Ivies that belong to the genus Hedera include the common English ivy (Hedera helix) prized for its evergreen foliage in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 11. Ivies tend to grow into areas where they are not wanted if they’re left on their own, so pruning is performed to keep the plant under control. Pruning also can help control slugs and other insects in the garden. Because they are such resilient plants, you can’t typically cause ivies permanent damage when pruning. To keep the vines attractive, though, regular pruning is a must.
Wipe pruning shear blades with a rag to remove dirt and debris, then soak them in a disinfectant solution, such as a household disinfectant, for five minutes. Rinse the blades under running water and air dry before pruning. You can also make a simple disinfectant solution with 1 part water and 1 part rubbing alcohol, or 3 parts water and 1 part bleach or pine oil cleaner, if desired.
Use pruning shears to cut back ivy when it overgrows its boundaries. You can cut it back as far as necessary any time of the year, several times a year if needed, to keep it confined to its space. In general, though, if you cut back up to one-third of the vine each year -- in spring when ivies usually recover more quickly -- it should stay under control and remain a healthy, good-looking plant for years.
Remove growth climbing up a tree, or along a brick or masonry wall where damage can occur after several years. Cut the plant back to the ground and repeat as necessary to keep the ivy under control. University of Arizona Extension agents recommend keeping ivy 3 feet away from tree trunks and walls.
Cut back mature growth when it starts to flower or when the vine becomes more erect and less viney, if desired. Cut the vine back to within 4 to 6 inches of the ground with pruning shears or a weed trimmer. Alternatively, mow the ivy using the highest mower height. This type of pruning is best done in the spring just after the last frost. If you prune ivy this hard every three or four years, it will remain a thriving, young plant with attractive growth.