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How Long Does English Ivy Take To Kill a Tree?

How Long Does English Ivy Take To Kill a Tree?

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Willie Moore
Latest posts by Willie Moore (see all)

English Ivy is an evergreen climber that grows very fast, latching onto surfaces, including walls, fences, tree trunks, and more. It is also grown for the purpose of decoration in many places. Despite all this, English Ivy is a weed and can cause harm in many ways, including killing your trees.

English Ivy can kill trees in as little as a couple of years. This period can be even lower if the tree is older or more weathered, making it more susceptible to the damage caused by English Ivy.

On the one hand, English ivy is a plant that doesn’t require much care and can be used to beautify your garden since it has a rather striking appearance. On the other hand, it can be very harmful in many ways, including killing the trees in your garden. I will discuss this in greater detail below.

How English Ivy Kills Trees: The Stages

Many changes accompanying the growth of English ivy on and around your trees contribute to negative consequences. The progression in the growth of the plant slowly leads to the death of your trees. There are multiple stages in the growth of English ivy. These are:


This is the initial growth stage. In this stage, the ivy starts laying its foundation by spreading its roots. At this point, the plant is not considered an adult. It also starts latching on to things around it, including the trees in your garden,

From here on out, competition between the ivy and your trees for water, nutrients, etc., begins. The ivy uses these up as it grows and reduces the supply of the same to the trees it engulfs. This, in turn, affects the health of the trees, weakening them.


As the ivy progresses into an adult plant and completely envelops your trees, it blocks sunlight from reaching them, thereby decreasing the trees’ photosynthesis rate. The lack of food production deteriorates the trees’ overall well-being, slowly poisoning them and leading to their death (source).

Besides this,the English ivy also increases the probability of a tree toppling over. This can happen in one of two ways:

  • The tree is healthy, and the ivy growth doesn’t reach its top, thus it weakens the lower half of the tree while the upper half remains healthy and keeps its weight. This, coupled with the resistance to air due to the increased surface area of healthy leaves, makes the trees top-heavy and more prone to toppling during the windy season.
  • The trees that the Ivy attacks are old and weak. The roots of such trees are fragile thus unable to hold the additional weight of a fully grown ivy. This causes them to fall as the ivy causes an imbalance in the weight of the trees. 

Other Harmful Effects of English Ivy

Many people use English ivy as ground cover in their gardens because it doesn’t require much attention and also looks pretty good. This, however, can negatively impact both flora and fauna of the ecosystem where the English ivy is planted. 

While it does look rather beautiful, if left unchecked, the English ivy can grow beyond control. This will not only look shabby but it also prevents the native flora from flourishing.

The lack of food production by the plants also means that there is a decrease in the population of the native fauna. This is either because the animals migrate to other places to look for food or they die of starvation (source).

Additionally, English ivy can also have many adverse effects on the health of humans. Many people are allergic to this plant and may have an allergic reaction if they come in contact with it. The symptoms of the same include skin irritation and rashes (source).

English ivy can also be toxic to humans and animals. Ingesting the leaves or fruits of the plant has been known to cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and other stomach-related problems.

How To Deal With English Ivy

The growth of the English ivy on your trees needs to be curbed to prevent the trees from dying. Herbicides are generally useful in dealing with an ivy infestation. They mostly contain glyphosate, triclopyr, and other similar chemicals.

White vinegar is a suitable alternative to using chemical herbicides for people who are either allergic to them or afraid of using them. White vinegar mixed with water has also been known to kill English ivy plants.

Furthermore, bleach, apple cider vinegar, and dish soap, all mixed with water can also be used. Take whichever of the above remedies you prefer and put it into a spray bottle to make it convenient to use. Using a spray bottle also allows you to control how much of the mixture you spray and where to spray it.

To get rid of English ivy: 

  1. Cut through the plant’s external branches using a suitable tool such as a pruner. You may have to use a saw or an ax for thicker branches. Do this until you reach the ivy’s central stem.
  2. Once you have located the central stem, gently pry it away from the tree trunk, using either your hands or a tool such as a crowbar (if the stem is too rigid). 
  3. Spray the main branch of the ivy with the mixture/herbicide of your choice, avoiding the tree trunk to the best of your ability.


This article’s aim was to inform you about the growth of English ivy and how long it takes to kill your trees. In general, English ivy takes a few years to kill a tree.

Two main factors related to the growth of Ivy on and around your trees lead to their death. The ivy either competes with the trees for nutrients and water or causes them to topple. 

As such, controlling the growth of the English ivy or getting rid of it altogether is essential to ensure your trees’ safety. 

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