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Wanted: Garden Escapee, English Ivy
By Angela DiLorenzo


English Ivy (Hedera helix) garners oohs and ahhs clinging to the sides of English cottages and adorning arbors. However, in our Northwest coast forests and parklands, it is a menace.

Ivy draws us in with its lovely trailing vines and evergreen properties. We eagerly purchase hanging pots and planters full of lovely variegated vines to beautify our homes. Eventually, the annuals die, and perennials over grow their pots. A convenient backyard location is identified, and the pot is dumped out. Ivy then enacts a plan for its escape. At first, it spreads along the garden beds creating a backdrop for perennials and shrubs. Soon ivy makes a move towards the fence. Once over the fence and left unchecked, ivy can invade gardens and parks.

Escaped ivy will out-compete our native trailing plants. Ivy will climb trees and compete with it for water and nutrients. Eventually, the tree will weaken and become prone to disease. English Ivy can devastate native plant populations, which earns it a spot on the King County invasive plants list.

Still not convinced that ivy is all bad? Consider this: ivy is a vermin highway. Rats, mice, and slugs safely traverse the neighborhood under cover of ivy’s glossy leaves.

Are you feeling inspired to get your ivy under control? Here are a few ideas.

  • Prepare to get dirty! Manually pulling up the vines is highly effective. Mowing and weed whacking can keep ivy under control in your yard. Cut vines off fences and trees and allow the vines to die and they will be more easily removed. Dispose of yard waste in your curbside container.
  • Mulch the area with several inches of wood chips, compost, or hay, which is an effective method to retain moisture for your plants, with the added benefit of smothering the ivy that is left behind.
  • If ivy has invaded a large part of your yard, graze it off. Maybe a friend has a goat or two that needs some forage. Consider hiring a rent-a-goat service.
  • Bring joy into your home with seasonal pots and planters but be responsible when their time is done. Use your yard waste containers to dispose of ivy. You and your yard will be happy you did!

For more information on English ivy, check out this article.


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