Saving talloaks from English Ivy

Asked July 10, 2018, 4:40 PM EDT

There are three lovely tall oaks near my property line that are nearly covered by English Ivy. Can anything be done to save these otherwise healthy oaks providing shade and beauty to our neighborhood? Please let me know! Thank you for your help.

Montgomery County Maryland

3 Responses

You'll need a multi-pronged strategy.

First, cut it off at the base of the tree and spray the newly cut vine stem with a systemic herbicide (one with the ingredient glyphosate or triclopyr) at a high strength (look for an herbicide that is labeled as a brush killer).

Second, tackle the vines on the ground. In the spring, you can pull, prune out or even mow all the vines down to the soil surface, so there are no mature leaves left and you've removed as much vine as you can. This will not kill the vine because its roots store lots of energy with which to grow new leaves. However, the roots will have to use up that energy to start new leaves. (You can also physically pull or dig up root, of course.)

At this point, you can smother the vines by covering them with several layers of newspapers, overlapping, (or cardboard) and then piling on at least 2 inches of mulch. They must not get any sunlight. It will take about a year to kill them, so if you see any tendrils creeping out, remove them. Do not allow ANY leaves to grow--they will just add energy to the roots and undo everything you've done so far.

To kill the roots (and vines) even better, add another step. After you have removed all the top growth you can, and the new leaves are starting to grow, the "baby" leaves will be very tender and not have the waxy coating that mature leaves have that repels herbicides. So, young leaves are more susceptible to herbicides. At this time you can spray them with either of the herbicides mentioned above. Then smother the vines with mulch as also described above.

Be completely consistent for about a year and you'll beat the English ivy. Congratulations on taking it on. English ivy is a serious foreign invasive plant that has destroyed much natural habitat.


My neighbor cut the vines as high up as they could and pulled them down. However the many feet of vines above the girdling continue to thrive and grow up the trees. Please help! Do they live without being rooted in the ground?
thanks so much. I am going to share your relies with my neighbor.

No, they shouldn't live if they are not rooted into the ground. It can take a while for them to die, however.