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English Ivy – Is It a Good Idea to Let It Grow on Trees

Many homeowners love seeing English ivy (Hedera helix) growing on structures, such as over the arched entryway of a house or on a wall in the landscape. It really can create a classic look, but there is one ‘structure’ in your yard that you may not want ivy to grow on.

When ivy uses a tree as a climbing structure, over a long period of time, the tree can lose out in the deal. Basically, the tree has to compete with the ivy as its vines increase in diameter. English ivy climbs by producing aerial rootlets along its vine and can cling to many surfaces including tree trunks.

We saw this tree in a neighbor’s yard, and it is so covered with English ivy that the tree is hardly visible.


Arrows indicate where the ivy has been growing and climbing on the tree. At the top of the tree, you can see the ivy has reached the uppermost branches.


If you were to stand near the tree and look inside the profusion of ivy branches, you‘d probably see that the main vines growing on the tree’s trunk have become as large as your fist. We have never seen English ivy so large – it was hard to believe at first!

A close up – you can see the woody branches of the ivy.



We’re not sure what type of tree it is (or was). Planting trees in your yard can be a great home improvement project, and a quality mature landscape tree can add value to your home. A lot of times young trees are installed within a plant bed of groundcover like English ivy. It is very easy for the ivy to start climbing the trunk. And English ivy is a determined grower.


Judging by this mature setting, we’re guessing that the wall, tree, and the ivy have been here for quite a while, and that over the years the ivy has been maintained as a groundcover by the homeowner.


We love English ivy. It’s a favorite groundcover of ours, but it can be an invasive plant and needs to be maintained. It was helpful to see, and realize, what it can do to a tree if left alone.

If you like the look of climbing ivy, you can use structures such as a trellis, pergola, and walls in the landscape. It also looks great just used as a groundcover.


English ivy is used here as a controlled tidy border along a bluestone walk.

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