English Ivy (Hedera helix) can be very aggressive if not kept under strict control!

Unfortunately, its thick, waxy leaves make it somewhat resistant to regular sprayed herbicides, so gardeners have to get creative (and more than a little dirty) in order to tackle it.

Here are some tips:

Poison ivy, seen climbing against a house
Sometimes, it is best to completely get rid of ivy plants rather than trying to manage them. (DepositPhotos)
  • Unpleasant as it may be, your defense is a good ground attack. Pull as much as you can by hand, and remove or cut any stems growing up trees or structures. Pulling ivy is messy and hard work, but it goes pretty quickly.
  • As you’re pulling, don’t leave behind any little sprouts! Completely clear the ground, particularly in a large circle around trees, shrubs, and structures.
  • Remember that your ivy will grow vigorously after it’s cut – you may want to remove it all, rather than just containing it.
  • Ivy is not a parasitic plant, although it can take root as it creeps along the ground. As you pull the ivy, you need to be looking for the main stem and roots so you can remove them as well.
  • If you’re applying herbicides, be sure to choose one labeled for English ivy, or one containing the ingredient riclopyr ester.
  • You’ll have to apply herbicide repeatedly throughout the year, but particularly be sure to attack it in the early spring when new growth is emerging, as younger leaves absorb the herbicide more easily.
  • Follow the weed killer instructions exactly. Applying when temperatures are too hot or cold, applying too close to a rain, and other factors can affect the product’s strength – and with English ivy, you need everything working for you!
  • Some gardeners report success with mowing or trimming the ivy before applying weed killers. This exposes cut stems that can absorb the chemicals, and it sparks a flush of growth that results in more fluid circulation to and from the roots, which may improve the effectiveness of your weed killer.
  • Cut thicker stems with lopping shears, then paint the cut end with undiluted herbicide.
  • Make sure your weed killer includes a surfactant – if it doesn’t, you can add a couple of tablespoons of dish detergent to your sprayer. The surfactant disperses the chemicals and also helps cut through the waxy coating on thick leaves.

Further Information

Editorial Contributors
Danny Lipford

Danny Lipford


Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio, TodaysHomeowner.com, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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