Q. My ground ivy turned brown from the winter. Is it dead?
Lillian, Vienna and Anonymous, Poland
A. Actually, any type of English ivy, including Baltic, is considered invasive by some people and organizations. Yes, it does exist in many lawns and landscapes throughout the Mahoning Valley and is still sold in garden centers.
In general, we do not see English Ivy toppling trees here in Ohio, like it can in the Pacific Northwest. The downside is that the ivy covers trunks of trees, preventing a proper assessment of tree health. Clearing aged ivy from a tree is quite a task.
Heavy browning of English Ivy has not been seen in Ohio for 20 or 30 years. This browning from this year’s winter weather might be an opportunity to look at other options for your landscape. I’m at least suggesting you take the opportunity to remove it from growing up trees in your yard and from growing on the house.
The brown leaves can persist well into summer. While new growth will come, you will still see brown leaves. The connective tissue is strong and will take some time to break down. The earlier you remove the brown foliage, the better it will be for the health of the ivy.
There is no approved or recommended way to remove the brown leaves. My first instinct was a mower or weed eater. But, these are bad ideas. You are putting a lot of stress on the mower when doing this. Mowing will probably dig into crowns.
So, this is one of the few cases where I will recommend using hedge trimmer or a pair of garden sheers. I don’t recommend these on shrubs because overuse leads to poor plant heath without proper pruning. After shearing off the brown leaves, use a rake or leaf blower to clean up the area.
To learn more about English Ivy and its growing habit, go to http://go.osu.edu/englishivy.
Thanks to Joe Boggs for his assistance with this article. Eric Barrett is OSU Extension educator for agriculture and natural resources in Mahoning County. Call the office hotline at 330-533-5538 from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and Thursdays to submit your questions.