Ivy Removal – Or Killing?
Ivy; a plant known well to gardeners and groundskeepers alike. A fast-growing plant, it can be trained to climb trellises or cover walls with relatively minimal maintenance.
But what do you do when it begins to dominate your garden?
When it becomes a problem
As beautiful as ivy may look, it can weaken brickwork and can make unsecured structures collapse under its weight. If you have recently moved into your home and find an outer wall covered with ivy, you may be worried about how to remove it and minimize damage to your home.
If it is growing on a fence, it may loosen planks and penetrate small cracks in the wood and grain, adding moisture that may lead to the wood rotting.
As ivy survives all year round, the best tie of year to use any of these techniques is in autumn or winter. In spring and summer, the plant produces the highest level of sap, increasing the likelihood of allergic reactions and rashes.
*SAFETY FIRST* As ivy is a known allergen, take care when interacting with it. When using any of the techniques mentioned below, if you notice an allergic reaction, stop what you are doing immediately and wash the area with liquid dish soap. If irritation persists or you begin to feel unwell, seek medical attention immediately.
Ways to remove Ivy
If you have a small amount of ivy to remove, simply take a pair of hand pruners and cut it away. This is the easiest way but may take more time overall to kill the plant. If the ivy is growing close to other plants, it is also the safest method to use to minimize damage to other root systems.
Thicker stems and more established root systems may be more troublesome to cut. These will probably require you to either pull the roots of the ivy out of the ground by hand or digging them out with a hand trowel.
*TIP* Whenever you are removing ivy by hand or with garden tools make sure you are wearing long sleeves, garden gloves and closed shoes; this is to minimize any potential skin reactions that may occur. Also, clean garden tools thoroughly before and after using on ivy plants.
If you have a very stubborn ivy plant that is too well established to remove by hand, using a herbicide is probably the best option.
A herbicide that contains glyphosate is the best option when trying to kill ivy. Most online retailers or garden centers will sell a ready to use herbicide that contains 2-3% glyphosate.
Spray the herbicide on to the leaves and stems for best results. Allow 10 days for the leaves to wilt and die. If you have cut the ivy back, you can brush the herbicide directly on to the cut stems. This will prevent regrowth and translocate the root system.
*SAFETY TIP* If you have a pet dog, cat or any other animal that regularly uses your garden, ensure the herbicide you use is safe to use around them.
DO NOT use herbicides near vegetables or fruits you may be growing in your garden intended for human consumption.
This option works best if the ivy is growing across the ground, but it can also be useful if it is growing vertically.
Relying on good old photosynthesis, simply cover and cut back ivy with a heavy layer of mulch of about 6 inches in depth. This will stop the ivy from receiving sunlight and will kill it. If shoots emerge through the mulch, you will either have to use a herbicide or remove the roots manually if possible.
In the event that you are physically unable to remove the ivy by hand or you have a wildlife-friendly garden, using white vinegar is a safe, non-toxic option to kill the plant.
Simply fill a garden sprayer with white vinegar and spray liberally on to the plant, aiming mainly for the leaves and the soil. Take care however not to spray onto any wanted neighbouring plants; like any herbicide, white vinegar is not selective and will kill any plant it is sprayed on to.
Repeat weekly for best results.
Salt and Soap
Similar to before, ensure you have a spray bottle to hand. This method relies on the large amount of salt dehydrating the leaves and making it harder for the roots to absorb nutrients to keep the plant alive.
Take a gallon of water, mix it with 1360gs of salt and 59 milliliters of unscented liquid soap.
Spray liberally on to the leaves of the ivy and on the ground near the roots. Take care not to spray near root systems of other plants, as it will kill any plant system it comes in to contact with.
Repeat twice a day for optimum results
As hardy as ivy may appear, it cannot stand boiling water.
Simply boil a kettle, take it out and pour it at the base of the plant at ground level. The boiling water will burn the roots and they will not be able to function properly.
You will need to repeat this a couple of times a day for a least three days before you see any noticeable wilting in the leaves of the plant.
If you want an approach that will not damage the pH of the soil or risk damage to any neighbouring plants, smothering may be the best option.
Working above ground level, tie a large plastic bag or bin liner around the leaves of the plant. Darker coloured bags work better, as this stops sunlight from reaching the plant.
Try to use a bag that has no holes, as holes will allow carbon dioxide to reach the plant and will feed it.
Alternatively, cut the ivy back as far as possible and cover it over with cardboard. Take care in wetter weather with this technique and make sure the cardboard is replaced every few days.