Sumo Gardener

Tips on How to Kill Ivy Effectively

Do you want to know how to kill ivy effectively? Some varieties of ivy can grow out of control, covering walls, flowerbeds and trees, and invading your yard.

If you want to kill ivy without damaging anything else, then the information below will surely be helpful for you.


Tips on How to Kill Ivy Effectively

How to Kill Ivy

Ivy is the common name for a group of attractive climbing plants that are often used as ground covers

Ivy is the common name for a group of attractive climbing plants that are often used as ground covers. Unfortunately, some varieties are such vigorous growers.

They can take over a yard in a matter of seasons, covering walls, trees, flowerbeds and houses in a layer of thick, dense growth.

When ivy becomes a problem plant, it needs to be removed properly if you don’t want it to regrow even stronger in the spring. Here’s what to do to remove this problematic plant permanently.

Common Types of Ivy

First, let’s take a look at the types of ivy homeowners may have to deal with.

English Ivy 

This is the most common, classic type of ivy, Hedera helix, with its glossy, deep green leaves and woody vines. It can spread horizontally or vertically with ease, and can climb to heights of 80 feet!

As a result, it can quickly become a problem if not kept in check, damaging trees and brickwork. In some areas, it is considered an invasive species too.

Ground Ivy 

Glechoma hederacea, also known as Creeping Charlie, is considered a weed in the USA. It’s a close relative of mint, and is challenging to remove because new growth sprouts directly from any rhizomes left behind when you dig out the plant.

Swedish ivy 

Plecthantrus australis is a very different plant. Usually kept as an indoor houseplant, it has rounded green leaves with scalloped edges with pale lavender or white flowers.

Boston Ivy 

Parthenocissus tricuspidate gets it’s common name from the so-called Ivy League universities where it climbs the walls. It is a very pretty creeper, with vibrant green foliage in spring and summer that turns a rich orange-red in the fall.

The vine lengths can get pretty long at 50 feet, and it may damage brickwork if you try to pull it out. It can also damage trees it gets into by blocking off the tree’s access to sunlight.

Poison Ivy 

The worst of all the ivy’s is Toxicodendron radicans, or poison ivy, well-known for the painful, itching allergic reaction it causes when it comes into contact with the skin.

Not only is it toxic, the vines are invasive too, damaging fencing and even invading the insides of sheds and barns.

Why Kill Ivy?

Methods for Killing or Removing Ivy

There are many good reasons to remove ivy, except for the Swedish ivy, which is non-invasive and harmless. This includes:

  • Property damage– Ivy quickly becomes firmly attached to walls, fences, shrubs, trees and outdoor structures.

    It’s vines and tendrils are highly invasive, often causing damage to walls and brickwork, and even collapsing fences.

    Removing ivy physically can cause further damage as the tendrils rip through the structure.
  • Damage to trees and shrubs – This plant will climb over everything in its way as it spreads, including trees and shrubs.

    This can cause damage to the plants and cut off their access to sunlight, killing them.
  • Invasive species/weeds – As gardeners, it is important to support the environment and local flora.

    Ivy is invasive, quickly killing off local plants, and is often classified as weed that should not be planted because of its vigorous and aggressive growth.

    Killing ivy will give the natural environment a chance to establish itself, benefiting the local birds, animals and insects.
  • Physical hazard – This specifically applies to poison ivy, which is not welcome in anyone’s yard for good reason.

    Causing a painful and itchy rash of blisters, this plant is toxic to children and adults alike, and can even affect pets with shorter coats.

Methods for Killing or Removing Ivy

There are several effective methods for killing or removing ivy, based on the type of ivy you are removing and where it is growing.

How to Kill Poison Ivy

Poison ivy or Toxicodendron radicans

Because it is toxic, extra special care must be taken when removing poison ivy. If you have a considerable infestation, it may be worth it to call in a local landscaping company to handle it. Otherwise, you should:

  • Choose the right day – You can remove the poison ivy any time of year, though it is easiest to spot in spring. Choose a day that is windless, and keep children and pets out of your yard.
  • Wear protective clothing – Wear rubber gloves, a long-sleeved top and long pants. Tuck your pants into thick socks and wear closed outdoor shoes.

    It’s also a good idea to wear protective eyewear and a mask over your mouth, as the toxic oil can get into the air.
  • Work at ground level – Cut at ground level with a reliable pruning shears, cutting through each stem at the base and placing the vines in thick trash bags.

    Tie them closed when they are full and dispose of them in the trash. Don’t shred or chop up the vines, as any damage causes more of the toxic oil to get in the air.
  • Dig – Remove the roots using a shovel and bag them for the trash.
  • Clean – Remove your clothing and protective gear very carefully, and clean thoroughly with soap and hot water without letting it come into contact with your skin.

    Similarly, clean the tools you used, paying special attention to the blades and handles. Let them dry well before storing.

Never burn poison ivy as the smoke will contain the toxic chemicals which can quickly spread in the air, affecting your skin, eyes and lungs as well as travelling to your neighbor’s yards.

Below is great infographic from YourGreenPal about the poison ivy and what you need to do if it gets on your skin.

Poison Ivy Infographic

How to Kill Ivy in a Tree

If ivy is suffocating your tree, you can remove it physically. Remember to wear gardening gloves to protect your hands. Do not use a herbicide, as this will kill the tree too.

  • Cut the vines – Start by cutting the vines at ground level around the base of the tree. Then, cut the vines again at your maximum reachable height (about 5 feet up) up the tree using a tree pruner.
  • Remove vines – Pull this 5 foot section of vines out of the tree, working slowly and removing one at a time. Remember to wear protective eyewear as the vines can pull down small sticks and branches as you remove them.

    Leave the rest of the vines in the tree. They will slowly die and fall out in their own time.
  • Remove the roots – Dig out the roots of the ivy all around the base of the tree. You’ll have to monitor this patch for the next few seasons to remove new growth as it occurs.

    Ivy is very tenacious, and it is almost impossible to remove it all on the first go.

How to Kill Ivy Groundcover

How to Kill Ivy Groundcover
  • Dig out the roots – Using a trowel, dig out as much of the ivy as possible, especially where it is growing around other plants and trees.
  • Smother – This is a very effective way of killing ivy organically, as it dies naturally when deprived of sunlight, air and water.

    You can either apply a thick layer of mulch (newspaper, grass clippings, bark and cardboard) to the remaining ivy (make it 1 foot deep minimum, as this is a very stubborn plant!), or cover it with a thick plastic garden tarp.

    Remember, the idea is to smother the plant, so make sure there are no gaps for water or sunlight.

How to Kill Ivy on a Wall

Ivy can cause considerable damage to walls and fences

Ivy can cause considerable damage to walls and fences, but you can remove it physically with a little hard work and some good quality gardening gloves.

  • Cut the vines – Work along the base of the wall, cutting vines where they are growing out of the ground.
  • Remove vines – Gently pull on the vines to remove them, bracing your hand against the wall or fence to help prevent further damage.

    You will probably find some vines that are very challenging to remove. Once these are cut off at the base, you can leave them to die for a week or two, at which point they will be easier to remove.
  • Remove the roots – Dig out the roots where you can, and keep checking for regrowth through the next few seasons.

    Often, ivy roots penetrate the base of walls where it is too difficult to dig, and that will require a herbicide or organic solution.

Chemical and Organic Herbicides for Ivy

Chemical herbicides and weed killers are effective on ivy, but they are very dangerous to use, will kill any other plants nearby, and are harmful to the environment, so they should only be used as a last resort.

Here are some organic solutions to try first:

  • White vinegar – Using a backpack sprayer or spray bottle, fill the container with 80% water and 20% white vinegar. 

    Spray the roots and ivy plants thoroughly, removing any dead ivy and reapplying every 3 days until it has all died.
  • Salt and soap – Another good spray option is to combine 3lbs of salt with ¼ cup of liquid soap in one gallon of water. Spray onto the ivy in the same method as above.
Boiling water is also an effective poison ivy killer
  • Boiling water – Boiling water is also an effective poison ivy killer, although it’s best suited to controlling smaller patches of ivy, including regrowth after you’ve physically removed as much of the plant as possible.

    Simply boil water and pour it on to the roots, soaking into the soil. Be careful to avoid any plants you want to keep, as this method can kill them too.
  • Sheet mulching – This is ideal for dealing with groundcover ivy growth. Make a thick layer of newspapers, cardboard, bark and garden clippings, covering all the ivy thoroughly.

    This will cut off the plant’s access to water, air and sunlight, and it should die within about a month, especially if it is hot out. This will also provide a great layer of biodegradable materials to enrich your soil.

    If you don’t have a lot of mulch, you can also use a thick plastic tarp – just make sure no water or sunlight can get through it.

Using Chemical Herbicides to Kill Ivy

Roundup Ready-to-Use Poison Ivy Killer

Source: Amazon

As a last resort, you may want to try a weed killer. Most weed killers will kill ivy, but be careful not to get them on any other plant, as it will kill them too. When using a herbicide, remember to:

  • Apply on a non-windy day – These chemicals are very dangerous and should not be breathed in. Do not apply before watering your plants or when rain is predicted as this will just wash the product off.
  • Wear safety gear – Protect your eyes with protective eyewear, wear a mask over your face and thoroughly wash your hands and arms after spraying.
  • Follow the manufacturer instructions – Buy a pre-mixed herbicide or follow the precise measurements for mixing your herbicide.

    Making it too concentrated can be just as ineffective as making it too weak.

As the ivy dies, remove the vines and dispose of them in the trash. Do not burn or add to your compost heap.

Now You Know How to Kill Ivy – Wherever It Is!

Ivy can – and will – grow almost everywhere, smothering other plants, damaging walls and pulling down fences.

With our tips on how to kill ivy, you have the best methods for every location and situation, including our highly recommended organic methods. 

Ivy is a very tenacious problem plant, and it will take some time, sweat and effort to get rid of it permanently – but with our guide on how to kill ivy, you have everything you need to make it happen!

About the Author Ann Katelyn

I'm Ann Katelyn, Creator and Chief Author of Sumo Gardener. Since I was a child I've always been fascinated with plants and gardens, and as an adult this has developed into my most loved hobby. I have dedicated most of my life to gardening and started Sumo Gardener as a way to express my knowledge about gardening with the hope of helping other people's gardens thrive.

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