wikiHow to Kill Ivy Without Damaging a Tree

Ivy (Hedera helix) is great in its place but when it starts taking over another plant in your garden, it becomes a real pest. For trees, it can take away light from the bark of the tree and other parts, sometimes preventing dormant buds from sprouting and renewing the tree growth and it can encourage further deterioration of an already damaged tree by increasing the humidity that leads to wood rot.[1] It can also look really messy and scraggly. It won't be easy to remove it, as most methods will likely also kill the tree. With some perseverance, however, you might be able to remove it.


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    Check the base of the tree for suckers from the tree. If there are, do not even consider spraying as the tree will take up any poisons you spray. If there are none, and the tree has brown bark, spray glyphosate on the ivy that sits on the tree trunk.[2]
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    Cut the ivy two weeks later. The lapse in time permits the glyphosate action to work on the entire ivy. Cut the vines as close to the ground as possible and cut out a section to prevent rebonding. Brush the glyphosate directly onto the cuts.
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    Allow natural die-off. Be aware that this will take around 1 - 2 years for the stems above the cut. Trying to remove the ivy will cause a lot of dust inhalation, and can damage the tree if the ivy has clung to it for quite a while. Over time the dead ivy will wither off. Overall natural rotting of the ivy can take 3 - 10 years.[3]
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    Keep an eye on your handiwork. If the ivy sprouts up again anywhere, deal with it immediately by pulling it off.


  • For those in North America, this article refers to English ivy, not poison ivy.
  • Wear gloves and a mask to protect your skin and respiratory system when working with sprays. Ivy also causes an allergy reaction in sensitive people if touched.
  • Note that ivy is not parasitic - its potential for damage comes from its weight (the possibility of making a tree top-heavy and making it more liable to blow over in high winds), moisture increasing potential, and preventing light reaching buds.
  • If you like ivy on a tree, keep it trimmed regularly so that it only grows on the trunk.


  • Any plant sprayed or painted around the tree will die, so be careful!

Things You'll Need

  • Secateurs or other garden cutting implements
  • Glyphosate spray or paint-on
  • Brush for painting on
  • Garden gloves
  • Goggles to prevent ivy dust entering eyes

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Categories: Garden Pests and Weeds