Take care when planting ivy on your house.
I like the look of ivy growing up the side of my house, but I’ve heard that it can damage brick and other structures. Is that true?
The answer is both yes and no, depending on the type and condition of the material the ivy is growing on. Ivy roots take hold in cracks and crevices, but they generally aren’t strong enough to create them. This means that solid, well-constructed masonry walls usually can handle ivy (and the ivy even helps keep it cool and dry), but the invasive roots can cause considerable damage to other surfaces.
Where to Avoid Growing Ivy
Surfaces and materials to keep ivy away from include:
- Weakened Brick: Crumbling mortar, cracks, and loose bricks can be invaded by ivy roots, which can widen existing cracks and allow moisture to penetrate.
- Dry-Stacked Walls: Mortarless stone walls naturally have plenty of cracks and crevices for ivy to take hold, and if you pull off the ivy, you run the risk of pulling down stones or even destroying the wall.
- Old Brick Homes: The quality of mortar has improved over the years, so the older the home, the greater the risk of weakened mortar. Homes built before 1930 need particular caution, as older, lime-based mortar is softer than modern, cement-based mortar.
- Wooden Walls and Fences: Ivy can easily work its way between boards, opening the joints and damaging the structure. The roots can also penetrate small weaknesses and cracks in the wood grain, increasing the risk of rot. And, if that’s not enough, ivy can harbor wood destroying insects and other pests.
- Siding: Any siding or shakes with seams are vulnerable to penetration by ivy roots, which can cause damage both as the ivy’s growing and when it’s pulled off.
- Stucco: The main problem with stucco comes when the ivy is pulled off, because it can pull off paint or even chunks of stucco, and the tiny roots can permanently discolor the surface.
- Painted Surfaces: As with stucco, the ivy roots may damage your paint when pulled off.
- Unsound Structures: Ivy is very heavy, and it can pull down weakened or improperly-built structures.
Tips for Growing Ivy on Your Home
If you want to add ivy to your home or landscape design, it’s best to:
- Grow on Masonry: Limit ivy to well-built, solid masonry walls. Make sure there are no cracks or loose bricks.
- Avoid Invasive Species: The common English ivy is so invasive that it is banned in some communities. Look for less invasive species (or even alternatives like climbing roses) that won’t threaten neighboring trees, woods, and houses.
- Protect Wood: Keep ivy pruned away from wooden trim work, gutters, and windows. If you’re growing ivy on a wooden structure, keep a close watch and remove any invading stems.
- Keep Contained: Remember that the tiny, hairlike tendrils will take firm hold on textured surfaces and leave a hard to remove residue behind, so keep ivy trained only where you want it.
- How to Control English Ivy (article)
- How to Remove Ivy from Walls (article)
- Growing Ivy on Old Brick Masonry (article)
- Removing Climbing Plants From Stone and Masonry (Chicora Foundation)
- Ivy on Brickwork (Brick Industry Association)
I want to grow ivy around a paladin window on the front of our newly built home ,there is a brick edge around the frame of this window so it will be easy to keep the ivy neatly trimmed . Since this is a new home there is no wood framing around the windows . my daughter’s professional lawn and garden people advised vigorously againced any ivy growing on a brick wall , she too wanted ivy on a new construction in one spot ..No,NO cautioned this man it will destroy the brick and do massive damage to the housen. I am a Gardner and this seemed a little alarmist to me ,I am growing my ivy ,but she is inclined to let this man pull all of hers out ..please advise…I think that he is well meaning but wrong ….I know that ivy can do some damage but with current building materials I have understood that there is little danger to a new building ….all climbers ,of course need to be kept neat ….thanks
As noted in the article above, whether growing ivy on bricks will damage them depends on the age and condition of both the bricks and mortar joints. If new bricks were used in the construction and the mortar joints are tight, growing ivy on it shouldn’t damage it.
I am growing a Knome Ivy indoors in a large wooden pot with a companion plant of brown clover. To those of you not familiar with Knome Ivy, I think it is the smallest Ivy grown. I have been growing these two tiny plants side by side for a couple months now in full sun from South window and they are doing great! It is Winter here…a full foot of snow received last nite.
Anyway, both the Ivy and the Clover are in a hugh, very solid wooden pot.
My question…do you think being planted in this wooden pot will cause problems for the plants somewhere own the road?
Suannez from Interlochen MI
How do i remove the mechanism growing ivy uses to hold on to painted surfaces and keep from leaving marks
I have a large indoor heartleaf philodendron. She lives in my sunroom which has unfinished pine walls. She clings to and is growing up the wall. She loves it and so do I, but I’ve been told she will eventually damage the wall. Is that true and if so, in what way? Thank you for your advice. Tink
I am purchasing a home that has ivy growing on the siding. Should the ivy be remove?
While ivy is OK on newer brick walls, I would remove ivy from all types of siding, including wood, vinyl, and fiber cement. Before you buy the house, I would take a close look at the siding that’s under the ivy to see if it has deteriorated over time. If it has consider having the current homeowner fix it or take the price of repairing it off the price of the home.
I have a stone wall on the side of the house i would like to grow ivy or wintercreeper on. The stone goes from the ground to some windows, and is perpendicular to a wood wall. Stone is in good condition, not old, and is held together with mortar. As long as I keep the ivy pruned from the windows and the wood wall, is this safe?
Will climbing roses and clamatis damage the paint on my garden wall? I want to paint it but am not sure if spraying the roses will damage it. I will have to move the plants away from the wall to paint it, but I would like to put them back on the side trellis which I will also paint.
i have ivy growing on a concrete wall in my backyard, and i’d love to know how to take care of it. it should look better than it does and i just want it to flourish.
I’ve two small ivy plants kept in pots but have started training them into a party wall fencing that we have built. The neighbours telling us to remove it as it will damage the wall even though the walls well built with no obvious problematic cracks. What shall we do? Does the neighbour have the right to tell us to do this?
So I tried it because I love the look of Ivy growing on brick! Now that I’m ready to sell my home we’ve done a big clean up and thought we’d better take the Ivy down. The Ivy did NOT hurt the brick or mortar HOWEVER it leaves hairlike cemented residue that we cannot remove. I had no idea! So I guess the correct answer is you want to be sure you want it on there because even if you have great brick it will never look nice again once Ivy has grown up on it and attached itself for a while.
Ivy looks so beautiful growing on old brick homes, it is a shame really that you need to avoid growing ivy there. I have been looking into buying homes and our realtor took us to an older home with ivy growing on the walls. I’m not much of a gardener but it looks so beautiful. Is there anyway to keep the ivy even though it is an older home without ruining the home?
I have an ivy that grows every year on my south facing wood siding wall. It looks like a boston ivy but it doesn’t turn red in the fall. It has little white berries in mid summer. It doesn’t damage the wood because it climbs like a grape vine. It also doesn’t leave any residue behind. I have pulled up a few to transplant them and the root is more like a bulb. Not sure what species it is but i would like to get more of these if i can find out what it is.
I moved into a house with a well established garden. Birds have spread the ivy to invade every garden bed and probably my neighbours gardens too. It has climbed into the window frames, spoilt the brickwork of my house, and is a bigger pest than weeds surviving with no intentional watering.
This conversation is too general. Everyone is using the term “Ivy”. There are different types: English, Boston, and Virginia Creeper are just 3 of the most popular on brick houses. The ivy’s also adhere to surfaces differently. English ivy use tendrils which will go into and damage mortar especially on older homes. I have lived in a 1927 brick home in Ohio for 30 years and have had Boston Ivy all over my home and have not had problems with the mortar. Boston Ivy uses little suction cups to adhere. The biggest issue I have is that it is great cover for field mice to crawl up and and enter at the Attic level and get in my house. Never ending battle
does ivy damage homes?
Does English or other ivy have thick roots undermining wall foundations? how far can they reach?
My house is cedar siding. Just found English ivy growing on the back of the house. Weather has been so rainy it has just exploded. I like the way it looks but, from reading, I take it that damage will be done if allowed to grow. Just tell me if I need to remove it or if there is a way to keep it. House was built in 1983.
Any siding or shakes with seams could be vulnerable to penetration by ivy roots. The roots can cause damage to the siding both as the ivy grows and when it’s pulled off. The ivy may look beautiful now, but since the home has cedar siding, and damage could result from leaving the ivy, we would remove it. Thanks for your question!
I have a 1906 house with the lime mortar and have actually found that the ivy is protecting the mortar! My house faces the James River Valley and so I get these 60 mile per hour blasts of wind off the valley quite often and when it contains rain it etches away the mortar where the ivy is not protecting it. The mortar underneath the ivy is not hit by the wind driven rain and is in better shape. I have the Boston Ivy apparently as it has little suction cups and it does leave marks on the brick but doesn’t penetrate into the mortar but rather attempts to attach with a suction cup to the weekend mortar which only accomplish is the effect of pulling away one tiny molecular layer of grains and then only if you pull the ivy off. So overall I am experiencing Ivy as a positive to my house as it also keeps the walls cooler and dryer.
We bought our 1930s spanish mediterranean house 10 years ago with lots of creeping fig climbing up the stucco walls. The gardeners trim it every week but it is time for us to paint. I noticed the last paint job sprayed around the ivy as it is a different color behind the ivy. The ivy has fallen off in one feel swoop during a heavy storm and it got pulled off the wall. The paint has chipped and peeled behind this ivy. I have no idea what to do when I repaint. Do I remove it, patch, paint and then stick it back on or should I just find a way to get rid of it completely?
What a great question! We recommend submitting it (along with photos) to the Today’s Homeowner Radio Show for an in-depth answer.
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Thomas, did Karen ever reply? We’d love to know exactly what she has and what was recommended.
We haven’t heard anything additional from Karen, but would love to receive those photos and learn more about the situation!
Karen, if you’re out there… 🙂