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Tuesday - November 27, 2007

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Control of English ivy
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I need to know if there is a way to kill, or contain, English Ivy that was planted as groundcover next door. Despite my discouragement, my next door neighbor planted English Ivy as groundcover all along the perimeter of his back yard. After he moved out, I pulled out all the ivy on the side of his lot that adjoins mine. This really helped, however, the ivy he planted in the back perimeter of the yard has spread and is invading my yard. Is there anyway to contain the remaining ivy groundcover next door? Or a way to kill the ivy runners coming into my yard? This has become a maintenance nightmare that I never wanted to begin with! Any help would be appreciated.


You are in the unfortunate position of having advised against the planting of a non-native, invasive plant and then, when your worst fears were realized, and the stuff was all over everywhere, you couldn't even say "I told you so" because the neighbor had moved away. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we often feel the same way. Our focus is on encouraging the planting and use of native, non-invasive plants because they use less water and fertilizer and belong here. Then, we drive around town and see all the non-native and possibly invasive plants in many yards and get a little discouraged.

The Plant Conservation Alliance has an excellent website about English ivy on their "Least Wanted List" of non-native and invasive species. Apparently brought to the United States from Europe by early settlers, it is widely used as a ground cover. Of course, it also ends up being a fence cover, wall cover, and small dog cover, it the dog doesn't move around fast enough. It can grow up high into beautiful heritage trees and shade out so many leaves that the tree will weaken and eventually die. The suckers on the tips of the stems exude a sticky substance that helps it cling to surfaces. The Plant Conservation Alliance website has several excellent recommendations for ridding yourself of this pest.

We would add to that the suggestion that the first thing you need to do is contact the current neighbor or tenant of the property on which the ivy is originating. If they realize that the English ivy isn't doing them any favors, either, perhaps you can work together at getting it out of the neighbor's yard. This is a good time of year to tackle that problem, as the ivy doesn't grow as fast in cool weather, and you will be more comfortable in the cool weather. Remember that it can regrow from a stem dropped on the ground, a fragment of root left unremoved or an unnoticed runner going through other plants. So, do a good cleanup, bag it up, and discard it with trash, not into the compost pile. It would LOVE a compost pile. And, we have to tell you vigilance will still be required-when another tendril pops up (and they will), it needs to come out quickly before it becomes a monster, again.

And, finally, if the neighbor is not receptive to your idea of total warfare, you may be reduced to chemical intervention. We do not like to recommend herbicides as a first solution but as a last resort. Great care must be taken to apply them as instructed on the label, and avoid getting any chemicals on other, desirable, plants in the area, as well as leaving unused residue on the ground to possibly wash out with rains into the drinking water supply. This is a delicate situation, because what you are going to be trying to do is kill a plant that is not on your property, so hopefully you can get some cooperation from the owner of the invader. We once had a friend who was a Master Gardener, and she had an absolute hatred of poison ivy, another invasive (but native) vine that is difficult to eradicate. She carried a little jar of an herbicide solution and a small sponge throwaway paint brush. When she spied a leaf of poison ivy, she would paint it with her little brush and solution, and she swore that all you needed to do was get one leaf and it would kill the whole vine. We never tested this theory out, but here is an idea of our own. There is no law that says you cannot rename a plant, for your own purposes. How about "(former neighbor's name) Ivy"? You must first trim the vines at your property line, and then paint as many of the leaves and cut stems as you can with the herbicide. We don't know if calling the plant by your former neighbor's name will help kill the ivy, but it could make you feel better.



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