English ivy can Choke – and kill the beautiful trees that give our yards and neighborhoods shade and character. What looks like a lovely little green plant can actually strangle trees, accelerate rot, attract mosquitoes and cause mature trees to fall down during storms.
Ivy can strangle trees, and once it is in the tree canopy, it can block sunlight from the trees’ leaves. Dense ivy cover deprives the tree’s bark of normal contact with air and microorganisms and competes with the tree for nutrients and water. Ivy is a threat. But we can beat it with simple landscaping work.
3 Steps to Remove Ivy from Trees
- Use garden clippers to cut ivy at the bottom around the entire trunk of all infested trees. The goal is to separate all ivy vines from their source of nutrients in the soil so they will die. If the ivy is not dense, you can pull it from the soil at the bottom of the tree with your hands, especially the day after it rains. On heavily infested trees with ivy vines thicker than an inch, you will need to carefully saw through the vine and carefully, gently ease it away from the bark. Experiment with the tools below to find what works best for you. TIP: Wear gloves and long sleeves to lessen the risk of poison ivy. Many prefer doing this during the winter months when poison ivy is less virulent, and they will have heavier clothing to reduce the risk.
- Pull all ivy vines out of the ground around the base of the tree, making a 2 feet “life saver ring” around the tree. This will protect the tree from future infestations. This is easiest to do when the soil is soft from rains; if the ground is very hard and the vines keep breaking, wait until after a rain to remove the vines. The cleared space allows you to see any emerging ivy from roots you missed. Arborists suggest laying a 2″ thick leaf or wood chip mulch for three feet around the tree to preserve moisture in the soil and keep lawn mowers from getting too close to the roots. Keep the mulch 3″ away from tree trunk to ensure air exchange for the bark, and you can spot any ivy trying to reinfest the tree.
- Once cut, leave ivy on the tree. Do not pull it off because that could harm the tree. Ivy will gradually blend into the tree bark after it is cut. Check up your tree each winter to be sure the ivy remains off.
If you’re located in the Arlington/Alexandria, VA area, contact info@TreeStewards.org to get a demonstration on how to remove ivy from a tree in your yard. TreeStewards are trained volunteers from your community who share their tree knowledge.
Additional Education Materials
These materials were developed for TreeStewards and Arlington Regional Master Naturalists under a grant from the Tree Canopy Fund of Arlington, Virginia. These materials, created by Biodiversity Project of Chicago, may be adapted and distributed by anyone who wants to protect their trees.
Please let us know if they are useful in your work by emailing info@TreeStewards.org