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. But I’m here to tell you that you’ve got this.

You Can Remove Out-of-Control Ivy

My English ivy spanned the entire width of the backyard, reaching all the way down the slope to the back fence.

Underneath the top layer of flimsy green vines, it was two feet tall with a mass of woody branches that couldn’t be cut with a weed trimmer.

This lawn cover-upper, staircase rotter and yard destroyer was choking out my trees and shrubs. Nothing was safe from the ivy.

Stopping it seemed impossible, but eventually I got rid of every last ivy root and vine in my yard. Here’s what you need to know to remove English ivy for good.

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3 Ways to Kill English Ivy

There are three main ivy removal methods people use, depending on how thick and serious the ivy is.

Option 1: Cutting and Pulling the Ivy

This will work if you only have those flimsy green vines I mentioned. You can cut the ivy with a weed trimmer and then pull or rake the roots out by hand.

But if you’re dealing with large amounts of thick 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

It took all my strength to cut and rip out the woody ivy roots, 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.

Option 2: Spraying Herbicides

Some people swear by ivy-killing herbicides.

In my experience, herbicides did not work at all, at least not the natural ones. We tried the white vinegar trick as well as spraying soapy water.

Ivy leaves are very waxy and tough. They can take an herbicidal beating and just laugh in your face.

Lots of ivy covering future deck area
Here’s my ivy, laughing hard.

You could try breaking out the big guns like Crossbow. I avoid using serious chemicals in my yard, so I found another solution.

Option 3: Solarization

This is my method of choice. It works on even the thickest ivy, it doesn’t strain your back, and it doesn’t require chemicals. All it takes is patience.

Plastic + Time = Bye, Ivy

After spending a summer getting nowhere with brute force, I turned to the solarization method. This involves letting the sun scorch the ivy under plastic.

Out of control ivy before removing
Time to cover that ivy!

How to Kill Ivy With Solarization

These are the easy steps:

  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 isn’t ideal, but it’s better than killing your back and getting nowhere.

With this method, the sun does the work for you.

Cook the Ivy Under Plastic

Under the plastic, the ivy is deprived of water. It cooks in the heat, permanently killing the ivy, the roots, and even the seeds so it can’t grow back.

Every few months, peek under the plastic and check if the ivy is dead. Once all the greenery is gone and there’s nothing but dry, brittle, brown vines, it’s time to remove it for good.

Pulling back the plastic to reveal dead ivy vines
(Any fresh ivy that grew through the fence can be cut back by hand.)

Remove the Dead Ivy

After solarizing, you can cut and pull the ivy with 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.

Mowing over dead English ivy

If you have any ivy growing up your trees, cut the ivy around the base of each tree and remove the roots below.

Your biggest problem now is disposing of all that woody ivy. 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 fill them in.

My yard had random spots of unevenness, so we added dirt to smooth it out. Make sure your ground is fairly smooth before moving on to the next step.

Lay a Barrier to Prevent Rebound Ivy

Since your ivy died under the plastic it should be gone for good, but covering the ground is a nice safety precaution.

Covering the reclaimed yard with jute

Here’s what I did to prepare for planting:

  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.

Covering the yard with weed barrier
Now we’re ready for mulch and plants.

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

Poly Sheeting

Jute netting for landscaping

Jute Netting

Landscape Fabric

Landscape staples

Landscape Staples

Mallet

Rubber Mallet


Reclaim Your Yard

With your ivy gone for good, it’s time to take back your yard. In my case, I added plants right away to help fill in the slope.

New plants growing where the ivy used to be

Here’s my backyard a few years later. The ivy is gone forever!

Mid-century modern backyard slope after removing ivy

You might also like these landscaping ideas:


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27 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….;) )

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

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  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.

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  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 ?

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    • 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!

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  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!

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    • 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! 🙂

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  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?

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    • 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.

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      • 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. 🙂

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  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!

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    • 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.

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  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.
    Chris/Seattle

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    • 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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    • Oh no! The best thing would be to dig it out if possible. But if you can’t do that, I’ve heard that if you cut the stalks enough times, eventually the bamboo will lose energy and die.

      We have some bamboo in the corner of our yard coming from the neighbor’s side. We’ve just been cutting it over and over, then last fall we got it cut down to the ground and buried it under a tarp and several bags of barkdust we were storing over the winter…so we’re hoping that killed it for good.

      Good luck!

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      • I hope that did it for you!
        I’ve been cutting and digging roots for about 4 years now, after having piled about a foot of wood chips over it. Missed the tarp layer though. Will have to try that one next.
        The folks who bought the house last year chose to put up a fence inside their boundary line so the bamboo isn’t “in their yard”…

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  9. Oh my gosh, finally, some hope that I can get rid of that stuff forever! This stuff is worse than a clingy two-year-old.

    Reply

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