What to Do About English Ivy?

Monday, March 3, 2014 - 6:19pm

English Ivy - Alien InvaderThe Invasive of the Month for March is English Ivy, the ubiquitous landscaping plant that is taking over the forest.  Everyone loves English Ivy in their yards because it's fast growing,  crowds out weeds and adds green all year round.  Unfortunately these are the reasons that make it one of the most unloved plants in the Park and one of the most destructive invasives!   It forms a dense cover on the forest floor crowding out native plants including all our spring wildflowers.  Because it stays green all year, the perennial natives have no room to emerge in the spring.  If it is allowed to climb trees, it can damage the bark and the sheer weight of the ivy can break branches and topple trees in a storm.

Replace Your English Ivy with Native Ground Covers!

If English Ivy is allowed to grow in your garden, it can easily escape to nearby parks wreaking havoc with the local ecology.  When ivy is allowed to climbs trees, it flowers and the fruit is eaten by birds who spread the plant in their droppings.  You can help the park by using native ground covers.  And if you can't replace your ivy now,  you can still help the park by removing it from your trees - both for the environment and your safety.

Replace your ivy with some of the following native ground covers:

A combination of Heuchera villosa 'Autumn Bride' and Christmas fern (Polystichum aristichoides) are nice in shade, and will tolerate some dryness.

Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pennsylvanica) or wild columbine are beautiful.

Other covers include Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), wild ginger (Asarum canadense) and foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia).

The National Park Service has an excellent list of natives that can be used as ground covers. Download the guide HERE.  The Montgomery County Rainscapes Program has a nice list of the top ten shade and sunny natives for your garden that you can download HERE  

Local nurseries such as American Plant or Meadows Farms may carry these plants.  You just have to be very specific with them about the Latin names, so you know exactly what you are getting. The native plant sales are also good places to look for ground covers. Visit the our Bay Friendly Landscaping page for information on where to buy natives http://www.lfwa.org/bay-friendly-gardening

For a list of landscapers who are familiar with native plants visits our resourses page HERE.

Did you know that Montgomery County and DC will give you money to plant natives? 

Read about the Rainscapes Program (MD) and River Smart Homes (DC) HERE. 

For more information about Conservation Landscaping, click HERE.