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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8 Comments on “How to Control English Ivy”

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  • Angela Jackson Says:
    February 20th, 2017 at 5:58 am

    How do I treat my very old apple tree bark after removal of English ivy, thanks so much for any help, would hate to lose this beautiful old tree.

  • M. J. Irvine Says:
    May 25th, 2016 at 5:18 am

    was told that a copper band around trunk of tree would keep ivy from going up the tree. is this a true statement?

  • bubba mustafa Says:
    April 20th, 2016 at 10:28 am

    I found using a machete to cut and edge/perimeter works nice as does a garden rake (rigid tines) for clearing it out once cut. Then timely maintenance.

    (My ivy took over as expected, but strangely a small 5 foot lamp post that it was centered around *never* grew past the base of the light fixture at its top.)

  • Win Says:
    October 12th, 2015 at 8:43 am

    We have a very small cottage with simple wooden fencing either side at the back. A neighbour on one side has prolific Ivy which has taken over one side penetrating our fence and making strides up our wall. My husband has been diagnosed with asthma and I believe the Ivy houses dust too. We would like it removed but our neighbour refuses. I suggested she build a wall is she is so keen on keeping the ivy, as it’s only brick that I believe will stop the Ivy penetration, but she won’t do that. We really don’t want gardeners permanently in our garden cutting back either. Any advice?
    Many thanks

  • Ivy Eater Says:
    April 20th, 2015 at 9:55 am

    You have to get that ivy out of there! You are right that it will kill your trees. Cut the ivy off the trunks, every one of them. Pull and cut the ivy away from the base of the trees, to prevent the ivy girdling the trees at the base. Any ivy left on the trees higher than you can reach will die off after a little while. Worry most about what is on the ground, because it is depriving the trees of moisture and nutrients. As for controlling and eliminating the ground-covering ivy, it is just a lot of work, but worth it for your trees. Be very careful if you use herbicides because the same chemicals can potentially harm your trees.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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How to Control English Ivy