Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

How to Control English Ivy


How do you control English ivy? It is taking over my back yard, and herbicides don’t seem to have any effect! -John

English Ivy (Hedera helix) can be very aggressive if not kept under strict control! Unfortunately, its thick, waxy leaves make it somewhat resistant to regular sprayed herbicides, so gardeners have to get creative (and more than a little dirty) in order to tackle it.

Here are some tips:

  • Unpleasant as it may be, your defense is a good ground attack. Pull as much as you can by hand, and remove or cut any stems growing up trees or structures. Pulling ivy is messy and hard work, but it goes pretty quickly.
  • As you’re pulling, don’t leave behind any little sprouts! Completely clear the ground, particularly in a large circle around trees, shrubs, and structures.
  • Remember that your ivy will grow vigorously after it’s cut – you may want to remove it all, rather than just containing it.
  • Ivy is not a parasitic plant, although it can take root as it creeps along the ground. As you pull the ivy, you need to be looking for the main stem and roots so you can remove them as well.
  • If you’re applying herbicides, be sure to choose one labeled for English ivy, or one containing the ingredient riclopyr ester.
  • You’ll have to apply herbicide repeatedly throughout the year, but particularly be sure to attack it in the early spring when new growth is emerging, as younger leaves absorb the herbicide more easily.
  • Follow the weed killer instructions exactly. Applying when temperatures are too hot or cold, applying too close to a rain, and other factors can affect the product’s strength – and with English ivy, you need everything working for you!
  • Some gardeners report success with mowing or trimming the ivy before applying weed killers. This exposes cut stems that can absorb the chemicals, and it sparks a flush of growth that results in more fluid circulation to and from the roots, which may improve the effectiveness of your weed killer.
  • Cut thicker stems with lopping shears, then paint the cut end with undiluted herbicide.
  • Make sure your weed killer includes a surfactant – if it doesn’t, you can add a couple of tablespoons of dish detergent to your sprayer. The surfactant disperses the chemicals and also helps cut through the waxy coating on thick leaves.

Further Information


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3 Comments on “How to Control English Ivy”

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  1. Karen Mulkeen Says:
    July 31st, 2012 at 10:09 am

    I love you website. you had alot of info on the English Ivy that troubles my garden. It is alot to take in at such a hardy plant. I’ve been cutting the ivy back but not continous like I should. It is near my vegetable garden and I want to rid of it. Thank You for nice website. I would like to come back to see what else you have in store for this gardener. Your website is very informative.

  2. pat harvey Says:
    September 28th, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    the ivy has come off the brick wall, how do we reattached it ? The removal was an accident and we really want to reattach it.

  3. jeff jeffers Says:
    March 4th, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    In 4 yrs at my home I bought which had a patch of (pretty Green Ivy) , has now tried to take over my work shop, appears to be killing my huge trees as it continues to grow up and totally covering my trees. HOW can I stop it, I have found that if I keep stems and vine roots cut the vine dies and stops the tree growth, temporarily. I want to Kill all this Ivy. it already covers a 90′ by 150′ which includes about 30 trees and some of them (appx 20) are huge Pines, Qaks, and Popular, I need to know what to do before I lose these trees.

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