English ivy is a landscaping favorite that can typically be found climbing the walls of older buildings, entwined in fences or as a lush green carpet in an otherwise bleak winter scene. Though the popular evergreen climbing vine can be quite beautiful, it has a beastly nature that may not be noticed until it's too late.
Be part of our community! Every month, the Conservancy’s Great Places e-newsletter brings you conservation updates from Indiana and around the world — plus incredible nature photos and green living tips you can use. Join today — it's free!
The evergreen vine known as English ivy was introduced to the United States by European immigrants and was soon planted throughout the States as a desired landscaping plant. Most species' leaves are dark green, waxy and sometimes with white-striped veins. The leaves of English ivy vary by type; the most common is three-lobed with a heart-shaped base, while some are unlobed and oval. It grows in long, large clusters that, in the fall bloom with small, pale green flowers. Fleshy, black-colored fruits that cover hard seeds mature in the spring.
Many homeowners chose English ivy for their yard and garden as they are hardy evergreens that bring color in the winter months, grow quickly, and require little maintenance after planting. Also as a non-native species, the vine has no natural pests or diseases that may hinder growth. However, if not properly managed, it will quickly spread to places it is not wanted. Vines attach to the bark of trees, brickwork and other surfaces by numerous small, root-like structures which exude a glue-like substance that helps make it stick. Yards can quickly be overrun by English ivy and trees and nearby building easily overgrown. If left unmanaged, English ivy can replace all biodiversity and deteriorate natural areas
Controlling English Ivy
There are manual, mechanical and chemical solutions to combat English ivy. A combination of methods may be necessary, but it can be removed and killed. There are several sources cited in the right-side column that will provide a variety of control methods.
English ivy is not considered an invasive species in Indiana, but homeowners are asked to be cautious when planting it in their yard. A couple of native vines are just as attractive as well as provide food for various wildlife, hummingbirds, butterflies and insects. Instead of planting English ivy, consider these native species: Allegheny pachysandra; American or common bittersweet; trumpet creeper; Dutchman's pipe and native wisteria.
Remember: If you have English Ivy in your yard - keep it contained, keep it trimmed, and don’t let it climb. Enjoy the beauty; don’t unleash the beast.