The Q&A Archives: English Ivy and Brick Walls

Question: I have English ivy climbing up the brick wall of my house. I've heard that it can damage the mortar. Is this true?

Answer: Ivy climbs or clings with little aerial roots that form along the stems and attach themselves to a rough surface (such as brick) like tiny suction cups. These roots can work their way into mortar that is already loose and can worsen the problem. If the mortar is sound, however, the ivy should not cause problems. To some extent, the ivy protects the wall because it shields it from the weather. On the other hand, ivy climbing a building can get out of control and the little suction cups are all but impossible to remove. Additional cautions: the weight and roots may possibly damage woodwork and window frames, and certainly make painting difficult, and the vines can hold excess moisture against the house.

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