How I Got Rid of Thick and Obnoxious English 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 my backyard, reaching all the way down the slope to the back fence.

Out of control ivy spilling onto deck
How to Get Rid of Ivy for Good: Ivy covering stairs

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.

Note: This article contains affiliate links. See my disclosures for details.

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 a heavy duty weed killer. But 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 landscape fabric weed barrier. The dead ivy doesn’t stand a chance.

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

Note About Landscape Fabric: Depending on what you want to do with your new ivy-free yard, you might want to be cautious about using landscape fabric. It can make it difficult to maintain healthy soil. While the jute and cardboard break down in a year or so, the landscape fabric can last for many years. I kept my fabric in place for about six years, and then I finally decided to remove it to improve the soil in my garden. I’m glad I used landscape fabric to make extra sure that my ivy was gone for good, but just keep in mind that you might want to remove landscape fabric eventually.

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:

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:

Permanent ivy removal with solarization
How to get rid of ivy for good - after photo

43 thoughts on “How I Got Rid of Thick and Obnoxious English 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! 🙂

    • 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!

      • 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”…

  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.

  10. Good grief! I spent several years removing Buckthorn, and no one apparently likes it at all. But this article of English Ivy makes Buckthorn sound easy! But I do like a challenge….

  11. Hello,

    Last year my wife and I found your page while trying to remove 2000 sqft of ivy on a hill in our backyard and I am happy to say that we were able to successfully remove all of it this year using some of your tips! I’m detailing our story in hopes of adding another perspective to dealing with the massive nuisance (and letting you all know it CAN be done).

    First, we got the top layer of ivy off using shovels, loppers, and even giant metal poles (basically, anything to pry up large amounts of ivy) and got things down to the roots. This was done between March/April 2021.

    A big mistake, but I let things go from then to September and the ivy and any weeds lying in wait started to grow back, but in September I rented a weed whacker with a metal blade from Home Depot and chopped up anything that was above the soil/thick root level. Days after this, we put down the black plastic sheeting you recommended. The mistake made here was not getting the foot long staples because some of the smaller staples didn’t even make it into the ground due to a layer of cut material I left up there from the weed whacker. You can imagine how horrified I was to watch it start to blow up and away during the first windstorm of the fall season! We ended up having to put some random paver stones in my yard on the hill to weigh down the sheeting. It was an embarrassing sight to look at for months, but we had to be patient.

    This probably would have worked better had the sheeting been down for the really hot summer, but our experience was having this on the hill from Sept all the way to July 2022. Since there had been many tears in the sheeting where the staples were due to wind pulling the sheeting back and forth, it was disturbing to see some ivy start to grow through the holes at that time. However, it was an incredible relief to pull back the sheeting and see that whatever ivy was growing was very weak and sick looking!

    In July, we pulled the sheeting off and had to deal with the roots. Well, not us, but a hired crew for 4 days. They managed to pull out nearly every root that was on the surface and it was a massive help. I went after all the root balls with a sawzall (wow, so many, it was like Vecna’s Upside Down in Stranger Things!) and it took me many hours to get that done over a period of a few weeks. Like you said, there were big holes in the dirt after removing the root balls and as many roots under the dirt as I could get.

    While I was cutting out the root balls, I laid down the jute netting over the dirt. I had actually ordered some of the weed barrier you recommended, but I ended up not using it because I didn’t want to put something so permanent into the ground, not to mention on such a slope where bark dust could slide right off of it. Some very small weeds are growing across the hill, but I’m not bothered by them at all.

    After that, the day finally came where a bark blowing service came out and blew about 3 units (~21 cu yards) of dark hemlock on the hill. I was so happy to see the hill look brand new and not a spot of ivy left. This was completed at the end of August and the hill still looks incredible.

    Now, as we know that ivy can never completely go away, I have noticed an occasional few leaves pop up in very specific spots in the hill where I probably didn’t get enough roots out. However, I’m talking once a month I will see a spot of 2-3 baby leaves growing and I just have to pluck them out with my hand.

    All in all, it took us a year and a half to get it done (half of it just sitting and waiting), but it has been so incredibly worth it. Your post inspired us to keep going with real solutions to such a massive project – thank you! I took some photos along the way and would be happy to share them if it helps your blog.

    • Congrats on getting rid of all that ivy! It’s one of the most rewarding gardening projects there is, rescuing all that land from invasive ivy.

      Haha, I always said ivy reminded me of the Upside Down in Stranger Things, too! Especially the thick vines we used to have clinging to our tree.

      That’s great you were able to cut so much of your ivy down to the ground before covering it with plastic. We used a similar process to get rid of vinca, another pesky ground cover, last spring.

      We used old deck boards and bricks to hold down the plastic on our ivy, and we didn’t have much of a problem with wind, luckily. But yes, it was an eyesore having plastic covering half the backyard.

      Keeping plastic on the ivy for the hottest summer months really helps. We had plastic down for about two years, and we only removed the plastic when the ivy was completely dead. It was just a bunch of brown sticks, with no green left (except for our neighbor’s ivy on the fence).

      In the six years since then, I have only ever had one tiny ivy sprout come up in my yard that I ripped out right away. The weed barrier is annoying, but it does help block any lingering seeds. But I think an extra thick layer of cardboard could work as an alternative weed barrier option.

      Thanks for sharing how the process went for you. I’m so glad to hear that you got your yard back! And I think if you keep ripping out those occasional sprouts, eventually the ivy will fully give up for good.

  12. Hello and thank you for this information. We brought sheep in to remove the ivy down to the ground roots. Goats are often used in my area as well (metro Atlanta) to remove all the green. The remaining roots are extensive. Through trial and error I found the best approach is to cut a perimeter around a section, roughly 10 ft. X 10 ft. with the flat blade of a pick ax severing the roots and then use a 4 tine spading fork to slide under the roots, pulling up and breaking the roots away away from the ground. Working back and forth along one edge of the section you will be able to roll the section up on itself like a carpet. I then drag it to the street for pick up. Time consuming and hard work but in my case, worth it.

    • Earle, that’s a great idea! I thought about using goats or sheep to help out. That’s good to know it worked so well, combined with your method of severing the roots. Congrats on getting rid of all that ivy! Such a big job.

  13. Ugh, where can I get some goats to eat all of this horrid ivy in my backyard?! I confess I hate yard work (the after-effects of growing up on a farm with a huge “garden”) I get exhausted just looking at it. I live just outside of Washington, DC.

  14. Hi Tara! You are such an inspiration (I’ve found your page twice now, and after trying to pull up our backyard slope of Ivy street some heavy rains (and barely making a dent), am convinced to go for your tried and true method.

    Just curious, you mention some ivy growing on your neighbor’s fence. How do you handle it creeping back into you yard? We only have deerwire fence and the ivy completely covered it until I cut it back last summer but I worry we’ll never get rid of it because it’ll always spill over from our neighbor’s yard.

    Also, what groundcover or other plants did you plant instead sheer they ivy was gone? Were you worried at all about soil erosion? (We have some mature oaks and acacia trees in our slope so hopefully their roots are keeping things stable.)


    • Aww, thanks Joyce!! I’m always happy to help more people remove ivy.

      I did worry about erosion, and the jute helped a lot while plants filled in. I had a couple of Japanese maple trees already growing in the slope, and I added ferns, blue star juniper, fescue grass, lithodora, hydrangea, bellflower, rosemary and heather. Recently I’ve added more native shrubs and plants, like elderberry, cascade Oregon grape, salal, serviceberry, snowberry, kinnikinnick, bleeding heart and pink honeysuckle. You could look around the natural slopes in your region for ideas. Portland slopes are covered in ferns so that was a clear winner for the shady side of my yard!

      My western neighbors have started cutting their ivy back, thankfully! My southern neighbors still have ivy on their side, but the ivy doesn’t seem to want to come to my shadier side of the fence too much…I just survey the fenceline every month or so during the growing season and clip off any leaves that try to poke through. For a wire fence, that might be a little trickier, but maybe you could plant a thick hedge to form more of a barrier and slow down the ivy.

      Good luck with your ivy removal! It’s so rewarding to get rid of it and watch the new plants fill in.

  15. I am also working to eliminate Ivy. Using Roundup (glycosate) super concentrated and Triclopyr, triethylamine salt ( Bayer Brush Killer) in combination to kill a large portion, Just finished second application. I thin will use the plastic, Landscaping fabric and probably rubber mulch to kill the rest and prevent any return. Several leyland cypress are covered in ivy as well. Using a hand ax to cut the roots and spraying the live ivy. I have one more application of weed killers left to go in 2 more weeks.

  16. Hello friends and experts!

    Just coming back here to ask — do you think it’s necessary to cut the ivy to the ground before covering it with black plastic?

    I commented above that we have about 1000 SF of ivy on a hillside in our backyard. I spent 4 hours covering everything on my own and weighing it down with pavers a month ago (and the ivy is definitely turning brown and becoming dry and crispy underneath) but am wondering if I (or the person I hire) should go through with a weed whacker first?

    My main concern is creating a lot of cuttings that will reroot as it’s a tall order to try to gather all of the remnants for compost pickup (this would be many trips up the equivalent of a 3 story set of stairs). Would love any advice within the next 48 hours as we have someone coming to help me lay down cardboard and cut down other weeds in the yard.

    Thank you so much in advance!

    • Hi Joyce! I didn’t cut my ivy down to the ground first. (I tried, but it was so thick that nothing I did was making a dent!) It is a lot easier to just cover it all with plastic and then remove it later, after it is fully brown and dead. It becomes looser and lighter weight the longer you let it decompose under the plastic, so it gets easier to remove and carry away.


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