Gardeners who are thinking about how to kill ivy growing on their home or garden wall might want to reconsider. Ivy is widely believed to cause structural damage and salt stains on brick walls, and many homeowners are attempting to eradicate it from their homes and yards entirely. But is ivy really as harmful as it is made out to be?
Yes, ivy can cause structural damage to homes, but only if your building has pre-existing structural damage.
Matt Eddleston, professional gardener and founder of Gardening Vibe, explained: “If your brick walls are solid, ivy probably won’t do any harm.
“But some ivy species, like English ivy, send out aerial roots for support.
“These roots can exploit cracks in the masonry, widening the gaps and making their way through the mortar.
“So if you already have a little bit of structural damage, ivy can make it worse.”
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In other words, if ivy is growing on your walls and you know they have cracks, the best course of action is to cut back the ivy and repair the damage.
No cracks, no damage and you can safely leave your ivy alone.
A good pruner will do for small sections, while a hedge trimmer might be best for larger sections.
According to Gabriel J. Croteau Certified Master Gardener at Juliei Salone, “Ivy can actually protect rather than damage your building,” including protecting walls “from frost, salt, and pollution.”
It can also help make your home more energy efficient.
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The expert said: “Ivy-covered walls kept the interior of the building 15 percent warmer in winter and 36 percent cooler in summer.”
So, for those with homes that are structurally sound and well cared for, ivy can actually be beneficial, not harmful, not to mention looking gorgeous growing on walls.
Gabriel also debunked the myth that ivy kills trees.
He explained: “Ivy is not a parasite and does not get the nutrients it needs from a tree.
“Ivy doesn’t suffocate or strangle the tree either, it just wanders up to get to a source of light.”
Again, if a tree is already diseased and dying, ivy can overpower it, but it will not harm a healthy tree.
Additionally, ivy isn’t just good for your home—it’s great when grown as part of a wild garden.
The expert said: “In autumn, ivy produces small flowers that produce nectar and is a food source for many insects at a time when it is difficult for them to find food.
“Some types of ivy stay green all year round and provide year-round shelter for small animals.”
One thing to note about ivy is that poison ivy is poisonous to the touch during certain times of the year.
The gardening professional said: “In the spring and summer, ivy gives off harmful toxins that can cause skin rashes in humans if directly touched.
“Ivy berries, on the other hand, have traditional medicinal uses, particularly for curing coughs and fevers after you grind them into a powder form before mixing them with water or milk.”
Gardeners who just don’t like too much ivy growing in their outdoor space can prune it back without having to kill it entirely.
Matt advised: “If ivy is spreading in places where you don’t want it to grow, you can prune the vines back, down to the ground if necessary. Then peel it off any surface it’s stuck to.
“The vines will grow back, so you need to monitor the situation and prune them again when they grow back. Regular mowing is a good way to control ivy ground cover.”