The Q&A Archives: Eradicating Ivy

Question: Many years ago, Ivy was planted along a cyclone fence between my back yard and that of my neighbor's. It has since invaded 1/3 of my backyard. Is there any way to completely kill it so I may be more able to replant something else with height to afford privacy?
Thank you.

Answer: If you wish to permanently kill the ivy then you have a lot of work ahead of you! It is very difficult to kill the entire ivy plant, and can generally only be done with a lot of hard work and persistence. I use a two-pronged method; herbicides and pulling/digging. It can be very difficult to kill an entire ivy plant by use herbicides alone. The two major factors that protect the ivy plant are its waxy leaves that prevent the uptake of the herbicide, and the other is its almost phenomenal resistance to most toxins. It is certainly possible to brown out foliage, and in some cases it will appear to have controlled the ivy plant permanently. However generally, over time, green shoots will appear out of the dead foliage. Timing of treatment is a factor, too. Different mixes of herbicides and surfactants applied at different times of the year seem to have different levels of effectiveness. Skill and experience of the individual applying the herbicide also seems to have an effect. The best way to apply herbicide is to paint it onto fresh cuts in the plant stems. The alternative to herbicides is to use good old manual labor. Simply remove all the ivy shoots from your trees/fences/walls, and then attack the roots! Chop the roots down as far as you can with pruning knives, axes, pruning-saws, or whatever you have handy, and then try to pull up or dig up as much of the root system as you can. If you do this thoroughly enough you may be able to kill the ivy plant completely. Unfortunately it is rarely the case that you can attack and remove all of the roots completely. They may well grow under brick walls, or across your wonderfully turfed garden which you do not want to dig up completely. Therefore in most cases you will want to do a combined attack to kill the ivy. This involves cutting the ivy plant back as much as possible, and then painting any remaining exposed roots or stems with a concentrated herbicide (such as RoundUp). You may find that you have to do this several times a year, and possibly have to experiment with different herbicides before you finally kill the entire ivy plant. GOOD LUCK!

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