How to get rid of vines that kill trees

Written by cat mccabe
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How to get rid of vines that kill trees
Virginia creeper can blanket an entire tree. (Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Vines can't stand up by themselves; they need a support structure to climb and twine to reach sunlight and produce food from their leaves. Many vines are attractive and make good ground covers when kept under control. Unfortunately, Virginia creeper, poison ivy, English ivy and a host of other woody vines grow so fast that they can cover a building or a tree in just a few seasons. Eventually, vines can strangle trees and starve them of sunlight, killing them. To thwart this invasion, you may have to kill the vines first.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Protective clothing
  • Sharp knife
  • Glyphosate herbicide
  • Spray bottle
  • Yard waste bags

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  1. 1

    Attack vines in early spring, before they come into leaf. It will be easier to see the trunks and stems of the vine if they're not obscured by foliage.

  2. 2

    Put on protective clothing and gloves, especially if you're removing poison ivy. The sap from these vines will cause poison ivy rash.

  3. 3

    Look for the main trunk of the vine where it emerges from the ground. Work the blade of a sharp knife between the tree and vine trunk, and cut through it.

  4. 4

    Spray the vine stump with glyphosate herbicide to kill the root system. This may take several applications if weather is unusually rainy. If the vine stump has a diameter of less than 1/2 inch, try pulling or digging it out, but you're likely to leave root fragments that will re-sprout. Follow the glyphosate label for application instructions.

  5. 5

    Pull dead vines off of your trees several days after spraying, wearing protective gloves. Many of the vines, such as Virginia creepers, have little suckered feet that grip the bark when they climb, and it's easy to tear bark if you pull too hard. Wait for those little feet to die, then pull the vines and discard them in yard waste bags.

Tips and warnings

  • Check with your state's department of agriculture list of invasive plant species before planting any exotic vines. Some of them, such as oriental bittersweet, are extremely invasive and quickly crowd out and kill native species.
  • Don't compost dead vines. Some of them can grow back from small fragments.

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