English Ivy Kills Trees

English Ivy Kills Trees
By Jessie McClellan of New Urban Forestry in Athens, GA

English ivy, [Hedera helix], is an exotic invasive species that is popular for it’s ability to grow in dry shade. Unfortunately, the English ivy has become so successful that it is replacing native species, including trees! Mature English ivy has the ability to climb and cover the tree canopy, adding thousands of pounds of biomass weight totrees, girdling tree trunks, and shading sub‐canopy and canopy trees. This can cause trees to fail and fall on nearby structures and utilities. Although still recommended by landscape professionals because of English ivy’s resistance to disease, ability to grow where lawns fail, and its overall aggressiveness, English ivy carries many problems and issues with it. English ivy does not benefit native wildlife, but does benefit vermin, giving them places to hide.

We at New Urban Forestry Landscaping are committed to the removal and eradication of English ivy in our landscapes and replacing them with native plant species that benefit the wildlife and ecology of the site.

Ivy girdling is a technique that we employ to begin the process of saving the mature trees that English ivy is so adept at killing. We cut the ivy from the ground to around 3‐4 feet up the tree, being careful when removing the ivy from the trunk as to not cause damage. As the top portion of the ivy is severed from the nutrient providing root system, it dies and begins to fall off the tree, liberating the tree and ultimately saving its life.

Ivy Girdling,  Before and After

Ivy Girdling, Before and After

Smothering English ivy is another technique that we at New Urban Forestry Landscaping use to control the ivy that runs rampant on the ground. We remove and cut as much of the ivy as we can, then we layer cardboard over the ivy debris that may sprout back, finally we cover the cardboard with a thick layer of mulch. Be aware that mulch is great for trees and shrubs, but you can have too much of a good thing! The maximum amount of mulch layer around trees and shrubs is 4 inches. Anymore than 4 inches and you run the risk of suffocating the plant roots and killing the plants that you worked so hard to save.

Smothering English Ivy

Smothering English Ivy

Although English ivy eradication may seem daunting at first, we like to prioritize the eradication efforts. The #1 priority is to save all trees in the landscape; #2 is to remove and smother ivy that tries to climb on structures and fences, and finally the last priority is to eradicate ivy from the ground by removal and smothering with mulch.

So the next time you are struggling with what to plant underneath your mature trees, before planting an exotic, invasive species, contact us at New Urban Forestry Landscaping and we will help you decide on plants that are beneficial to the ecosystem and will not harm your established landscape.


Tree Care, LandscapingJessie