How to Kill English Ivy Without Harming Trees


The popular image of English ivy is that of ivy-covered castles, stone "Ivy League" colleges and rolling, ivy-covered lawns. Because of this, English ivy has long been associated with genteel landscaping and refined living. But the very thing that makes English ivy a popular feature for landscaping is also what can cause English ivy to kill a tree. The ivy can wind around the trunk, damaging the bark and eventually smothering it. Additionally, English ivy can become a haven for pests, including rodents, slugs and mosquitoes. The solution is to kill the ivy. But killing it without harming a tree can be very problematic.

Step 1

Cut a two-inch section from the ivy stems at the base of the tree, using pruning shears.

Step 2

Move approximately three feet up the tree and remove another two-inch section. Continue to remove two-inch sections along the length of the ivy as high as you can reach.

Step 3

Lean a ladder against the trunk of the tree. Climb the tree and continue to remove two-inch sections until you reach the top of the tree.

Step 4

Put on protective clothing before handling systemic herbicide.

Step 5

Paint the exposed cut sections of the ivy vines with a systemic herbicide such as glysophate, using a sponge applicator.

Step 6

Wait up to 14 days for the herbicide to kill the ivy. Leaves will turn brown and the ivy will pull away from the tree easily when it has died.

Step 7

Pull ivy vines away from the tree bark, starting at the bottom of the tree and working your way up.

Step 8

Dig up the roots of the ivy vines with a shovel. Take care to remove all roots from the ground. Ivy can grow back from any roots that you miss.

Step 9

Place all ivy roots and vines in a plastic bag and discard.

Tips and Warnings

  • If one application of systemic herbicide does not completely kill the ivy, you must reapply the herbicide. Ivy must be completely killed before you attempt to remove it from the tree to avoid damaging the tree bark.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Systemic herbicide
  • Sponge applicator
  • Ladder
  • Protective clothing
  • Protective gloves
  • Breathing protection
  • Shovel
  • Trash bags


  • Gardening Know How: Tips For How To Kill English Ivy
  • Arlington County Virginia Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Resources: Controlling English Ivy
  • Plant Conservation Alliance: English Ivy

Who Can Help

  • DCNR Invasive Exotic Plant Tutorial For Natural Land Managers: English Ivy
Keywords: invasive plants, removing English Ivy, tree care

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."