How to remove ivy from house walls and trees

ivy climbing on a house wall
ivy climbing on a house wall

Ivy is very popular as a greenery for facades. But if the love fades, the horror is all the greater: because it is very difficult to remove the ivy from walls and facades of houses. Here is how you can do it anyway.

Ivy anchors itself to its climbing support by means of special adhesive roots. The short rootlets form directly on the branches and are only used for attachment, not for water absorption. Removing an older ivy is so difficult mainly because these adhesive roots know their job: Remnants always remain on the masonry when you remove the shoots of the climbing shrubs by tearing them off, sometimes even including bark remnants of the ivy shoots.

Because the evergreen wall decoration is so difficult to remove, greening the facade with ivy needs to be well thought out. Before greening, check whether the masonry is intact: older, plastered walls in particular sometimes have cracks where moisture accumulates. When the adhesive roots of ivy find such cracks, within a short time they turn into real roots and grow into the cracks. As the real roots grow longer and thicker over time, they often crack the plaster and detach it from the wall in places or even over a large area. It even happens that the entire ivy growth together with the plaster layer simply tips over to the back.

There is usually no such danger in relatively new buildings. Nevertheless, there may be other reasons why one would like to remove the ivy: Perhaps one has only recently acquired the house with the ivy facade and one simply does not like the wall greening. Or, as is not uncommon, you suffer from arachnophobia and therefore hardly dare to open the windows in the greened wall.

How to remove ivy from the facade of a house?

To remove an ivy, simply start at the top and tear off all the shoots from the wall piece by piece. The stronger branches often have so many adhesive roots that you really have to cut them loose. This is best done with an old bread knife. When the facade is free of all shoots, the roots should also be dug out so that they do not sprout again. This can be a very hard job, because ivy forms a real trunk over the years. Expose the root system and systematically sever the main roots one by one with a sharp spade or axe until you can loosen the ivy stump from the soil.

Now comes the most tedious part of the job, because you need to remove the many small adhesive roots and bark remnants. Before you start, you should first thoroughly soak the facade with water so that the rootlets swell and soften. To do this, shower the wall repeatedly with the garden hose over several hours or set up a lawn sprinkler to keep it continuously moist. Then remove the roots piece by piece with a scrubber or hand brush. In both cases, it is important that the bristles are as hard as possible. Brush off the areas that have already been brushed off again to see if any adhesive root residue remains.

In the case of plastered walls or from the joints of clinker walls, the roots can be removed more easily if, after soaking, you brush the wall once briefly with diluted hydrochloric acid and leave it to act for a few minutes. The acid dissolves lime plaster and lime-containing wall paints and ensures that the ivy roots no longer adhere to them quite so firmly. After acidifying and soaking, the acid must first be rinsed off with tap water before you apply the brush again. For very smooth walls or facades made of concrete, a spatula with a straight, sharp metal edge is also a good tool to scrape off the roots. A high-pressure cleaner with a sharp flat jet also sometimes does a good job.

Removing ivy: flaming the roots

Flaming is also a proven method to remove ivy without leaving any residue. However, the prerequisite for this is that the facade is absolutely solid and fireproof. Be careful with hidden insulation layers made of polystyrene, wood wool or other flammable materials: they can start to smolder simply due to the heat generated and, in the worst case, an invisible source of fire will form behind the facade cladding. The same applies to old half-timbered buildings that were subsequently plastered over.

With a flaming device, which is also used for weed control, you can char the adhesive roots piece by piece. Afterwards, they can be brushed off relatively easily. Although small black spots are still visible afterwards, especially on light-colored facades, they will disappear at the latest with the new coat of paint, which is due anyway.

Have facade sandblasted

No matter which method you choose: Removing an ivy from the house wall without leaving any residue remains tedious. If you are afraid of the effort, you should have the facade cleaned by a specialist company with a sandblaster after the shoots have been pulled off. This method is basically suitable for all types of walls except wooden facades. Care should also be taken with some shiny clinker walls, as sandblasting often causes them to lose their natural look and become dull. If in doubt, simply ask the specialist company directly whether your own house wall is suitable for this method.

How to remove ivy from trees?

Contrary to popular myths, a healthy, vigorous tree has no problems with ivy: Unlike the bittersweet (genus Celastrus) or Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis), the evergreen climbing shrub only anchors itself in the bark and does not form climbing shoots that would, over time, cut off the tree’s branches.

There is also no light competition, as ivy loves shade and therefore spreads mainly inside the crown. Still, some amateur gardeners have a problem with their tree being infested with ivy. To remove older climbers, simply cut through the base of the ivy’s trunk with a saw. The plant will then die and begin to wilt. Although the yellow, dead ivy shoots and leaves in the tree crown are not a pretty sight, you should still refrain from ripping them out of the tree right away, as this often damages the bark of the tree. Only when the dead adhesive roots have rotted after a few years can you safely remove the ivy from the tree.

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