Removing ivy from trees is easier than you think

English ivy can sure do a number on trees!

Posted by Susan Harris

Gardeners, tree-lovers, and property owners of all types, now’s a great time to liberate your trees of any English that may be growing up them.   Because no matter how well you may be controlling it as a groundcover, when it’s allowed to grow vertically on structures it harms them, and when it’s allowed to grow up into trees, it’s equally destructive.   Here’s how:

The Harm Caused by Ivy in Trees

  • It kills the trees.
  • It matures and produces berries that are then thread all over Creation by the birds.

And the great news is that it’s actually pretty easy to get even the oldest, biggest-stemmed ivy off of trees – if you do it the easy way, which also happens to be the best method for the health of the tree.   The Friends of Sligo Creek explain that it’s a terrible idea to go to all the trouble of pulling ivy off of trees, and why:  “Do not pull ivy off the bark. The rootlets cling to the bark with a glue-like substance, and pulling may damage the bark, exposing it to invading organisms. And worse for the puller, a beehive or bird nest might come down.”

The Best  and Easiest Way to Remove Ivy

I’ll send you right to FOSC’s advice on the subject, where that quote came from, for simple instructions with photos, and simply tell you about my own experience removing decades of ivy from about 30 trees on my property.

Mature ivy, with heart-shaped leaves and the berries it sets

In the first year, the work did take a while because some of the stems were BIG and I had to use increasingly better saws to cut through them.   But from then on it was easy – just waiting a year or two for all that foliage to die and then drop to the ground.  I noticed that the dead stems, after they too died, became brittle and perfect for birds to use as nesting materials.

Every other year thereafter, I’ve used my basic hand pruner to cut through all the newly climbing ivy stems from the ivy-covered forest floor, and again let the new growth above my cut die and drop.  Even my biggest trees, with 20 to 30 new ivy stems inching up the trunk, have required only 10 minutes of easy pruning for me to liberate them for another whole year.

So do your trees and the ecology around you a favor and get out those pruners and maybe even a saw.  It feels great to do on a mild autumn day – or any day of the year, actually, because there’s no wrong time to do it.

Top left photo credit: Kaptain Kobold.  Top right photo credit: Chrstopher.   Mature ivy photo credit:  King County, Washington.

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