Thread: Ivy on redbuds and others

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2004

    Ivy on redbuds and others

    As I mentioned in another recent post, I have just bought my first house. It came with a few lovely, mature trees...and a bunch of Boston or English ivy. One of my redbud trees is almost completely covered by the ivy. Another, bigger tree (a maple, I think) has ivy just starting to make its way up the trunk.

    Should I be worried?

    And if so, what's the best way to remove the ivy without damaging the trees?

  2. #2


    Ivy is an evergreen and can inhibit a tree's ability to feed itself. Most arborists would tell you that ivy growing on the trunk of a tree isn't a problem or concern, but when it begins creeping out onto branches it can become one. Removing ivy from large trees is a huge job so it's recommended that you simply sever the trunk of the ivy and let nature take over. In a couple of years most of the plant will have fallen off. On the smaller redbud tree you can probably just remove it by hand if it's getting wild.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Ocala, FL
    I agree, climbing vines generally aren't good for a tree. Just cut the stem off at the base of the tree and pull off what will come off easily, and let the rest fall off gradually.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Eastern PA
    I've heard that twining vines (such as wisteria and hardy kiwi) can do more damage to a tree than vines like ivy - although when they reach the point where they intercept light that would otherwise reach the host tree, I'm sure it doesn't really matter *how* they climb.

    Some sources actually encourage you to allow the vine to climb up tree trunks, and it certainly does have a striking appearance.

    I suppose the key is a combination of preference and the amount of labor your willing to put to it - how much effort do you want to expend to keep the vine within the limits you want?

    I've got a patch where I'm encouraging some ivy, and I expect to have to fight with it in a few years to keep it within bounds. If it winds up driving out the annoying thorned vine that's invading my area, I may encourage it to spread, as I'd rather pull ivy than this other (as yet unidentified) monster. On the other hand, if it winds up getting too much to take care of, I'll pull it down and try something else.

    Green Man Enviroscaping LLC

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Thanks, you guys! I appreciate your taking the time to write out this advice. I think I will go ahead and cut the ivy from the trees at the ground level. There will still be plenty of ivy on the ground.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Ocala, FL
    I betcha your nasty thorned vine is Smilax, greenbriar.

    As a general rule, with a native vine, I say leave it on forest trees (where it is useful for wildlife) but remove or control it on yard trees. It's usually not a serious problem, but sometimes it can cause strangulation or other issues.

    English ivy is considered a serious treekiller in the Pacific Northwest, where it is a problematic invasive species.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Eastern PA

    RE: Ivy on redbuds and others

    Looks sort of like a couple of pics, but this doesn't have thorns on the leaves, just on the vine. It climbs by wrapping wire-like threads around the host branches. We have to pull it out with vise-grips, and the roots really have grab power - they also travel over the ground, so at times you get a couple of feet worth of roots and several plantlets. The leaves have a slightly darker green coloration, sometimes with some milky white splotches. They stay green fairly long - some still are, although they don't seem to be evergreen. No flowers or berries that I've noticed yet, although most are less than a foot high, and only a handful have ascended into the trees - but it does seem that every time I look, I find more.

    Green Man Enviroscaping LLC

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