Growing English Ivy And Removing It If You Have To

English Ivy makes a wonderful climbing vine able to cover buildings and give that "old" look to them in a fairly short time.

Having said that, its strength in speed is matched by its strength in invasiveness and any article extolling the virtue of this plant is shortly met by outrage by those gardeners in warmer areas where this plant has escaped into the wild and is busily choking out other plants.

One gardener's treasure is another gardener's bane.

But English Ivy does make an excellent vine and if that's your interest, here's how to grow it.

Growing Conditions

Full sunlight or middling shade is good for this plant. It will take surprisingly small amounts of sunlight and live, although it will slow down its growth in very low light levels. If nothing else will make it in this dark corner, try English Ivy.

Well-drained but fertile soil allows it to grow well. This plant is a native understory plant so think woodland and woodland edging plant with the kind of good soil there.

While it will survive being flooded in the spring, it doesn't like winter wet or standing water in a garden setting.

It will grow in clay soils but prefers a better drained soil.

This plant clings to buildings (and almost any surface) with "suckers" that attach themselves and support the weight of the plant. It does not require a trellis but will use one (or anything vertical for that matter) to climb.


English Ivy is marginally hardy as a climbing vine into USDA zone 5. The variety 'Baltica' is hardy there in most years although it will be burned off in a cold year. I've had 'Baltica' survive a year or two in USDA zone 4 but as soon as it pokes its head up through the snow - or the snow melts down and we have a deep freeze, this plant is burned to the ground or killed.

Other varieties are more tender.

As indicated above, in warmer areas or areas where winter is cool and damp, this plant will think it is in hog-heaven and has the potential to become a serious weed.

Home Garden Propagation

By cuttings in the home garden. Easy - take some tender tip cuttings and put them in a glass of water. Wait a month until roots emerge and then plant.

Layering - putting a tendril on the ground and covering the node with soil will also work. This is how it spreads as a ground cover.

English Ivy
English ivy "eating" an evergreen tree

Removing Old Plants

Removing an established plant is a bit of a chore. The first step is to kill off the root. Cut the main stems at the root. This will kill the existing top.

The problem of course is that this root is going to produce a hundred new shoots for every one you cut. You have to either continue to cut these off regularly and starve the root out, or, you have to dig out the root.

You do have to either kill or totally remove this root as the smaller roots can indeed throw new shoots all by themselves. This is a tough plant to eradicate manually but it can be done.

Removing the old suckers from the walls is easier when the top growth is fully dead. They can be pulled away and then a power washer will remove most of the older suckers. You may have to scrub off some of the more persistent ones.

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Will this damage your house? Frankly, it depends on how good the mortar or siding condition is and is beyond the ability of this article to give you a good answer. Siding or mortar that is in good shape will not be bothered other than cosmetically. Poor conditions might see some damage. If there is a trick, it is to allow the top growth to fully die and become brittle before trying to remove it. Experiment with smaller areas before you really get serious about pulling off the plant.

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