Ivy

(Question)

For many years ivy has flourished on my large house. Now, the ivy continues to grow well on the west facing side of my house. However from the right center of the house, and all along the east side of the house, it appears to have died. Should I rip it off?
Thank you for your advice.

(Answer)

Ivies (Hedera) are non-flowering vines that can grow against walls, over arches and pergolas or through trees. Generally speaking, they are easy to prune. They are very aggressive growers that cling to structures by means of aerial roots or suction cups. Mature plants need basic maintenance pruning before growth begins in the spring. This will keep the ivy under control and within bounds. It’s probably a good idea to keep windows, doors and eaves-troughs clear of growth.  You are right, the most practical method to remove the dead ivy is to keep pulling it off. However, you may find it a bigger chore than you think because it does attach itself really well to walls.

First, make a cut at the point of healthy growth on affected stems, then remove the dead ivy by pulling.  Use a clean pair of hand pruners or loppers to make the cut, which should be about 1/2 inch above a leaf or bud.  This will encourage the vine to send out new growth at that spot. The good news is that ivies are very tolerant of being drastically pruned. Late winter or early spring pruning is the best time to do this work. It is easier to assess the vines while they are dormant and determine where new growth is needed.

Not sure what caused your ivy to die off in parts. If it didn’t show signs of growth in the spring it could be because of unusual cold or wind during the winter which has caused “winter burn”. The three most common ivy diseases are: stem rot which is caused by a fungus, Rhizoctonia solani; anthracnose which is caused by the fungus Colletotrechum omnivorum and bacterial leaf spot which is caused by a bacteria but they all are the result of being too wet. It could just be that your ivy is very old and needs rejuvenating.

If you search for “ivy” at the Toronto Master Gardener Website (www.torontomastergardeners.ca) you will find further information on growing ivies. Furthermore, The American Ivy Society www.ivy.org/index.html is a good source for general ivy information.