Ivy can be an attractive addition to any home, whether growing up the walls of your property for that desirable “chocolate box cottage” look or used in the garden as a filler for those areas that need a bit more greenery! Ivy (Hedera) comes in many different forms and this hardy plant with evergreen leaves appeals to gardeners for plenty of reasons. However, rapid growth rates and risk of damage to property or other plants in the garden can result in this popular plant needing controlling.
Ways to Kill Ivy
There are many methods that we have found for killing unwanted ivy:
- Fill a garden spray with 3 cups of white vinegar, half a cup of salt and a squirt of washing up liquid. Spray liberally on the unwanted vegetation (take care not to spray on any plants that you do want!). After about a week, the ivy that has been killed should be brown in colour. Pull off the dead ivy (possibly using secateurs to help). Any ivy that is still green will need spraying again, so repeat the process until all the unwanted ivy is removed.
- Another method is to cut through the stem (we would recommend using a saw for this as the stems can be pretty thick!) and pull out the root of the plant. Over time the foliage will die and will then be easier to remove. Be careful not to start pulling at the rest of the plant before it is fully ready though as this can cause damage to your property (Read below for more details).
- A more aggressive way to remove this hardy plant is to use a strong weed-killer with glyphosate. Spraying this on the plant or injecting into the stem with a syringe, and allowing time for the plant to die, should make it easier to remove. However, be careful when spraying – this type of weed killer will kill any other plants that it touches!
Killing ivy can be difficult and time consuming, especially if it has taken over the part of your garden or property that you are trying to reclaim! If you feel you need more detailed information before attempting to tackle this beast of the garden then read on below!
Controlling your Ivy
It is advisable to trim back ivy twice a year – this way you will only need to take off a small amount each time, meaning less work for you and also less damage to the plant. However, if your ivy has got a little out of control (it can grow at a rate of three feet per year after all!) then there are methods (above) to remove more than just the tips of the plant. Where possible, when trimming, only remove the tip of the plant to make sure that the plant does not grow over your desired height, or further along if you only want the ivy to cover a certain part of your building/garden. Simply take hold of the part of the plant that you want to remove (you will probably need a ladder for the higher parts) and use secateurs or loppers to cut. Using this method allows the bush to continue to grow at the bottom, to provide a thicker bush, while still keeping the ivy under control.
TOP TIP: It is important to check that no birds are nesting in your ivy before cutting it back, as it is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to damage any bird’s nest while it is being built or used. Nesting season is usually from March to August but it is always worth checking to be on the safe side!
Once You Have Killed the Ivy
We would love to tell you that the hard part it now over – you’ve killed the ivy that you are wanting to remove, trimmed the parts that you are wanting to keep – so what’s next?
Once you have followed whichever method to kill the ivy, you then have to remove the ivy from wherever it is growing. If this place happens to be along the floor – then your job is pretty easy. Simply cut the ivy into smaller parts and use brute strength to pull the ivy up. However, if your ivy is growing up part of your building or fencing then this could be more difficult. Certain types of ivy, such as English Ivy (Hedera Helix) have roots that continue up the stem, instead of just at the base of the plant, and these roots can find holdings in any cracks found in your mortar or brickwork. Pulling too hard on the ivy could result in some of this mortar being pulled away at the same time. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the ivy is dead before removing, and then take your time to pull the ivy away from the wall slowly, using a wire brush to help with those more stubborn roots and vines.
Frequently Asked Questions
Disposing of the ivy really depends on what you have available to you in your garden. If you have a large compost heap then putting the ivy in fastened bin bags to rot and then adding them to your compost heap will mean you can reap the benefits of your hard work removing the plant. But make sure to never add living ivy to your compost heap! Alternatively burning the ivy is another good method for disposal. If neither of these options are available to you then most local tipping centres will accept the ivy – however it is always worth checking with them first!
Ivy isn’t all bad and doesn’t necessarily deserve the reputation that it has received over the years! It provides ample habitat for lots of different types of wildlife but can also provide benefits to you. Ivy has been known to provide excellent insulation to older properties. By providing an extra layer on the external wall it helps to keep properties warm in winter. It can also help to stop damp problems, the roots of certain types of Ivy – such as English Ivy – grow up the wall of the property, instead of remaining at the base. Therefore when it rains they remove water off the brickwork quickly and effectively.
If you love the look of an ivy covered property, but are worried about the damage that it can cause, then there are methods to still keep this beautiful plant. RHS research found that attaching metal sheets to your walls, or using specific types of paint (such as anti-graffiti paint) will allow the plant to continue to grow without it causing damage to your property. For more information you can read the full paper here.