What to do about bare English Ivy vines?

Asked March 19, 2016, 1:02 PM EDT

This is my third attempt to describe the problem. My English Ivy bed (2' wide by 12 long) in a prominent place right in front of my house, bordered by a flagstone patio on one side and grass on the other is looking very bare. The bed grew from runners from a nearby bed on a hillside and was not planted. The clay soil in the bed was probably filled with small stones and was not augmented.. However the bed was fflourishing from its beginning 15 years ago to about two years ago when I noticed during the summer months some yellow spots on the leaves and a possible insect infestation. Last year I had fewer leaves. This year I now have a mass of bare runners that look like an ugly mass of spaghetti in the center with some leaves on either end.. The mass is very overgrown and there is debris from dead leaves underneath. . The bed is under a roof over hang so a difficult place to plant. I have trimmed the bed to keep it from growing into the grass or onto my flagstone patio. But I have never fertilized or mulched the bed. Could the dieback be due to the harsh winter we have had this year ? What to do ? Do I cut out some of the runners ? If so, how ? Do I fertilize and mulch ? Blow out the debris underneath ? Spray with some insecticide ? Any help; will be appreciated.

Montgomery County Maryland

1 Response

If the bed was neglected and filled with old debris like accumulated leaves, this can promote fungal diseases and the ivy can decline. The bed needs to be maintained such as thinning the vines, pruning old foliage, remove fallen debris, leaves, etc. to promote good air circulation and light. This reduces the amount of moisture trapped and will promote faster drying of the planting bed.

English ivy can be invasive if planted near natural areas such as woods or parks. If allowed to grow up trees it can produce flowers and berries which can be spread by birds. If you can keep the ivy in bounds, remove all old dead debris, prune back to a foot or less back to a bud or leafy area. This plant is very hardy and should rebound. Remove any stones, and Mulch lightly with about an inch of mulch between the plants until the vine bounds back. Keep the mulch from the stems. Water during dry periods. You will have to prune to keep the plant in bounds.

You also have the opportunity to remove the vines, and replant with another groundcover or low growing shrub. Matching the plant to the site - sun versus shade.