Everything you always wanted to know about English Ivy

How to Care for Your English Ivy

English Ivy is not as invasive and fast-growing as Japanese Knotweed, but it could also cause you a lot of trouble. If you have never heard of Japanese Knotweed you had better google it and check whether it is not growing somewhere in your yard because in a few weeks’ time it will knock on your door to ask if it would be OK to crash in your garden forever! But now back to today’s topic: English Ivy. We will dedicate a special post to Japanese Knotweed some other time.

English Ivy or climbing Ivy, if you want, is one of many non-native species imported to the UK from the USA where it was praised for its decorative appearance. Like many innocently imported plants, English Ivy can be invasive, damaging trees and other plants. Only gardeners that have been around for a while dare to plant it in the client’s garden. Others, we call them homeowners, are doing their best to completely remove it from around the house.

How to recognise Ivy

Ivy is identifiable as a dense, glossy-leaved, evergreen tough climber. When in the climbing stage, it has three to five-lobed leaves. Given a solid base, Ivy has the ability to crawl up and reach heights of more than 30 meters! Yes, that is much higher than your house! Did you hear a knock yet?

The Dangers of Ivy

The creeping habits of English Ivy pose a great threat to flowers, other plants and trees in your garden. It can swamp them and in a month’s time you will be wondering where has your beautiful flower bed gone. Some may think Ivy looks elegant when wrapped around tree trunks, but the beauty of it is not worth the damage it can cause. Dense Ivy can eventually suffocate a tree and cause excess moisture that rots the wood. Its stems can damage the bark as it steadily grows and climbs up. It can surprise and overgrow even a full-grown tree by sharing nutrients it takes from the soil. In worst cases, it would weaken its branches and prevent leaves to absorb much-needed light. And after time the tree would become weak and more susceptible to other issues like pests or diseases. It is worth mentioning that it can spread in any direction. It also grows in bushes or as a single plant. Therefore, it is best to always remove the Ivy from the tree and keep it well away from the trunk and its roots.

How to Get Rid of It?
When it gets to the point where you cannot recognize the type of a tree that is growing in your garden you might think the time is ripe to remove the Ivy stems. We will talk about a few inexpensive ecological DIY methods of how to get rid of it safely. You can of course use herbicides like Round Up, but the beauty of using ecological methods is that it does not harm other plants nearby whereas chemicals used in Round Up could be a lot more persistent.

Getting Rid of That Ivy
Patience is required here. Removing this climbing troublemaker can be frustrating and time-consuming. Remember, procrastination is gardener’s worst enemy and Ivy’s best friend.

Getting rid of Ivy is difficult because its leaves are covered with a waxy substance that protects the plant from penetrating anything into the plant. It essentially works as its armour. It is this armour that makes it so special and tough. No matter what method you use, to get through that barrier it is best to work either in the winter or on a sunny day. The cool temperatures ensure that the spray (herbicide or vinegar) does not evaporate quickly and gives it more time to penetrate into the plant. The sun on the other hand helps keep the wax on the leaves more pliable and more easily penetrated.

Manual Removal
Play it safe. The least favourite but quite an effective method that is recommended when you are solving the Ivy issue in its early stages is manual removal. All you need is a pair of gloves and a pair of muscles. If you don’t have your own, kindly ask your neighbour. For the gloves, not for the muscles of course. Do it slowly and carefully as its roots will be bogged into the tree and you don’t want to rip off pieces of the bark. Damaging the bark is more hazardous than the Ivy itself. Don’t forget to clean up as much Ivy as possible while you work because as mentioned previously, the plant is quite invasive and can easily begin to grow from the clippings that are left on the ground.

Using Shears
Effective method when you have a moderate problem and sharp pruning shears. Ideally, you want to cut everything from your shoulders down from the tree. The tree should be left with a 3-4 feet gap without vines where you can be sure no more vines can climb back up. This will disconnect the rest of the Ivy from its supply of nutrition and it will eventually die.

Home Remedy Alternatives

Note that these methods require time, usually months before you can see any positive outcome, so brace yourself!

White Vinegar Method
Purchase a regular spray bottle. Fill it in with three-quarters of water and one-quarter of white vinegar. Less concentrated vinegar the better (<10%). Spray the leaves finely and make sure you don’t spray anything else around. The solution will be quite strong and will have a strong acidic smell. Then wait for a couple of days and inspect the result of your efforts. As already mentioned before, it is best to use the solution in the winter or on a sunny day.

Duct Tape, Table Salt, and Water
Beware, this could be fun! This method is highly satisfying and great for the planet too. Suitable for treating thicker stems of Ivy or when you are unable to pull the Ivy all the way out due to its deep roots.

Start with making a fresh cut on each stem using your garden shears. Make sure the cut is as clean and flat as possible. You might need to pull the stem a bit towards you then wrap it around with a duct tape to form something like a cup making sure it is snug. Pour a few spoons of table salt in each cup and top it up with a bit of water. This way you attack the Ivy’s vascular system, and the plant should be completely dried out within a couple of months. Great idea is to check YouTube for inspiration!

A Disposal Method
If you are successful, and we hope you are, no matter what method above you used, you will likely need a way to dispose of the Ivy. This is as important as getting rid of it. Most knowledgeable gardeners do not recommend composting Ivy. You could either bundle and dispose of it with your regular trash or garden waste or burn it if possible.

And if you are unsuccessful, don’t worry there still is hope! Call us and we will do it for you!