How to remove English ivy from a tree
Q: I hear conflicting reports: is ivy good when it climbs up a tree or is it bad for the tree? And if it’s bad, how does one control the spiralling, upward growth?
A: English ivy (Hedera helix) is harmful to trees upon which it grows. It clings to surfaces using tendrils, aerial roots and a sticky substance called glycosides. Those roots and tendrils tend to grow under bark, damaging it, and the weight of the plant, which can easily overtake a tree, can weaken its branches. That weight also places the tree in danger of falling over during wind storms, imperiling people and property. In addition, a blanket of ivy will block crucial sunlight from the tree, curtailing its ability to photosynthesize. This can deprive the tree of nutrients, essentially starving it. Ivy is also a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other insects, so you’ll want to remove the climbing offender as soon as possible.
The process isn’t as simple as yanking it off, however, as those pesky roots and tendrils will hold on tightly, and you’ll inadvertently remove the tree’s protective bark along with the ivy. Instead, using loppers or a pruning saw, cut the ivy all around the tree, about three feet off the ground. One by one, carefully dislodge its branches from the lower portion of the plant, which is still growing from the ground. Then dig up and remove it by its roots. Monitor and remove new growth regularly until the plant is depleted.
Leave the severed ivy on the upper portion of the tree, where it will wither and die.
The process isn’t as simple as yanking it off the tree.