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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Hedera hibernica, Hedera helix, Invasive plants--Control, Noxious weeds--Washington

I am trying to write a letter about English ivy in order to get it removed from a public library. Is it a noxious weed?


Washington State and King County noxious weed information is updated annually. Currently, three cultivars of Hedera helix and one cultivar of Hedera hibernica are Class C Noxious Weeds in the State of Washington.

Here is the link to descriptions of these four types of English ivy.

Class C Noxious Weeds are weeds that are already widespread; removal is NOT required by law. However, individual counties can adopt removal programs as they see fit. Here is the complete list of Class C noxious weeds in Washington. Here is the page specifically about ivy.

King County also has more information on a website about noxious weeds.

King County does not require control or eradication of any of the four English ivy cultivars. Although control is strongly recommended, it is not required.

Date 2019-07-11
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Lolium, Ajuga, Vinca, Hedera helix, Festuca, Arctostaphylos, Achillea, Land treatment of wastewater, Ornamental grasses, Lawns and turfgrasses, Landscaping drain fields

We have a new house that we have to landscape around. The biggest problem is that we have to be careful what we plan due to the septic system. It is an evaporation system, with two huge cement tanks buried under the ground in the front of the house and plastic pipes running through the side yard. We are planting grass in a rectangle right above the biggest bunch of the plastic pipes, but what can go around it or by the cement tanks that will not grow long roots and dig into it? In looking at the planting information on the packages and in my Western Garden Book, nothing seems to mention root depth.


Below is an article entitled What to Plant Over the Septic System by Mary Robson (originally published in her Regional Garden Column for Washington State University Extension, December 6, 1998):

"As more and more people move into rural areas, questions about septic systems and landscaping have become quite common. This column deals with some of the basics. A new brochure from Washington Sea Grant called: Landscaping your Septic System, offers considerable detail on the subject and provided much of this material.

"First, be sure that the septic field is clearly identified, and you know where the reserve area is. Keep all construction away from these areas. Understanding the functioning of the system is vital. Get information. (Some of it is available in video form.) The drainfield will not work well if overloaded with extra surface water, so be certain that it is not in the path of downspout run off or irrigation systems.

"Sunlight and air circulation also help the drainfield perform properly. Avoid surrounding it with tall trees. (Some shade is fine, but you would not plant an oak on the edge of a drainfield.) Set up some barriers so that it is not compacted by frequent foot traffic. Occasional mowing or moving through the field to check the system is certainly fine, but you do not want the drainfield in the middle of a heavily used path.

"There are advantages to using plants over the drainfield. Plants do help provide oxygen exchange and contribute to evaporation necessary in the drainfield area. Choose plants with shallow, non-invasive roots. You do not want breakage or damage in pipes from root intrusions.

"Grasses are most commonly recommended for the septic area. Lawn can be attractive. Do not overload the system by watering it a lot. Meadow grasses or a mixture of turf grasses like perennial rye and some broadleaf flowers (such as yarrow) can also look good and require little maintenance. Several mixes sold as Eco-Turf or Fleur de Lawn have these components.
"Small, shallow-rooted ornamental grasses (for instance, Festuca ovina 'Glauca' 4-10 inches) can also be good looking. Very tall grasses like Stipa gigantea are not appropriate. Avoid over-active plants like English ivy (Hedera helix), which is becoming a menace in forested areas by moving in and stifling trees.

"Edible crops are not suggested. Vegetable gardening requires frequent cultivation, and digging in the drainfield area is inadvisable. Also, the brochure notes that: Sewage effluent is distributed through the soil in the drainfield area. Any root vegetables planted in this area may be directly exposed to septic tank effluent.

"Other possibilities are low-growing ground covers. Some, such as bugle weed (Ajuga reptans) and vinca (Vinca minor) grow vigorously and would fill in quickly. The native kinnickinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) grows well in full sun but is slow to establish. A mulch around the plants may help with weed control while the plants spread.

"The green growing layer over the septic tank helps the system to function, adds to the appearance of the landscape, and should, ideally, be set up to allow easy monitoring and maintenance. Keep landscaping simple and straightforward, remembering that the object is the good performance of the system."

To get more information on septic systems, contact your local health department. The brochure Landscaping Your Septic System (pdf) is available through the Sea Grant Program.

Here are links to publications that might also be helpful:
Mounds: A Septic System Alternative
Understanding and Caring for Your Sand Filter System
Care and Feeding of Septic Tanks

Date 2018-08-15
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Hedera helix, Invasive plants--Control

In trying to eradicate English Ivy I am considering using Clorox on the roots. I have cut off all of the leaves. Is this safe and do I need to guard against nearby roots from trees that I want to save? If the Clorox will work I am assuming that I would use it undiluted for maximum effect. Any other ideas on English Ivy eradication?


Ivy is a tough plant to eradicate, as I imagine you already know. The resources I have consulted indicate that manual removal methods are more effective than chemical methods. Ivy apparently has an excellent defense system against chemicals. I could find nothing in the literature that suggested using bleach to kill the roots of Hedera helix (English ivy).

Here are links which may be of use to you.

From King County Noxious Weed Control.

From Portland, Oregon's No Ivy League.

Local garden writer Ann Lovejoy's article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Excerpt:

"Why not just poison it? Using herbicide on ivy is both futile and dangerous. Ivy's waxy foliage repels herbicides, which run off to damage nearby plants and pollute water systems.

"To safely and steadily get rid of ivy, begin by cutting all vines that have scrambled up trees or posts. Remove as much as you can reach from each trunk. If you miss a few stubborn scraps here and there, don't worry about it. Just be sure that none of the vines remain uncut or are left dangling.

"Now remove all ivy at ground level by pulling strands and prying roots with a small hand-mattock or hori-hori (Japanese farmers' knife). Even if you miss a few roots (as you will), they won't all sprout back.

"Finally, mulch with a combination of woodchips and compost if you plan to replant soon. If you just want to keep the ground clear for a while, use coarse wood chips for mulch.

"To keep the mulched area clear, check it two or three times a year. You can quickly remove any new shoots that appear, along with as much root as possible."

Date 2019-04-27
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Garden Tip

Keywords: Convolvulus arvensis, Hedera helix, Weeds, Invasive plants, Holly

In late spring watch out for seedlings of invasive plants bindweed (perennial morning glory), English holly and English ivy. Birds love to eat ivy berries, which are only produced by mature plants that have stopped climbing. The berries ripen in late winter, just in time for birds to "sow" the seeds in your garden. These three weeds are easy to pull up when their root systems are still undeveloped.

Date: 2007-05-17
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Garden Tip

Keywords: Hedera helix, Noxious weeds, Invasive plants

Did you know that one English ivy plant removed from a tree in the Olympic National Park weighed an estimated 2,100 pounds? The King County Noxious Weed Control Program has a great deal of information on how to control ivy. If you would like to receive the information in other formats, call them at 206-296-0290.

Date: 2002-09-18
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