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English Ivy - a common enemy

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

September's pest plant of the month

area of native bush infested with climbing asparagus
An area smothered with English ivy

The threat to native trees and bush from English ivy

A dense stand of wild ginger in flower
English ivy growing up a pohutukawa

English or common ivy (Hedera helix) is often seen in gardens around Auckland where, if kept under control, it shouldn’t be a problem. But ivy doesn’t know about our boundaries and gets into areas where it gets out of control and causes harm.

It easily smothers native trees, damages their bark, and competes for water. It can even break off branches or topple trees when they become smothered and too heavy. In areas of native bush, ivy can cover the ground preventing new native seedlings from growing.

Learn to recognise this common garden pest plant and control it or report it where it is a problem. It is mostly spread by dumping of garden waste.

English ivy can grow quickly in our mild climate and can rapidly grow up trees and take over. But dealing with this pest climber is relatively simple. Snipping the vines close to the ground and pasting with a careful dab of herbicide gel will kill the roots or you can dig them up. The vines above ground will eventually die and fall away, so there is no need to pull them down.

What does it look like?

  • A vigorous, leafy climber

  • Clinging, woody stems which attach strongly to surfaces

  • Leaves usually have 3 points, but can vary greatly in shape

Agapanthus growing on a roadside verge
English ivy seedling, showing the usual leaf shape.

For established plants more time is needed, but read on to find out how to control it.
English ivy starting to smother a cabbage tree

How can I help?

Recognise - Learn what it looks like

Report - Report locations where ivy is damaging native plants or entering native bush. Get in touch to find out more.

Remove - Find out how to control the plant and get supplies from our Community Tool Shed

Restore - Plant natives in its place, to stop it coming back, and to support our native wildlife.


English ivy (Auckland Council)

See page 19 of the Plant me instead booklet

Check out the Weedbusters page on English ivy for lots more photos.

What can I plant instead?

Native climbers and ground cover plants which are good replacements for English ivy:

  • puawhananga - Clematis paniculata

  • kaihua, akakiore, New Zealand jasmine - Parsonsia heterophylla

  • panakenake, babies tears - Pratia angulata

  • mikoikoi, New Zealand iris - Libertia grandiflora or L. ixiodes

  • kiokio, gully fern - Blechnum novae-zelandiae

  • rengarenga, New Zealand lily - Arthropodium cirratum

What can I do to get rid of it?

  • Pull or dig up roots if they are small plants.

  • Cut the vines close to ground level and paste with an appropriate herbicide gel, such as MetGel (use with care - only use MetGel away from plants you care about and bodies of water)* or in other cases Bamboo Buster (less likely to be lethal to the ivy). Get in touch for more info or visit our PFK Tool Shed for info.

  • Leave vines off the ground to die off.

  • Removed roots should be kept off the ground to prevent re-growth or disposed of in normal rubbish (not compost).

For larger infestations:

  • Cut all stems close to the ground, then return and treat regrowth after a few weeks, or dig up all remaining clusters as they appear.

Talk to your friends, whanau and neighbours about how bad English ivy is for our native environment and encourage or help them to take action too.

Send us a photo of you tackling English ivy and you might get in our newsletter or on our Facebook page.

See more pest plant information on our website.

*always read the label before using any herbicides. Other herbicide treatments are possible.

If you have a significant area of English ivy threatening an area of bush or a reserve, just get in touch and we can help.

Contact us

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