The Q&A Archives: killing ivy

Question: how do I kill well established ivy

Answer: Overgrown English Ivy (Hedera helix) and Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) vines can both become pests in the garden. Both vines will grow up a building or other structure, attaching by sticky feet. They will also scramble across the ground rooting at the nodes as they go. You can try either a manual or chemical approach or a combination of both to achieve some control. If the problem is on a building or a tree, you can pull the vine off and trace your way to the primary root for that vine. The root can then be dug out (repeatedly if need be), or be smothered with a heavy layer of newspaper or cardboard plus mulch, or with black plastic, over a period of several years. These methods rely on exhausting the plant's root reserves, so you can try these at any time of year. On the ground, manual removal is more difficult because the plants have so many individually rooted sections. You can rip away the vine and foliage, being careful to pull roots as you go, and then grub out or smother any remaining roots individually but this is quite a task. You might elect to use an herbicide such as a product containing glyphosate to control the vines. The best time to apply this type of herbicide is when the plant is actively growing. The reason for this is that the plant translocates the chemical from the leaf to the root where it kills it. You must be patient while this process occurs because the leaves will brown and look dead long before the entire process is complete. Be sure to follow the label instructions. Apply it very carefully when working near desirable plants because this is a non-selective herbicide and as such it will be absorbed by all green leaves it touches.

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