As ivy is not directly harmful to trees and is beneficial to wildlife, control is not usually necessary. However, where it is undesirable either by obscuring attractive bark or adding weight to an ailing tree, control will be needed.
Where possible, the stems should be cut back to the ground and the woody stump dug out. If proximity to the tree’s roots prevents removal, regular cutting of the stems to ground level may weaken the ivy over time but is unlikely to kill it.
As an unwanted ground cover
Dig up all stems and woody roots. This may be difficult on heavy soils or where vegetation is very dense. Where the site is not needed for planting, an alternative control method is to clear away all top growth before laying weed-control fabric and a 10-15cm (4-6in) deep layer of bark mulch. Leave in place for at least two growing seasons.
Glyphosate* and triclopyr: Ivy that is growing vertically can be killed by severing the stem close to soil level and treating the stump with a stump and rootkiller containing glyphosate (e.g. Scotts Roundup Tree Stump & Rootkiller, Bayer Tree Stump Killer, Doff Tree Stump & Tough Weedkiller and Westland Deep Root Ultra Tree Stump & Weedkiller) or triclopyr (Vitax SBK Brushwood Killer)
As an unwanted ground cover
Glyphosate*: Ivy is not easily controlled by means of weedkiller sprays, partly due to the very glossy, moisture-resistant nature of its leaf surface. In this situation it is best to try the tough formulations of glyphosate (e.g. Scotts Roundup Ultra, Scotts Tumbleweed, Bayer Tough Rootkill, Bayer Super Strength Glyphosate or Doff Knockdown Maxi Strength Weedkiller) or for spot treatment use Scotts Roundup Gel. It is essential to avoid spray coming into contact with the foliage or green stems of other plants, so cover adjacent plants with polythene, kept in place until the spray has dried. Bruising the leaves by trampling or with the back of a rake prior to treatment may help with the uptake of the weedkiller. Repeat treatment is usually required for good control.
Triclopyr: In rough grass areas, Vitax SBK Brushwood Killer, containing triclopyr, can be used as it should not seriously damage long grass. However, it could affect the developing growing points of bulbs, particularly if applied in late winter, causing foliage and perhaps flower distortion in the season following application. Therefore, if treating areas under-planted with bulbs, avoid run-off into the soil as much as possible.
*A note on glyphosate May 2016: After reviewing glyphosate, the European Parliament has given the go ahead to relicense it but proposes disallowing certain uses such as public open space and restricting it to professional use only. The final resolution will be decided by national authorities this summer which may mean the withdrawal of glyphosate-based weedkillers for home gardeners in the UK. Check the RHS website for further updates.
Weedkillers for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining different weedkillers available for gardeners; see sections 1a and 4)
Chemicals: using a sprayer
Chemicals: using safely and effectively
Chemicals: using spot and broad-scale weedkillers
Weeds: non-chemical control