How to Get Rid of Ivy for Good

There should be a support group for people trying to remove massive amounts of ivy from their yards. It’s a miserable job. Sometimes it leaves you feeling hopeless. But I’m here to tell you that you’ve got this.

You Can Remove Out-of-Control Ivy

Here’s what I was dealing with back in 2014. My ivy spanned the entire width of the backyard, reaching up to one end of the patio and all the way down the slope to the back fence. What had probably started as erosion control was turning into lawn cover-upper, staircase rotter and yard destroyer.

How to Get Rid of Ivy for Good: Ivy covering stairs

It was even starting to smother other plants in the yard. My trees and rhododendrons were suffocating from the vines, and I couldn’t get to them to pull the ivy off because they were surrounded by even more ivy.

Nothing was safe. From the looks of it, in another season or two the house would be buried in vines. And not in a charming English cottage way, but in an abandoned foreclosure house kind of way.

How to Get Rid of Ivy for Good: Ivy spilling onto deck

I had to stop the ivy. It seemed impossible, but eventually I got rid of every last root and vine of ivy in my yard. It can be done. I’ll walk you through the steps.

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Don’t Try to Start by Cutting It Back

If you’re dealing with massive amounts of ivy, it will take approximately one lifetime to cut it back. I started with this method, and it was like giving a St. Bernard a haircut using nothing but a pair of nail clippers.

Don't try to remove massive amounts of ivy with just a hedge trimmer

Here I am on day one of ivy removal. Happy. Innocent. Completely unaware of the work to come. I started by cutting back the ivy with an electric hedge trimmer, then straining my back to rip the pieces out by the roots.

It took all my strength, and after a hard day’s work I had barely made a dent. I’m pretty sure the next day it all grew back and then some. This method works better for removing smaller patches of ivy.

When ivy has been left to grow wild for a few decades, it stops being a plant and turns into something more like a low-growing evil tree. The vines aren’t green and flimsy. They are thick and woody. It’s not a fair fight.

But there’s a better method: solarization.

Plastic + Time = Bye, Ivy

After spending a summer getting nowhere with brute force (and cutting through two electric cords with the hedge trimmer…it’s the ivy’s fault), I decided it was time for a new strategy.

We researched the solarization method, which involves letting the sun scorch the ivy under plastic. You don’t need a lot of back strength, just a lot of patience.

How to Get Rid of Ivy for Good: Out of control ivy

Here’s how to kill ivy with solarization:

  1. Completely cover your ivy with thick black plastic sheeting.
  2. Stake down the plastic or hold it in place with something heavy.
  3. Wait for 1-2 years while the sun cooks the ivy.

OK, I know having 1,000 square feet of black plastic in your yard doesn’t sound too great, but it’s better than killing your back and getting nowhere. It sounds like a long time, but this is actually faster than trying to do it all yourself. With this method, you have the sun on your side.

Under the plastic, the ivy is deprived of water and cooks in the heat. The sun does most of the work while you turn your attention to other projects until the time is up.

Every few months, peek under the plastic and check if the ivy is cooked. When it’s ready there will be no greenery left. Just dry, brittle, lightweight vines. That’s when you can start doing some real work on this ivy.

How to Get Rid of Ivy for Good: Cover it in plastic
When your ivy looks like this, it’s ready for removal. (Ignore the fresh ivy that grew through the fence…that can be cut back by hand.)

Remove the Dead Ivy

Now you can cut and pull the ivy with relative ease. Hack away at the vines and pile up the debris. There will be a lot.

You can also try mowing over the vines to break them apart and make them easier to pull up.

How to Get Rid of Ivy for Good: Mow your dead ivy

Your biggest problem now is getting rid of all those vines. My suggestions: s’more fuel and wreath materials. The twisty vines are especially fun for spooky Halloween wreaths.

Patch Up the Ground Underneath the Ivy

After being buried under thick ivy for many years, the ground may have some weird holes. Now’s a good time to smooth them out.

My yard had an erosion hole and random spots of unevenness. We filled the erosion hole with gravel and smoothed out the rest of the ground with mud. Make sure your ground is fairly smooth before moving on to the next step.

Lay a Barrier to Prevent Rebound Ivy

It was a big job getting rid of that ivy, and I know the last thing you want is for it to come back. Since it died under the plastic, it should be gone for good, but let’s call this next phase a safety precaution. It’s time to cover that ground.

How to Get Rid of Ivy for Good: Cover your reclaimed yard with jute

Here’s what I did to prepare for planting the area, but you might alter this if you have other plans in mind.

  1. Lay overlapping pieces of cardboard over the former ivy area. This can help block any roots from sprouting up as the cardboard decomposes.
  2. Cover the area with jute netting. I did this to help provide erosion control on my slope while waiting for the future plants to fill in.
  3. Cover the area with weed barrier landscape fabric. The dead ivy doesn’t stand a chance.

Use landscape staples to secure these layers as needed. Pound them in with your trusty mallet.

How to Get Rid of Ivy for Good: Cover your reclaimed yard with weed barrier
Ready for planting!

Ivy Removal Kit

To sum up, here’s what I used to kill the ivy and then cover the area to prevent regrowth.

Plastic sheets for killing ivy
Jute netting for landscaping
Landscape staples

Reclaim Your Yard

At this point, you probably want to fill in your newly reclaimed yard. Will you create a fire pit area, build a shed or studio, or plant a new lawn?

How to Get Rid of Ivy for Good: Add new plants

In my case, I added plants right away to help fill in the slope. If you’re looking for ideas, here’s what I planted.

Sunnier Slope:

  • Blue fescue grass (icy blue-green grass)
  • Candytuft (my go-to evergreen with white springtime blooms)
  • Sedum ground cover (one of my favorite un-killable plants)
  • Blue star juniper (blue-green shrub)
  • Strawberry vanilla hydrangea (this sun-loving hydrangea transitions from white to pink blooms each summer)
How to Get Rid of Ivy for Good: Fill in with new plants

Shadier Slope:

  • Fern (the evergreen staple of the shade garden)
  • Hosta (perennial shade lover that comes back each year)
  • Hellebore (a hardy evergreen with buttercup flowers in the winter)
  • Rhododendron (large evergreen flowering shrub that loves the shade)
  • Sedum ground cover (seems to survive in any part of the yard)
Mid-century modern backyard slope after removing ivy

Here’s my backyard a few years after removing the ivy. It’s still all clear, with the ivy gone for good!

Find more landscaping ideas:

You might also like these 7 quick wins to make your yard look like a million bucks.


21 thoughts on “How to Get Rid of Ivy for Good”

  1. I know when you moved in to your wonderful mid-century home you looked out at the backyard with the vast amount of ivy and it was overwhelming….I remember you getting a stack of books from the library to search and research ideas for landscaping, etc. Now 4 years later you have a wonderful backyard to spend leisure hours enjoying the outdoors. You came, you saw, and you conquered!! (Now all you have left to do and “Need” are the lower decks and Eric’s Koi pond….;) )

  2. I like the work smarter not harder approach. Dealing with such invasive plants calls for breaking out the big guns. Well done 😁

  3. How many rolls of plastic did you end up having to buy? We have a similarly large hill of ivy to take down and I’d love to budget for this project.

  4. They make round up for ivy. I keep spraying the surface ground with it after pulling all the roots I can see. My question is, if eventually, I put new soil and sod over the area , will the ivy come back through ?

    • In my case, I removed the ivy down to the ground level and covered it with cardboard, jute netting and weed barrier. Even though the roots were still underground, they were all dead or mostly dead, and unable to push through the layers. I would say if you cover the area with layers like cardboard and weed barrier, you should be good, too!

  5. You have given me inspiration! We have Lily of the Valley that is crowding one garden in our backyard and slowly spreading into the front yard garden and under our fence into the neighbor’s yard. I have been looking for ideas to get rid of it for awhile. We have a hill in our backyard and years ago, our neighbor planted ivy in their yard. Over the years, it has worked its way up their hill and started to creep into our hill. We do have woods at the top of the hill and I have no idea if it has crept into the woods. But… with your story, you have given me a ton of hope to get rid of these plants once and for all! I’m even going to possibly be a little bold and ask the neighbor if they’d be interested in helping get rid of it. The ivy has crept up on 2 different trees in their yard and I think a few on our hill. Sorry for my long post. I just wanted to thank you for giving me some inspiration and guidance for what to do. Your yard looks fabulous, from the pictures you posted!

    • Aww, thanks Melissa! I’m so glad to hear that! We have had to work with our neighbors a little bit too, and Eric has even gone next door once or twice to cut back their ivy away from our fence, with permission. On our side the ivy has stayed away! It was a big job but worth it. Best of luck with your ivy and Lily of the Valley battle. You can do it! 🙂

  6. I’ve spent a few days shredding ivy – it’s been very therapeutic, but I now believe my shredding can’t be used for composting as the ivy can re-grow from the shredded bits.

    I understand that i could put my shredded ivy into black plastic sacks and let it die over time ( about 1-2 years) and then use in composting. Alternately, I’m told that industrial composting uses a heating process to kill the ivy and sterilise it from disease. My local Council will take the shredded ivy, but then I lose the potential for composting.

    Any ideas?

    • I should have added, the ivy in question had taken on tree like qualities – it had killed 3 trees as it grew up the trunks, and then formed a canopy ! when I cut through the 2-3inch diameter vines, one tree literally fell down!. We’ll burn the thick vines ( cut up like logs) in our open hearth fire in a few years time once it has seasoned.

      I do have room for what is currently 1 cubic yard of shredded ivy, so will probably take that option – stacking the bags behind our garage ( but sadly out of sunlight).

      One (or more) question (s) if I may – does the ivy make good compost? and will it be acidic or alkaline in nature? My soil is heavily alkaline, so acidity would do some good.

      • Hi David, my ivy was very woody, too. After solarization, there wasn’t any green left. I let the wood dry out and burned a lot of it, and used some for making wreaths. The rest I sent to the city yard debris bin.

        I think you’ve got the right idea of using the big pieces for firewood. But composting ivy for your yard makes me nervous, and I’m not sure how much value it would add to the soil as far as acidity goes. For me, it wasn’t worth the risk after going through all the trouble of removing it.

        And in most yards there’s such an endless supply of leaves, plant cuttings and other good things to compost instead of ivy. 🙂

  7. Depending on what zone you live in, ivy allows rats and the snakes that eat rats and voles,, to thrive! I live in South Georgia, but I know this to be true in California. My ivy had some poison ivy growing up trees along my tree line, too, so I had quite a struggle. Your method worked very well with our hot sun. I had to treat my garbage guys with some cola six packs because of the trash I ended up with.
    I’d like to recommend Burt’s Bees poison ivy soap. Good stuff!

    • Cool, thanks for the tip about the soap! I’m glad to hear the solarization was helpful. Sounds like you were able to shorten the timeline with your southern sun, and cook that ivy a little faster than up here in gray and rainy Portland.

      Ivy is so much trouble. We had piles of snakes in ours! So nice to be rid of it.

  8. Hey Tara – Just another big thumbs up on this approach and blog entry! My case: I have about 80′ of wooden fence, west side of my yard that is *immersed* in ivy. Some of the roots are ~4″ diameter down at the bottom. Time for operation ivy solarization: zero tolerance! Bought the materials you recommend and it’s all buttoned up for solarization. Hoping for a hot summer. 😉 Only addendum I might recommend, for those with ivy/fence issues, is a heavy duty stapler (like e.g., for rock bands and telephone poles…bygone era, lol). This is the only way I could get it to stay in place and be wind proof on a fence–staple the plastic sheeting to the wooden fence, here and there where there were ivy-free patches, and to the wooden plank borders that exist on a walkway at bottom of fence. Can’t wait to haul this off to the dump in the future, but I rest easy knowing that stuff is cooking itself! Thanks again, and keep up the great work on the blog.

    • Thanks, Chris! That’s a great idea about using the stapler along the fence line. Gotta miss the concert and telephone pole days!

      It will be fun to watch the ivy start cooking. Lots of sun coming soon! 🙂


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