Does Ivy Hurt My Trees?

by | Aug 9, 2022 | Tree Care


“Does ivy hurt my trees?”

is a question we get a lot. The answer is not a simple one, I’ve tried to break it down for you.

I see ivy everywhere, isn’t it a common plant?

To be sure we’re talking of the same plant. Here we’re referring to English Ivy (Hedera helix), not Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata).


ivy growing on a tree
Ivy is used as a groundcover and has been around for a very long time, it is valued for its consistent look and can cover large areas. When kept maintained and not allowed to grow freely, ivy will not be a problem to trees. But when an ivy vine starts up a tree and attaches itself to the bark and grows upwards toward the top of the tree, this is when a problem starts.

Why does ivy climb up trees?

The bark of a tree is the perfect place for roots to attach. It likes the little fissures for the root hairs to find a place to grab hold. Once it gets hold, it grows upward in search of more sunlight.

How does ivy harm a tree?

According to The American Ivy Association, ivy growing only on a tree’s trunk isn’t interrupting that tree’s photosynthesis. Plus, the waterproof nature of bark means ivy isn’t extracting water and nutrients from the tree. So, as long as there’s only a little bit of ivy and it’s only on the trunk, it’s not likely to directly hurt the tree.

However, ivy can quickly climb a tree and doesn’t stop growing. The problem starts when a tree trunk gets completely covered.

  • Ivy will siphon water and nutrients from the soil area around the tree soil, taking out resources the trees need.
  • It becomes difficult to see if a tree has any defects or other damage.
    Ivy that becomes thick on the tree can trap debris and cause fungal spores that could cause harm to the health of the tree.
  • Rodents and other pests may find shelter in the thick ivy growth.
    The weight ivy the ivy on branches and limbs can cause them to become weak and eventually will break off, especially during inclement weather.
  • Once the vines reach the crown of a tree, it could take over the tree’s foliage and block the tree’s ability to collect its life force, photosynthesis.

Should you remove ivy from the trees?

Yes, not only is it not good for the tree, but in my opinion, it does not look good. But, don’t just pull it off.

Damage to the bark happens when you try to pull off ivy that is “glued” to its bark. This could pull chunks of the tree’s bark to come off exposing the vulnerable tissue to disease or pests.

Instead of pulling it off, it is recommended that you cut a ring of the ivy stems around the base of the tree. Once these stems have been severed, the vines growing in the tree will begin to die off and eventually fall off the tree.

How do I keep the ivy from growing back up the tree again?

Manually remove the ivy vines

  • Once the ivy has been removed from the base of the tree, remove the ivy that is growing around the tree.
  • An effective way to remove the ivy is to pull or dig out the roots. This is a tough task as the roots can be deep. If you thoroughly water the area beforehand, this might make it a little easier.
  • If your digging them out, be mindful of the tree’s feeder roots that are just below the surface.

Spray to kill the ivy

  • Only spray the ivy that is on the ground, do not spray the ivy on the tree.
  • Spraying will not get rid of the ivy if it is not done thoroughly and will most likely need to be done more than once. The leaves of the ivy have a protective coating resisting herbicides and water making it hard to penetrate the leaves’ coating.

No matter what method you use, removing ivy is hard work and labor-intensive. You will need to check the area every few weeks for new ivy growth and either dig it up or spray it again. Using mulch over the cleared area can help smother some of the new ivy sprigs. Be sure to remove all ivy clippings when doing the removal as the smallest ivy spring can easier begin growing and becoming a new plant. And do not dispose of them in your compost pile unless the ivy is completely dead or you’ll have ivy all through your compost pile!

Have questions?

We’d be happy to come out and look at ways to help you control or remove your ivy.

beyond the curb landscaping

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