Garden experts reveal why you shouldn't be removing ivy from your trees

Is ivy bad for trees? The unpopular plant is actually great for your garden in more ways than you'd imagine

is ivy bad for trees
(Image credit: Getty/Antonio Krämer / EyeEm)

Is ivy bad for trees? The much-maligned ivy is often seen as an invasive plant that gardeners want to eradicate from their gardens. But is the long-standing assumption that ivy kills trees by strangling them or sapping energy from them true or false?

Gardeners who love the romantic look of ivy wrapped around trees, rejoice! Ivy does not kill trees and is actually very beneficial to wildlife in your garden, so go ahead and plant ivy at the bottom of a tree as part of your wildlife garden ideas.

Is ivy bad for trees

(Image credit: Getty/sandra standbridge)

As Monty Don explains in a MailOnline article, 'Ivy is not a parasite and does not draw any energy or nutrients from the plant that it climbs up. Rootlets – which only grow on the side away from the light and in response to a young shoot touching a firm surface – grow to support the ivy rather than feed it.'

It is true that ivy can harm its host tree over time if you don't prune it. The problem actually isn't the ivy that climbs up the tree trunk but the clusters of ivy on top of the tree – these, over time, will prevent the tree from getting the light it needs. So, prune your ivy annually: 'I trim it back with shears every spring and this keeps it under control,' writes Monty. 

best climbing plants: Hedera helix ivy

(Image credit: Alamy)

Is ivy good for wildlife?

Ivy is not just good but invaluable for wildlife, particularly in fall and winter when it provides food and shelter for late-season pollinators and birds. Ivy flowers are rich in nectar making it one of the best bee friendly plants, and ivy berries are beloved by wild birds. Rodents, despite popular belief, are far less attracted to ivy than they are to human dwellings and food. If you see rats in your garden it's definitely not because of the ivy.

Find more advice on how to attract birds into your garden in our guide.

Does ivy harm brick walls?

This is another concern many gardeners and homeowners have. Ivy is often removed from buildings because people believe it destroys brickwork. Actually, it's the opposite! A study conducted by Oxford University found that ivy 'reduced extremes of temperature and relative humidity,' and even protected walls from salt.

This completely debunks the myth that ivy will destroy your garden wall or house facade; however, as with trees, an already damaged wall will be overcome by ivy, so treat any cracks in walls before they cause problems. 

Anna Cottrell
Anna Cottrell

Anna's background is in academic research – she is the author of London Writing of the 1930s, published by Edinburgh University Press. She is a keen urban gardener and has an impressive collection of house plants.