English ivy is a hearty plant that will thrive in shade or sun and spreads rapidly in gardens and yards. That makes it difficult to get rid of when the vines and dark, heart-shaped leaves grow up fences or walls, pulling down structures. Chemical herbicides can kill overgrown English ivy, but the job requires preparation and takes several rounds of attack.
Preparing the Ivy
English ivy's leathery leaves and root system help it survive chemicals. To get rid of ivy, first mow it down with a lawnmower or hit it with a weed whacker. Cutting the leaves and stems of English ivy allows the herbicide to penetrate into the plant and work more effectively. It is possible to kill ivy without mowing it, but the process will take much longer. To avoid injury, make sure there are no stones or pipes underneath the ivy before mowing.
Spray the Weed Killer
When using weed killer, follow the manufacturer's directions. Wearing rubber gloves and safety glasses will prevent chemicals from coming in contact with skin or splashing into eyes.
Just after mowing, spray the plant. In about a week, spray it again when new leaves start to grow. Small leaves and new growth are more vulnerable than older, established leaves. As the ivy regrows, mow the plant and spray it. Continue this process three or four times until the ivy plants do not grow new leaves. This process could take a month or two.
Winter is the best time of year to kill English ivy with chemicals, according to Gardening Know How. Spray the plant on a cold, sunny day. The cool weather will prevent the herbicide from evaporating quickly. The sun can help bake the chemicals into the plant and get through the waxy coating on the leaves.
Ivy on Trees
If you are trying to remove ivy from a tree trunk, do not spray it with weed killer because chemicals made to kill stems could also kill a tree that has thin bark. The Virginia Cooperative Extension suggests cutting vines at the ground and several feet up the tree trunk, then peeling the cut vines off the tree, making sure not to peel away the bark. Once you pull the vines about 3 feet away from the roots of a tree, spray the ivy with weed killer.