hand. If you are working from a ladder, make sure your ladder is on firm, level ground; keep one hand on the ladder and don't overextend your reach.
4. Scrub or Burn off Residue: If some plant material remains, you may be able to scrub it off with a moderately stiff brush (wire brushes and even very stiff brushes may scratch brick), use a paint scraper (with a small amount of paint remover for stubborn areas) or use a propane torch to burn it off. Caution: If you use a torch, remember to wear goggles, and keep it well away from any wood or cracks. Remember that there's more flame than you may be able to see, especially in strong sunlight. Test in an inconspicuous area to make sure using the torch won't permanently scorch the masonry.
Permanent Removal of Ivy Back to top
If you do wish to permanently kill ivy then you have a lot of work ahead of you! It is very difficult to kill the entire ivy plant, and can only be done with a lot of hard work and persistence.
Generally it is very difficult to kill an entire ivy plant by use herbicides alone. The two major factors that protect the ivy plant are its waxy leaves that prevent the uptake of the herbicide, and the other is its almost phenomenal resistance to most toxins. It is certainly possible to brown out foliage, and in some cases it will appear to have controlled the ivy plant permanently. However generally, over time, green shoots will appear out of the dead foliage. Timing of treatment is a factor, too. Different mixes of herbicides and surfactants applied at different times of the year seem to have different levels of effectiveness, as does the way the herbicide is applied.
Skill and experience of the individual applying the herbicide also seems to have an effect. The best way to apply herbicide is to paint it onto fresh cuts in the plant stems. The alternative to herbicides is to use good old manual labour. Simply remove all the ivy shoots from your trees/fences/walls as described above, and then attack the roots! Chop the roots down as far as you can with pruning knives, axes, pruning-saws, or whatever you have handy, and then try to pull up or dig up as much of the root system as you can. If you do this thoroughly enough then you may be able to kill the ivy plant completely. Unfortunately it is rarely the case that you can attack and remove the roots completely. They may well grow under brick walls, or across your wonderfully turfed garden which you do not want to dig up completely. Therefore in most cases you will want to do a combined attack to kill the ivy. This involves cutting the ivy plant back as much as possible, and then painting any remaining exposed roots or stems with a concentrated herbicide. You may find that you have to do this several times a year, and possibly have to experiment with different herbicides before you finally kill the entire ivy plant. GOOD LUCK!
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"Im a gardener and have done many properties with this nuisance plant, mainly growing over from adjacent properties...Firstly weed killers are a waste of time.For large ground areas (usually embankments beneath trees is were it gets a grip), I cover with Weed block material (bought in 1 metre rolls), pinning down all edges as close to walls, trees etc as possible with 4-6 inch nails ( every 1 foot). You can use a decorative bark on top of this, but use a retaining edge so that depth of bark is at least five inches. The only way to remove from trees or walls is by cutting the tap roots(base of plant)first with a good set of loppers, then ease up the stem edges with scraper and pull upwards. For trees, if you remove a gap of about three foot from base exposing the bark, the upper plant that is left will slowly turn brown and die over a six month period. This will be quite messy for a time as the leaves and stems will eventually dry out and drop off, but it is worth it in the long run. Keep an eye on the stems left at base of wall or tree. I just keep lopping them back as they are very difficult to remove from around walls or trees. They eventually get the message. "
"As someone stated previously ivy is now out of control and requires controlling on a national scale. I would suggest that as long as some ivy is left to grow in an area of trees wildlife will adapt. Their appears to be very few trees not affected by ivy, so action is needed now but it requires land owners to address the matter. "
"I have been told by a man with the know,using a jetwash on the wall after removing the big stuff works well."
"going to attack full on. going to mix rock salt ,blackberry tree killer,zero, borax, lawn herbicide killer, and any thing else i can find. cut into the branches & stems and paint the mixture on & cross my fingers......"
"I've learned so much with your article.. Thank you for giving me the best idea on how to get rid of ground cover ivy... more power to your team!"
"A reply to Cheryl\'s comments below. I understand your concerns about the destruction of ivy and it\'s impact on wildlife but what people have searched for here is tips on how to kill ivy. If they wanted to hear the pros and cons about having ivy then they would have done a different search. I\'m sure that most people realise that wildlife need somewhere to live and by removing ivy this is limiting where they can live and breed. Ivy is extremely common and in many areas is out of control. I would suggest that more ivy is grown each year than is destoyed. Perhaps you may like to list some websites that will provide the readers with pro and con information so that they can make a well informed judgement before they decide to remove ivy."
"i would suggest that for the benefit of the future of our wildlife species and bio-diversity which is seriously threatened to a point of environmental disasater for everyone, the small birds which are in serious decline and innsects /bees etc That you provide all the benefits of having ivy and that if it is managed correctly which can be done with sensible pruning that the wildlife/ bats/ insects and natural balance that should be can be maintained for all our future and instead of promoting destruction encourage the homes that ivy provides for the small birds like wrens/finches/tits/ etc and that a certain amount of dead wood and trees is beneficial for all bio-diversity/wildlife/birds, woodpeckers, minstral thrushes which are quickly vanishing to ignorance of the importance of living in balance with our natural environment and promoting destructive education only. You should be ashamed of promoting bias damaging information and not how to live and manage your garden in a spiritual way."
"HI Terry, Thanks for your tip on rock salt will try it and let you know, our ivy is strangling our trees"
"Hi there, I recently had success in killing an ivy that was breaking down our garden fence - I sawed it, hacked it as much as I could and then drilled holes into it with an electric drill and poured used cooking oil into these holes. The root is still there - but its dead as a door nail. "
"This is why it is so hard to get off walls: http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_8701000/8701358.stm"
"Thanks for your help. Very helpful indeed."
"Can i take any action against neighbour? putting new fence up after removing last one which was destroyed by ivy, dont want this one to go the same way."
"A helpful article. I'm trying to scrub off the little suckers left behind. It isn't working well. It seems at one the a previous owner painted over the little suckers. What if any is the risk of them having done this? Any ideas?"
" Hawthorn/ May trees seen to be killed off by ivy. Longhalves path Freshwater IW"
"I have spent countless hours pulling ivy up from the roots & removing it from the brick on the side of my house. The root system is UNBELIEVABLE! I am convinced that after a nuclear holocaust the only 2 things that will be left on this Earth are cockroaches (as the legend goes) and IVY!!!! I still have a 15X15 foot section to go. It's so dense, it will probably take me another 8-10 hours to do just that. Plus I need to remove the little"suckers" from the side of the house. I have pulled & pulled & there is no way to remove all the root system. I just have to keep plugging away & make sure to watch for any new green sprouts to come up out of the ground. I WILL WIN THIS BATTLE! LOL"
"Hi, My garage was covered with the stuff, it's taken me 2 weekends to get rid of it using a machete, 2 hedge trimmers, a saw and some huge cutters, which the ivy got the better of and snapped one of the cutting teeth. Ended up covered in dirt and leaves but suprised to see very few signs of life, a few spiders by the roots and a few snails and lady birds but that was it! Very good article, my next step is to try and paint the remaining roots still showing. Good luck if your just about to start. :)"
"i have ivy all over my trees and it is now growing through the grass - how the heck do u get it out of grass???"
"I have recently spoken to a guy who has trimmed my trees and has also cut some down in the past.He told me to use rock salt to kill ivy as apparently he used it on the tree stumps that were left from cutting my trees down.He was dead right and it works I can assure you.I hope this inexpensive method helps someone. "
"yes the page on killing ivy ws very useful. I have been living here for 43 years and have pulled barrow loads of ivy up and off trees for all that time but the damn stuff still grows I plan to sell the property soon so will make a real effort then sell up quick!"
"Very useful article and nicely written with a touch of humour."
"I have just pruned the ivy growing on our wooden fence. The t-shirt I was wearing has come out of the wash covered in small dark brown stains - I presume these have been caused by the sap or ivy dust. Can anyone help me remove these marks? "
"Great! I have just read lots of comments and feel quite depressed - I have the rotten stuff growing up the side of my house and it has even come through the wall into my living room! I have one little stem clinging to a beam for dear life. I thought I could tackle it myself but the suckers make it near enough impossible. I am going to employ someone to rip it off (hopefully) and pour some strong weedkiller everywhere (not in the living room though)!"
"Thanks for your article. I have pulled the ivy from my fence and now will try cutting at the roots and painting with herbicide. WHAT A JOB....."
"I hate ivy. Its without doubt the most destructive stubborn weed and yes it is a weed as it grows like wildfire, you can't call it a plant as plants know when to stop growing! I have spent 3 hours hacking and chopping ivy off my neighbours garage wall on my side of the fence having just discovered for the past 8 years that it was rooted on my side of the fence. I have severed the roots from the branches now how long do I need to wait before removing the rest?"
"I used a $16 bottle of bleach mixture used in hot tubs on a small area of ivy to test it. It worked ok. The problem is it is near a driveway which will cause rust problems on the cars driving by. The Miller Pipeline Co. cuts the ivy and it dies quickly in some way for the Co. to quickly do their pipeline work. I have emailed them for info. on how they kill the ivy. No response yet. millerpipeline.com"
"I have ivy all over a wall which im in the process of removing, it seems to root all along its length drawing moisture out of the wall all along the length of tendril, the only way is to painstakingly remove every darn centimetre !!"
"I BOUGHT AN OLD HOUSE COVERED WITH THE STUFF WALLS AND GROUND. i COVERED THE WHOLE LOT WITH ROCK SALT. EVEN SOME OF THE ROAD GRIT WILL DO , HAVE MANAGED TO CLEAR ALL BUT A LITTLE PATCH AROUND A TREE. AND THATS IN JUST 1 YEAR. GIVE IT A TRY. IS CHEAP AND EASY TO DO . MY THOUGHTS WERE THAT IVY DOESNT GROW BY THE SEA!!!! "
"Thanks.....I have Ivy all over one side of the outside wall......have cut all the stems at about 12 inches from the ground some six months ago but its leaves are still rockin and green....so how long do I have to wait before the leaves give up. Can I then just leave the branches on the brickwork or should it all be pulled off. As someone else said Thought it would be a Sunday morning job and a glass of wine. any help please to... thanks "
"I have removed all the ivy from my house (brick) wall but the dead 'suckers' are still attached to the wall and are unsightly. I have tried to wire brush them off with a wire brush attached to my power drill but this is not completely successful. I think I need some liquid/chemical to loosen/melt the suckers from the wall. Any suggestions? "
"Ha! The ivy on the next door wall is trying to grow through our half of the wall, I have been hacking it back from their side for years but it seems to encourage it! The article above have depressed me so much I think I am just going to have to work on the owners because we will never crack it on our walls on our own!"
"I HATE IVY its the worst plant on earth"
"I have the problem that the Ivy is coming from the house next door, which has been empty for three years, and I had a shed at that side of the garden. I'm sure it's under there somewhere... I spend hours trimming the branches back to the wall twice a year, but they grow back very fast. I was hoping I could poison it from my side somehow."
It looked great when I moved in...
"How long does it take for ivy to get so woody? We are fighting it in a local nature reserve and it's killing trees. We have 9 1/2 acres to contend with. Help."
"Please remember that bats may be hibernating or roosting behind behind or within the ivy. Bats are very strictly protected by law. Birds may also nest within the ivy & all nesting birds are protected by law. Most of us prefer to protect our native wildlife & obey the law"
"Hi - I have been informed that you can drive copper nails into the offending ivy and this over a matter of time will kill the stuff. Up our drive we have about 20 trees, some of the oak trees range from at least 100 to 3/400 years old and one has already died. As these do not belong to us, I am loathe to fork out for an expensive tree surgeon, but would like to tackle the problem myself for my love of trees. Does anyone know if this works?"
"Thankyou for this information. I just knew it would come down to hard labour in the end."
"I've been killing ivy for some time now. I find that a combination of axe and crowbar is the best method. But you have to be very careful not to ringbark the tree. I believe in lunar planting, one fullmoon when the sap is high I cut around an oak tree that was being smothered. Within two weeks the tree was surrounded by a green carpet of ivy leaves and the ivy plant never recovered and died down to the root. I live in North London but can travel if you need any help. firstname.lastname@example.org"
"I got the ivy off our house by cutting the stems and waiting til it died, then pulling it of by wrapping a rope round it and pulling with the car, if you cant get a car up to the house i suggest six strong men. Now i have to tackle the roots."
"I killed this stubborn plant with diesel fuel. Its not very enviormental but it worked. Ive been ivy free for 1 year."
"I have fouind a product called Crossbow that seems to work fairly well. After cutting as much of the plant as I can, I paint Crossbow undiluted on the stems. This has worked as long as I get to the main trunk of the ivy"
"Date Added: Sunday 10th August 2008 "The link to the firm named as CROCUS is dead. PS watch the grammar and spelling! Thanks for the article, very helpful but a bit morre chemical detail would be good." Terence Heath- Gloucestershire How pompus, aint my spelling good anough for ya either? If this is all you have to moan about then your life must be nearly perfect. I thought the whole article was very helpfull. Thank you to the author. "
A gratefull reader.
"Bugger! and i thought it was gonna be a sunday afternoon job!"
"The link to the firm named as CROCUS is dead. PS watch the grammar and spelling! Thanks for the article, very helpful but a bit morre chemical detail would be good."
Terence Heath- Gloucestershire
"The borax solution to kill ivy - Does it work as a foliage spray, or only as a soil treatment to kill the ivy?"
"We just purchased a home with Ivy, we peeled the Ivy off & behind it was stains from the vine. If anyone knows how to get this stuff off my house please let me know..PLEASE!"
"Your link to crocus does not find the product to kill ivy - maybe they have changed the link"
"My Ivy I'm trying to kill is on a Sassafrass tree. I tried pulling if off, as best I can, but it's hurting the bark and I'm afraid of hurting the tree further. I have severed alot of lifelines, but I have 2 HUGE ones left. Any Ideas??"
"Is is possible to smother ivy with acombination of herbicide and landscaping fabric?"
"There is an easier way to get rid of ivy... Recipe for Borax control of ground ivy (Caution: apply over recommended area to avoid toxicity symptoms) To treat 1,000 sq. feet: * 10 oz. Twenty Mule Team Borax * dissolve in 4 oz. warm water * then dilute in 2.5 gal. water apply liberally and apply 3 times about 2 weeks apart!"
"My daughter has just moved in to a flat, ground floor, London. Ivy is growing from property behind over and up the wall running round the gutters and up the down pipe. We have no access to the root base and it is hard to get at. Should I be concerned? What do we do??? any solutions please email email@example.com"
"very helpful thank you."
"I'm in the middle of ripping mine down. I cut every part of the ivy that touched the ground, everything. It had no contact with the roots, and i did it last year. Within a couple of months it was growng at ninety miles an hour. No roots and it was groing at ninety miles an hour. At the moment i'm ripping it all down by hand."
"Has anyone ever tried flaming the darn stuff with a propane torch and then hitting the new growth with concentrated Roundup? I might give that a try as winter comes along and fire danger goes low in N. California."
"Thank you that was most helpful"
"I have removed all the ivy from my house a few years ago, however a lot of the little suckers and vines have stayed attached to the brickwork. Any idea how i get these off? I've tried a stiff wire brush, but they are stuck on pretty hard!"