Ivy can grow pervasively in gardens and along structures such as fencing and sides of buildings.
It will expand across surfaces increasing in reach and coverage.
To stop ivy from growing through a fence you can use a variety of strategies to slow the growth or completely remove it. These include trimming, removing rootlets, digging out the main stem, and using chemical and natural weed killers. If the ivy originates from a neighbour’s property, you can only address what is on your side of the fence.
This article goes on to further explain how to implement various strategies for stopping ivy from growing through a fence.
13 Ways To Stop Ivy Growing Through A Fence
When it comes to ivy, beauty may be in the eye of the beholder. Ivy is an evergreen plant that can creep along the ground or climb trees, walls, fences, and more.
Some may find ivy to be a nice natural barrier, offering refuge and seeds to wildlife and insects. Whereas others find it chokes out garden vegetation, damages trees and structures, and creates an eyesore.
Scientists found that ivy plants cling to surfaces with tiny rootlets that adapt to grip onto a variety of surfaces as well as secrete liquid nanoparticles to help them stick.
This function gives ivy a secure and firm hold to whatever it clings to, making it challenging to remove.
This chart gives a brief outline of ivy removal methods which are further described below:
|Reducing or managing growth||
|Chemical and liquid treatments||
Consider the following before removing ivy.
When removing ivy, keep in mind that if it is on your neighbour’s property, you should consider using tactics below that do not kill the plant. You may wish to simply manage the ivy on your side of the fence so that it does not bother your neighbours.
If it grows on your side of the fence, then you are free to kill it, using any of the methods.
Use Of Multiple Strategies
Many of these methods will need to be used in conjunction with each other.
Often dead ivy is much easier to remove without causing damage to your fence than actively healthy ivy.
For example, you can use a chemical or natural weed killer to kill off potions, wait for them to dry up and die, and then remove them.
There are many species of ivy, and some can cause contact dermatitis resulting in inflamed, itchy, or blistered skin.
Wear gloves when handling ivy.
Consider eye protection to avoid getting debris in your eyes.
Use a refuse container to dispose of ivy. If you leave it in a compost area, it is likely to drop seeds and regrow.
Use any sprays on ivy when the forecast is predicted to be dry for at least 24 hours. This allows any liquids to sit on the ivy instead of being washed away by rainwater.
Do not mix liquids such as bleach, weed-killer, or vinegar together.
1. Trim The Ivy
Trimming ivy is a relatively simple way to keep it under control, especially if you cannot or do not wish to remove the main roots. This will slow down the progress of growth and expansion over a surface.
If a neighbour’s ivy is coming on your side of the fence, you can trim anything on your side.
Use pruning shears, loppers, or a saw to cut away undesired sections. Consider thinning out any dense areas of ivy as well. Make sure to remove the rootlets from the surfaces too.
When you cut pieces you wish to remove, they will dry out and die off, since it is no longer connected to the main root system. Once it is dead and dried out, it is easier to pry the rootlets off.
Use a small blade, wire whisk, or flat edge to scrape any stubborn rootlets away. A spray (as described below) can also help remove rootlet remnants.
This strategy will require maintenance and repeated trimming throughout the seasons.
However, repeated trimming will weaken and thin out the plant so that it hopefully doesn’t continue to grow as aggressively.
2. Cut And Remove The Main Stem
If the main root system remains in place, ivy will regrow from it.
If the main stem is on your side of the fence, you can permanently remove the ivy. By cutting the main stem, the parts that extend onto the fence will die off.
Once it is dead, you can detangle it and remove it from the fence.
The remaining root system in the ground should be dug up completely. Consider pouring a herbicide into the place where the root system was to avoid any potential regrowth from missed roots.
If you cannot get to the entire root system, cut out as much as possible. Treat the area with a weed killer or salt. Watch for regrowth and reapply as needed.
3. Spray Vinegar
Vinegar is an acid that can break down plant material, killing it off or slowing its growth. This method offers a non-toxic way to get rid of ivy.
Mix 8 parts of water with 2 parts of undiluted vinegar together in a spray bottle. Thoroughly cover parts of ivy that you wish to remove, avoiding vegetation that you wish to keep healthy.
Wait a few days, and the affected ivy should die off. Remove the brown stems and leaves using pruning shears.
To remove the entire plant, you can spray vinegar on it in portions. Once you get down to the main stem, it will need to be completely removed from the ground.
Consider adding a generous squirt of dish detergent into the mixture. This will help the vinegar “stick” to the ivy.
4. Use Salt, Water, And Vinegar
If vinegar alone is not doing the trick, you can add in salt. Salt will dehydrate the ivy and prevent regrowth, while the acid of the vinegar breaks it down.
To make this spray, use the following ingredients:
- 5 litres of water
- 1 kilo of iodized salt
- 200 millilitres of vinegar
Mix these three ingredients together in a spray bottle, and cover the desired areas thoroughly.
If you are removing the entire plant, consider pouring coarse salt over the main stem and root system. This will dry it out and hopefully prevent regrowth.
Conversely, completely dig out and remove the root stem and pour in coarse salt for good measure.
The salt residue will also prevent other vegetation from growing as well. Rainwater over time will rinse it away, so watch for any regrowth.
Consider adding a squirt of dish detergent to help the liquid adhere to the ivy.
5. Pour Boiling Water
Pour boiling water onto the main stem and roots that you wish to eliminate. After a few days or so, the ivy will die off for easier removal.
Dig out the main stem from the ground, and add a herbicide or coarse salt to prevent regrowth.
Take care not to burn yourself with hot water.
Keep in mind that boiling water could cause harm to any insects and creatures burrowing in the ground below the ivy.
6. Use Boiling Starch Water
Starch water can be reused after cooking, and often has salt content in it.
You can pour this on undesired ivy growth after preparing a meal of pasta or rice.
7. Use A Diluted Bleach Solution
Bleach can dry out plant leaves and stems, much like the vinegar method above. However, it is best to trim off dead parts and remove the main stem depending upon how much ivy you wish to eliminate.
When working with bleach, take precautions not to get it on your skin, in your eyes, or on your clothing. Wear gloves and protective eyewear.
Mix 1 part bleach with 9 parts water in a spray bottle. Thoroughly cover parts you wish to eliminate. Wait a few days. Remove dead parts, and reapply as needed.
Keep in mind that repeated use of bleach will change the pH levels of the soil. This can affect the growth of other nearby vegetation. Bleach can also permanently, weaken, alter, or discolour your fencing.
8. Use Concentrated Milk Of Lime
Milk of lime can alter and raise the pH level of the soil. This creates a nutritional deficiency for the ivy, stunting its growth and yellowing its leaves.
Refer to the labelling instructions for proper use of milk of lime. Typically, this will need to be reapplied several days apart before you see decay.
9. Use Herbicide
If more natural ways are not killing the ivy, then a herbicide may be necessary.
Herbicides, such as a glyphosate weed-killer, block growth enzymes in plants, such as ivy.
Follow all precautions for handling and using this type of product to avoid personal harm due to its toxicity.
Herbicides work best on freshly cut pieces which creates a “wound” that allows the chemical into its internal stem system.
Apply the glyphosate using a rag, sponge or brush to the desired stems. Wait a few days, and the ivy should die off. Gently untangle and trim dead portions. Use glyphosate on the main stem to completely kill it.
If the main stem has been treated with glyphosate, dig it up from the ground once it has died off.
If you are treating only sections of ivy that are growing across a fence, this process may need to be repeated on new growth over time.
Note: Some people have used Jeyes fluid or creosote as a herbicide. However, there are concerns about flammability and toxicity with the use of this in soil. Use other methods in this article, or contact a professional instead of choosing these chemicals.
10. Combination Of Techniques With Wire Brush Scraping
This method combines several techniques. You can detach the ivy by hand from a fence using water, a wire brush, and a weed-killing spray.
Complete the following steps:
- Soften the branches with water from a garden hose.
- Spray the top of the ivy and work down to the roots.
- Saturate the main stem.
- Sever the main stem with an axe or pruning shears.
- If the ground is saturated enough, you may be able to pull the root system out.
- If not, use a shovel to remove it.
- Soak the clinging ivy again with water.
- Remove the clinging ivy by hand. Use pruning shears as needed.
- Lightly brush the fence with a wire brush. This may cause some scratching or damage, yet it will help to loosen the rootlets.
- Allow the fence to dry.
- Spray a weed killer on the fence. This liquid will soak into the crevices and any minute scratches from the wire brush, helping to prevent regrowth.
11. Cover The Fence With Plastic
By covering a fence with plastic sheeting or a tarp, you can slow down ivy’s growth progression onto undesired areas.
However, ivy is a persistent plant, and it can find tears, and gaps, and move underneath the tarp to grow. A plastic tarp is an unsightly, temporary solution that will need replacement over time.
12. Prevention Of Growth
There are several strategies you can use to prevent the growth and regrowth of ivy.
Pretreat The Fence With Weed Killer
Spray weed killer directly on the fence to prevent ivy spreading to fences and other structures. Natural weed killers will need to be reapplied more often.
If you see signs of growth, start reapplying weed killer right away. Detach any ivy “grippers” as well.
Remove Ivy From Other Areas Of The Yard
Investigate to see if ivy is extending from another part of your property. As ivy grows it produces and releases seeds spreading it to other areas.
If removing ivy from a tree, cut the vines around the base of the trunk, as well as at shoulder height. These cuttings help it to unravel as it dries out.
Allow the extending vines to die off and then tug them off. Keep in mind that tugging could damage a tree, and it may be best to let it crumble and fall off over time naturally.
Clear ground covering ivy by cutting the vines near the root system and then spraying it with a glyphosate weed-killer. Cover the treated area with mulch or plastic tarp to delay or prevent new growth.
Remove the main root systems as described above.
By eliminating other sources of ivy growth, you will reduce the likelihood that it will spread to your fence.
Disposal Of Cut Ivy
Dispose of any cut ivy away in refuse within a tied bag. Leaving cuttings on the ground only encourages it to grow again.
13. Seek Professional Help
When all else fails, hire a professional to remove ivy from your fence.
This is a good option if you rather not touch the ivy, have persistent regrowth or do not have the time to remove it yourself.
Problems With Ivy
Ivy is often removed because it causes issues on properties.
These include the following:
- Smothers other plants, preventing them from growing
- Kills buds on trees
- Transmits bacterial leaf scorch which threatens trees
- Damages fences by growing into cracks and crevices
- Invites in shade-loving insects and rodents
- Damages masonry or inhibits exterior wall repair
- Lifts roof tiles
- Grows underneath fascia
- Damages sealed windows
- Blocks gutters
- Grows into chimneys
- Regrows easily often needing repeated removal
- Birds drop seeds in their faeces, causing ivy to grow again
- Causes allergic reactions in people
Ivy can be problematic for fences and other structures.
It can be managed with frequent trimming and rootlet removal.
For more permanent, longer-lasting results, the use of chemical herbicides, sprays that have vinegar or salt, boiling water, and the removal of the main root system will help keep ivy at bay.
If ivy is creeping onto your fence from an adjoining neighbour’s property, check with them if you intend to remove the entire plant. Otherwise, you should only trim or manage the ivy that is on your side of the fence.