How to Prevent English Ivy from Spreading

The English Ivy plant is also known as Hedera Helix scientifically. This woody vine is shade tolerant and evergreen. This perennial plant has been planted for decades. It is also used as ground cover as it is shade-loving. The English Ivy is a low-maintenance, drought-tolerant, and fast-growing plant. It is commonly not infested by pests or bothered by diseases.

The English Ivy has a mat-forming habit as it grows. Due to this, it tends to smother out smaller shrubs or other perennials on its way. As it grows, it can form a thick ground cover, and its foliage is attractively green.

 If the English Ivy is left unchecked, it can become invasive and can invade woodlands and climb trees. It usually kills the trees it climbs on. It can climb on anything for support. When climbing on trees, it can travel quickly to the top where it can flower and set fruit. The dense cover of the English Ivy smothers the tree’s foliage.

If not controlled, the English Ivy can also grow up the sides of houses. Its roots can damage wood, mortar, brick, and stucco. The shade from the plant tends to trap moisture, and the structure can be damaged due to rot. Small animals and insects love Ivy’s dense foliage.

Sometimes the English Ivy is planted onto a landscape on purpose. At other times it is planted in a container and grows beyond, planting its roots in the soil.

Whether the English Ivy is planted in a pot or outdoors, it usually takes some time to grow. However, when planted outside, large, green-leaved English Ivy can quickly grow out of control and outgrow the cultivars it was planted in initially.

Different Stages of the English Ivy

The English Ivy undergoes two different stages in its life.

The first is the juvenile stage. This is when the English Ivy is a clinging vine with vegetation. The second is the adult stage when this vine becomes a shrub with non-lobed leaves. The English Ivy is not safe to ignore, even at this stage.

Adult plants can grow berries that birds like to eat. After eating the berries, birds’ poop and seedlings tend to sprout. The seedlings become juvenile vines that climb and spread out.

There are both benefits and harmful side effects of English Ivy. It is a great way to keep a shaded slope from soil erosion. However, the English Ivy needs to be strictly monitored. If left unsupervised, it can grow out of control beyond the area where it was needed. Due to this, the English Ivy is considered an invasive plant.

How to Prevent Growth

The English Ivy can be controlled with or without chemicals.

Manual Removal of English Ivy

Here are some methods of manual removal of the English Ivy plant.

English Ivy can be controlled through mowing. For example, if the English Ivy has spread over a lawn or a flat service, you can mow it. However, the mowing has to be frequent, so the English Ivy infestation is starved and thus controlled.

You can also control English Ivy vines by pulling them out. Cut out the vines in sections and clip them near the vine’s roots. This requires effort and is quite labor-intensive. However, if you have the time and energy for this, the weeds can be taken out by hand. However, you might have to remove regrowth as English Ivy can grow back from the roots.

English Ivy can be removed from trees by clipping the stems near the tree’s base. Once stems near the ground are cut off, vines removal is possible from the top. The remaining vines will eventually die and fall off themselves.

The removal of English Ivy by hand prevents damage to the ecosystem surrounding it. Simple hand tools such as garden tillers and shears can be used for the job. However, this is a labor-intensive task that may also require community involvement. Research has shown that manual removal can reduce infestation substantially. 80% cover can be reduced in up to a year.

However, as it’s a labor-intensive job, volunteers will be required. This is especially in areas with large infestations where dense mats are formed. The practitioners also suffer from physical strain; thus, efficiency can be reduced.


To control the English Ivy without chemicals, start by severing the climbing vines of the plant. Stems of these vines are usually tightly attached and must be pried out from the trunks. You will require a large screwdriver that is flat-bladed to lift the vines; then, you can cut them.

Cut the vines from a height you can comfortably reach. Then loosen the vines below and pull them from near the trunk. After this, cut the vines off from the tree’s base. If the vines are larger, you might need a saw to cut them. But be careful not to damage the tree in the process.

When to Remove the Infestation?

You can remove English Ivy vines anytime during the year. If the weather is dry and remains hot, sections of the vines up a tree or structure end up dying. Also, the soil softens when it rains, and it’s easier to pull out the vines.

If you are pulling out English Ivy vines during the winter, dormant perennials embedded are less likely to be damaged. It’s also possible to easily pull out long plant sections at any time. This is because English Ivy stems may be strong but are not deeply rooted.

Safety Precaution

Also, when pulling out stems, wear gloves and a long-sleeved shirt. This is because the English Ivy contains a sap that can cause harmful skin conditions such as dermatitis, especially if you have sensitive skin.

Controlling English Ivy with Chemicals

Chemical control can also be used to prevent the growth of English Ivy. Herbicides are used for this purpose.

These herbicides are absorbed into the plant’s tissue and travel through its vascular system, thus killing it. Depending on the type of infestation, two different application methods can be used.

The Foliar application is appropriate for densely grown English Ivy that covers a large ground area.

As English ivy leaves are thick and waxy, adding a non-ionic surfactant to the mixture increases effectiveness. The Foliar application is practiced through the cut-stem method. The application takes place in this method right after the English Ivy stem is cut.

The herbicide treatment usually takes a few months before the death of the plant. A follow-up treatment is often needed to remove the Ivy from initially missed spots. 

The cost of using chemicals to remove English Ivy is high, and training may be required to practice this method. However, this method takes effect quickly and can treat an acre of English Ivy in two to four hours. The cost of labor is reduced, and efficiency is increased. Follow-up maintenance is also low compared to manually removing an English Ivy infestation.

However, there are some limitations as well. Strict timing has to be followed to apply the herbicide application. A certain health risk is involved as humans are exposed to harmful chemicals.

Even though chemical control is an efficient way to control an English Ivy infestation, the practitioners of this method need to be trained very specifically. Certification is also often required so that this technique is implemented properly.

Other Negative Effects of Chemical Control

The use of pesticides also negatively affects pollinating insects. Both bumblebees and honeybees can be affected. Spraying pesticides should be avoided. This applies to fungicides as well as insecticides.

If spraying is specifically required, try pouring in the evenings so that pollinating insects are not directly affected. Always read the label and directions carefully for whatever product you use.

There have also been many instances when the English Ivy has been tolerant of many herbicides. Your herbicides must be carefully selected with application focused on growing younger plants. Certain herbicides also cannot be used near aquatic areas.

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Final Thoughts

Take several aspects into account before deciding whether manual methods need to be employed or chemical methods to remove an English Ivy infestation. Also, consider whether any on-site vegetation needs to be kept.

The time frame available to remove the infestation also needs to be considered, and the labor force available. Whatever control plan you decide on, practice persistence and follow up on it as required.

You should also prioritize the control plan you create. Begin by removing any vertically growing vines to stem the further spreading of seeds and stop flower production. Also, examine the site you are working on for steep slopes and chances of soil erosion.

Think carefully before deciding to plant the English Ivy plant as ground cover. Perhaps there are other alternative options you can choose from instead. Alternatives include wild strawberry and bunchberry plants, amongst others.

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