Don't let English ivy grow up trees or shrubs



December 06, 2008|By Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld | Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld,Special to The Baltimore Sun

If ground ivy is permitted to climb a tree, will it eventually kill the tree?

We believe you are referring to English ivy, not ground ivy, which is a lawn weed also known as Creeping Charlie and cannot climb trees.

It is true that English ivy should not be allowed to grow up trees or shrubs; it envelops branches and blocks sunlight, causing branch dieback and potentially fatal weakening of the tree. The added weight also makes trees susceptible to blow-over during storms.

To begin controlling English ivy, cut it off at the base any time of year. Because the plant derives all water and nutrients from its own roots, it will die on the tree. Pull the vine from the trunk or leave it to decompose on the tree.

To help kill the roots and prevent re-sprouting, apply an herbicide with triclopyr on the freshly cut stem. Do not let triclopyr touch the trunk. Incidentally, mature English ivy on trees can produce berries that increase the ivy's invasiveness.

I understand I can transplant as long as the ground is not frozen, but will I have to water the plant all winter? That doesn't sound fun.

That's one advantage of fall transplanting - less watering. Water well when you transplant and ensure that roots are moist until soil freezes and becomes a barrier to precipitation. However, with normal autumn precipitation, required watering should be minimal for several reasons. Water does not evaporate from soil quickly as temperatures cool. Many species have dropped leaves and are not losing water through transpiration on their leaf surfaces. Even evergreens are not using water for active growth.

The exception is broad-leaved evergreens such as rhododendrons or Southern magnolias. Their wide leaf surface continues to lose moisture all winter. Thus, they are not good candidates for fall transplant. (Call us for a list of other plants that do not like fall transplant.)

Ellen Nibali, a horticulture consultant, works at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, and Jon Traunfeld is the director of the Home and Garden Information Center. The center offers free gardening information. Call 800-342-2507 or e-mail questions at checklist

* Watch out for the hairy vines of poison ivy when cutting and handling fire wood. Poison ivy smoke also causes a reaction.

* Insulate your outdoor fig trees before severe cold hits.

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