How to kill ivy growing on trees

Will Ivy Harm My Trees? Should I Remove Ivy? - Organic Plant Care LLC

“Does ivy hurt my trees?” is a question homeowners regularly ask. The answer is complicated, so read on to learn whether or not you should tear those tentacles off your tree’s trunk.

Isn’t ivy a common garden plant?

First, let’s be clear about what we mean by “ivy.” We’re talking about English Ivy (Hedera helix), not Boston Ivy (that’s a completely different species of vine, Parthenocissus tricuspidata).

You’ll find English Ivy in plenty of gardens and plant nurseries throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and surrounding states.

Ivy has long been used as a groundcover and is valued for its consistent appearance and ability to cover large areas. If kept under control and confined to its intended area, ivy doesn’t pose a problem for trees. But when an ivy stem reaches a tree’s trunk, it attaches itself to the tree’s bark and heads upwards into the tree’s crown. This is where problems can start.  

How does ivy climb trees?

Ivy uses two important mechanisms to overtake surfaces, including trees: attachment points and sunlight-oriented growth

Once the stems of ivy find a surface to attach to, the plant modifies its leaf-node root hairs to become attachment points. The plant increases the surface area of these modified root hairs and excretes a kind of “glue” from the root hair to bond to the surface it’s climbing. If you’ve ever tried to pull ivy off a wall, fence, or other surface, you know how strong that “glue” is!

Once the ivy’s stems are secured, they grow upward and outward in search of sunlight.

Why does ivy climb up trees?

A tree’s bark offers an ideal surface for ivy roots to attach to. Even smooth bark still has tiny fissures for root hairs to reach into and grab hold of. Trees with rough, platy bark offer woody or corky surfaces fissured with deep channels that ivy can easily cling to. 

And all tree trunks are growing upward toward sunlight, where ivy wants to be. By growing at the top of a tree, ivy gets far better exposure to sunlight than it does at the base of the tree.

How does ivy harm a tree?

According to The American Ivy Association, ivy growing only on a tree’s trunk isn’t interrupting that tree’s photosynthesis. Plus, the waterproof nature of bark means ivy isn’t extracting water and nutrients from the tree. So, as long as there’s only a little bit of ivy and it’s only on the trunk, it’s not likely to directly hurt the tree.

However, ivy climbing up a tree grows quickly and it isn’t likely to stop growing. And when ivy smothers a tree’s trunk, the problems begin. 

  • Ivy will siphon resources (water and nutrients) from the surrounding soil to support its own growth, taking those resources away from your trees.
  • Ivy covering your tree trunk means that a tree’s trunk flare and anchoring roots can’t be easily evaluated for safety by an arborist. 
  • If there are any structural defects or damage that could become a hazard, they’ll be difficult to see when covered by ivy.
  • A thick coating of ivy can hold plant debris and fungal spores that can compromise the tree’s health.
  • Heavy growth of ivy can provide shelter and hiding places for rodents and other pests.
  • Ivy uses your tree’s trunk and branch structure as a scaffold to climb, eventually covering many (or even all) of the branches. Its weight and spread can create unbalanced branches that are more likely to break, especially during storms.
  • In the crown of a tree, ivy can overtake the tree’s own foliage, blocking the sunlight that foliage needs to photosynthesize and make energy stores.

Over time, these growth habits will weaken a tree by compromising the tree’s ability to take up water and nutrients from below and to convert sunlight into energy from above. And a weakened tree is susceptible to both insect pests and diseases.

Should I remove ivy from my trees?

Whether or not you should remove ivy from your trees depends on your situation. The severity of ivy’s damage to trees is dependent on how and where it’s growing, and how much ivy is in your tree’s crown. But, eventually, you will need to get rid of the ivy in your tree.

However, do not pull ivy off your tree!

The real damage to a tree’s bark comes when homeowners try to pull off the ivy stems that are glued to the bark. 

Pulling or yanking off ivy stems will inevitably remove chunks of bark; ivy roots are so strongly attached to tree bark that they take the bark with them when pulled off. Tearing off bark creates openings in the cork, or protective exterior bark layer that expose the vulnerable, interior tissue of the tree to pests and disease.

If I can’t pull it off, how should I remove ivy from my tree?

Instead of pulling down ivy, sever all of the ivy stems growing up the tree at the tree’s base. You’ll be cutting a band of ivy stems around the trunk to separate them from their “parent” ivy plants rooted in the ground.  

Once severed, the ivy stems on the tree will die. Let them wither and allow the stems and anchoring roots to decay. You can leave the dead ivy attached to the tree; it won’t harm the trunk and the dead leaves will eventually fall.

How else can I control ivy?

There are a couple of methods to control or eliminate ivy.

Manually Remove Ivy Plants

  • After severing the ivy stems on your tree’s trunk, remove ivy that’s growing in the ground around your trees. If you don’t do this, the stems will form new growth where you cut them and ivy will start climbing your tree again.
  • The most effective way to get rid of ivy is to dig out its roots. It can be tough going so try watering the area beforehand to soften the soil (or wait until after a rainfall). Be sure you don’t miss any roots – ivy plants put out roots at each leaf node wherever ivy stems touch the ground.
  • Be careful when removing ivy roots within the dripline of a tree; the tree’s delicate feeder root system is just below the soil’s surface and you don’t want to damage it.

Use Sprays to Kill Ivy

Spraying should only be done on ivy plants growing in the ground. Never spray ivy growing on a tree.

Spraying is easier than digging but can be ineffective if not done thoroughly. The surface of ivy leaves has a protective coating that resists water and herbicides, making it difficult to affect the leaf tissue beneath the coating. 

If you spray using herbicides, choose a calm day to minimize damage to other plants from spray drift. Apply it as close as possible to the ivy’s leaves and cut stem ends. 

You can also make a DIY vinegar spray to kill the leaves, but be aware of the amount of salt that many recipes call for. Salt may kill the roots of ivy, but the salt added to the soil will damage the roots of whatever else is growing there.

Any tips for preventing ivy from growing back?

No matter the method used, removing ivy is labor-intensive. You’ll have to keep checking the cleared area every few weeks to dig up any new ivy sprouts. Spread mulch or use sheet-mulching (placing a layer of overlapping cardboard beneath the mulch) in a three-foot circle around your tree’s trunk base. This will help to smother any ivy sprouts trying to re-grow, and you’ll get the other benefits that mulch offers.

PRO TIP: Almost any piece of ivy stem left over from removal can sprout roots and begin growing new leaves and stems, so be sure to rake up all ivy debris. When you rake up the debris, dispose of it in your green waste can. Do not put it on your compost pile until it has died (bag it securely while waiting for it to die). While ivy is still alive, there’s a high likelihood it will re-sprout and take over your compost pile!

If ivy is bad, why is it so common?

Lots of plants have been imported from other countries and continents and then sold to homeowners. In the U.S., the first commercial nursery was started in 1737!  While many introduced plants beautify our gardens and pose no problems, some can be a major nuisance. Even plant enthusiast Thomas Jefferson imported and grew plants at Monticello that later turned out to be invasive species!

Many plants that scientists consider invasive or dangerous to native ecosystems are legally sold in nurseries. Because the U.S. has a wide range of climate zones, a plant considered invasive in one location may not be a threat in other locations where temperatures or moisture may control its growth. Until invasive plants are comprehensively banned from the nursery trade, they will be available for sale.

The USDA’s National Invasive Species Information Center (NISIC) has federal and local information about invasive species. From there, you can find a comprehensive list of invasive plants and animals that are found in New Jersey. Hedera helix is included on this list of invasive plants for our area.

You can read more about invasive plants and Jersey-Friendly Yard planting ideas here, and you can learn about what’s being done by a non-profit land trust to eradicate invasive plants in the state.

If you’re considering removing ivy, remember that ivy does not provide much for wildlife. Removing ivy and replanting with native plants will be doing our pollinators and wildlife a big favor.

Give Us A Call

If you’re concerned about ivy and the health of your trees, we’ll be happy to come out and evaluate your trees and surrounding landscape. Our Certified Arborists will be able to recommend the best way to deal with any ivy that may be harming your trees.

Arborist Advice: Remove English Ivy From Your Trees

November 24, 2020 By Sarah Fry Arborist Tree Advice, Tree Care Tips

English ivy (Hedera spp. ) is a non-native plant that was first introduced to the Pacific Northwest as a horticultural plant, but has since spread by seed to dominate huge swaths of our forests and urban gardens. The state of Oregon defines the woody, evergreen English ivy as a noxious weed.

This invasive species forms dense mats on the forest floor and at the base of trees, outcompeting native species.

If left unchecked, it will eventually grow up the trunks of trees to the canopy and then grow outward, as seen in the photograph above. The added weight from the ivy makes the tree more susceptible to breakage in wind. English ivy will deny sun to the tree canopy it grows in and can eventually kill shrubs by shading its enshrouded branches. Large-diameter living ivy vines can constrict trunk growth, injuring the bark and creating entry sites for pest and disease. Once mature, the English ivy produces seed-filled berries that birds eat and then distribute the invasive species seeds across the region.

Our arborists recommend removal of all English ivy from your yard, as it can quickly spread. If you have a large amount of English ivy to remove, prioritize removing it from your trees first.

If English ivy has already climbed your tree or shrub, girdle the ivy at the base of the trunk. Because English ivy gets its nutrients and water from the soil at the base of the tree, cutting the vines all the way around the trunk will starve the rest of the ivy growing on the tree bark above.

How to Remove English Ivy Growing On Your Trees

Wearing gloves and long sleeves during removal is recommended for everyone. English ivy can cause contact dermatitis and/or allergic reactions in some people. If you are especially sensitive, consider hiring For The Love Of Trees to remove it for you.

1. Using hand pruners, cut all of the ivy vines around the bark a few inches above the ground and again at chest height, being careful not to damage the tree bark.

2. Remove the vines between these two cut lines. Some of these mature vines can be several inches thick and need to be pried away from the bark. In the pictures above, the vines were removed from the tree trunks from the ground to chest height.
3. After girdling the English ivy from the tree, remove all English ivy in a six foot radius around the tree. This is most easily done when the soil is wet.
4. You will need to monitor the area throughout the year to ensure that new English ivy plants are not sprouting.

5. As seen in the picture of the tree above, the dead English ivy vines still cling to the bark after being girdled from below. After a few years, as the dead ivy vines become more brittle and the tree trunk continues to add girth, the ivy will slough off. Some find the dead ivy remaining in the tree to be unsightly. An alternative to waiting for it to slough off is to have one of For The Love Of Trees’ arborists climb the tree and pull the ivy from the bark.

Portland Area English Ivy Removal Volunteers

There are several local volunteer organizations working to restore native habitat by eradicating English ivy from our shared natural areas. After removing all of the English ivy from your yard, you can pitch in to free the trees around the Portland area with any of the organizations below:

No Ivy League – Forest Park
Friends of Tryon Creek – Tryon Creek State Park
Hoyt Arboretum Friends – Hoyt Arboretum
City of West Linn – Mary S. Young Park

How to get rid of ivy in the country - methods, means

Author Maria Reading 4 min Views 8.2k. Posted on

Garden ivy is more often an evergreen liana, used in ampelous, vertical gardening.

It is planted along the walls of houses, arbors, fences, its natural feature is to grow rapidly and cling firmly to everything that can serve as its support. If the ivy is not cut constantly, not to limit growth, it is able to flood the entire area, destroying all plantings under the opaque shoots.


  1. Types of garden ivy and growth features
  2. Methods of getting rid of ivy in the garden: List of effective
  3. Cabbage
  4. Weakening plant
  5. Herbicides
  6. Conclusion

Types of garden talus and Features In the zones of the Russian Federation, it is customary to grow 4 types of ivy:

  • Hedera helix (common). The length of the vine reaches 30 m, in the internodes there are sucker roots, with the help of which ivy clings to any surface. Used as a groundcover, the berries are poisonous.
  • Hedera colchica (Colchian). Powerful liana with leaves up to 25 cm, fast-growing, does not tolerate frost.
  • Ivy Boston (Parthenocissus). It reaches a height of 20-30 m, old vine trunks can be up to 10-15 cm in diameter. In winter, it throws off a leaf, in autumn it becomes purple-yellow. Growth rate up to 4 m per season.
  • Crimean ivy. Evergreen liana, reaches 30 m with trunk circumference up to 1 m.

Rapid growth, powerful root and the ability of any shoot to take root if it falls on the ground ensures the rapid spread of ivy over the site. Growing, the stalk gives life to a new vine, so getting ivy out is a very difficult task.

Methods for getting rid of ivy in the garden: a list of effective ones

The first thing a gardener should stock up on is great patience, it often takes 2-3 seasons to completely remove ivy from the site. In addition, the following tools are required:

  • Pruning shears, secateurs.
  • Rubberized gloves.
  • Fine tooth saw, for cutting thick shoots.
  • Clothing covering arms and legs.
  • Spray bottle.
  • Pesticides against weeds.

The last point is an extreme one, which is desirable for a gardener to use. Herbicides destroy all vegetation, plus they have carcinogenic properties, causing cell degeneration (cancer).


The extent of the work depends on how wide the ivy has grown in the area and how deeply the roots have penetrated into the ground. Young plants are dug up with a shovel, the shoots are rolled up, placed in a bag. You can not leave the smallest piece of creeper on the ground, it will grow and grow into a new plant.

If the ivy has grown over a large area, make a plan for destruction. The plot is divided into squares 2 * 2 or 3 * 3 meters. From each square, the vines are first cut and folded, trying not to damage them, put in bags or a cart. Then they methodically dig up all the roots, trying not to cut them off, but to remove them along the entire length, no matter how far they grow underground.

Everything dug up/cut off must be taken out of the garden. Even in a dried form, an ivy shoot, once in a humid environment, can germinate again.

Weakening the plant

This method is “long-term”, but is used in large areas when it is physically impossible to dig up and destroy the vine at once. The essence of the method is to weaken the root system, regular pruning of young shoots. The work is painstaking, almost everyday, it requires more than one season.

Long whips, if they rushed up through the house, onto a tree, are cut near the ground, leaving a "stump" about 50-90 cm from the ground. The upper lashes will gradually dry out, in winter, in frosts, they will be easy to remove and destroy.

"Hemp" is given special attention. All young shoots are carefully cut "under zero", preventing them from growing further. Gradually, the root system will weaken, vitality and nutrition will run out. In frosts, you can dig up the ground so that the roots freeze well.


How to get rid of ivy in the garden with herbicides?

Hazardous chemical compounds, do not use near food plants (berry, vegetable crops, etc.), act on leaves or in combination (leaf/root). To destroy ivy use:

  • Roundup (a.i. gilphosate), toxic to animals, humans. Destroys foliage, loses effectiveness in the rain. After processing, the vine cannot be cut and taken away for several days (poisoning of random people, death of animals).
  • Weed-B-Gon, used in dry, calm weather. Does not affect ivy root, nearby grass. Toxic to humans and animals.
  • Weedazol (a.i. Amitrol), sold as a powder, solution. Systemic herbicide, penetrating through the leaves, passes into the roots, gradually killing the ivy.

Work with herbicides only in a protective suit, gloves, mask and goggles. In case of contact with skin and mucous solutions, rinse thoroughly with running water.


Destruction of ivy is a labour-intensive, lengthy, painstaking process. The result depends on how much the plant has spread, the power of the root system, the length of the branches of the vine. Initially, it is better to limit the growth of ivy without resorting to radical methods - herbicides. Folk ways, in the form of vinegar, soapy water, etc. ivy does not work.

Ivy damage to trees - how to remove English ivy from trees


  • Does ivy growth damage trees?
  • English ivy damage
  • How to remove English ivy from trees

There is no doubt about the attractiveness of English ivy in the garden. The vigorous vine is not only fast-growing, but resilient and requires minimal maintenance, making this ivy an exceptional groundcover. However, without occasional pruning to keep this under control, English ivy can become a nuisance, especially to trees in the landscape. Read on to learn more about ivy damage to trees and what you can do to fix the problem.

Does ivy growth damage trees?

Despite varying opinions, English ivy can damage trees and shrubs at some point, especially when the vine can grow. Overgrown ivy plants can eventually overwhelm nearby vegetation and engulf tree trunks.

This can lead to a number of problems affecting the general condition of the trees. While a tree may survive initially, the growth of ivy vines can weaken it over time, leaving it vulnerable to pests, disease, and wind, as well as poor foliage growth.

English ivy damage

Ivy damage to trees can eventually suffocate young trees due to the heavy weight of overgrown English ivy vines, which can become quite large. As the vine climbs up the trunk, it creates fierce competition for water and nutrients.

Ivy roots themselves have the added potential of intertwining with tree roots, which can further limit nutrient absorption. Once it surrounds the branches or reaches the crown of the tree, English ivy has the ability to block sunlight and cut off contact with the air... essentially drowning out the tree.

In addition, ivy damage to trees includes the possibility of rot, pest infestation and disease because trees without proper water, nutrients, light or air circulation are weaker and more susceptible to problems. Weakened trees are more likely to fall during a storm, putting homeowners at risk of potential injury or property damage.

Removing ivy from trees is a must to keep your trees healthy. Even with aggressive pruning of English ivy, there is no guarantee that the vine will remain in good condition. Getting rid of English ivy is difficult, and many gardeners are unaware that these vines, when fully mature, produce small greenish flowers followed by black berries. These berries are popular with wildlife, such as birds, and can lead to further spread through random droppings here and there.

How to remove English ivy from trees

When removing ivy from trees, be careful not to damage both the trunk and the roots. Also, it should be noted that English ivy sap can cause rashes in sensitive people, so wear gloves and long sleeves.

There is a term called "life saving" that can be used when removing ivy from trees. Basically, this involves removing the ivy in a 3 to 5 foot circle (0.9up to 1.5 m) from a tree, like a rescue lollipop, with the tree itself being a hole in the middle.

The first step of this pruning method involves cutting all the English ivy vines around the tree at eye level. Similarly, you can simply cut 2.5-5 cm from the ivy stem. Depending on the size of these vines, clippers, loppers, or even a hand saw may be needed.

As individual vines are cut they can be slowly removed from the bark. Work your way down the trunk to the base of the tree, pulling back the ivy at ground level at least 3 to 5 feet (from 0.9up to 1.5 m).

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