The large trees around our home are covered with English ivy. Is there a way to keep it from growing up into the limbs of the trees?
English ivy growing up into trees (and another invasive creeping vine, wintercreeper euonymous) are most evident now, when the trees are bare. It’s this time of year when you can see just how quickly and how thickly those vines – which are evergreen — can climb into the tree canopy. Left to grow, English ivy vines can engulf the tree within a few years.
Once the vines have grown up into the limbs, there is no quick and easy way to get them down. The vines will have grown stout trunks that continue to reach up and branch out as they cling to the bark. The National Park Service, which has an interest in keeping English ivy from displacing native flora on public lands, suggests several methods for controlling the vine. It likely will require a combination of manual, mechanical and chemical methods.
Use a hand axe or pruning saw to carefully cut large vines near the ground, which will deprive the upper portions of nutrients. Try not to damage the bark of the tree itself. Cut smaller vines with loppers or pruning shears. It will take a few weeks for the vines to succumb, but then you can pull as much as possible off the tree, or allow the dead vines to eventually fall off.
Cutting followed by application of a systemic herbicide to the cut surfaces of the still-rooted vines may be effective in getting rid of the plant, NPS says; be aware, though, that cutting will re-invigorate growth, so you have to continue to be diligent about removing new growth, which can usually be pulled up from the ground.
Gardeners have a saying about English ivy: “The first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, the third year it leaps.” It can be slow to get started, but once it gets going, it quickly leaps out of bounds. Keep this in mind if you’re tempted to add English ivy to the landscape.