Once established, poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), which grows as a perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 10, can quickly take over a lawn or garden. If the itching it causes isn't bad enough, killing this troublesome vine can take work. Whether you use a natural or chemical method to get rid of poison ivy plants, you probably will have to repeat the procedure several times.
Wear protective clothing when removing poison ivy and when using herbicide. The proper clothing includes long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, socks, boots or shoes and gloves.
Avoid exposing your bare skin to poison ivy. If you accidentally expose your bare skin to the plant, wash with soap and cool water to remove the plant's irritating oil. Avoid using warm water because it will cause your skin to absorb the oil more easily.
Thoroughly wash all of your clothing you wore to remove poison ivy.
- Avoid getting herbicide in your eyes, swallowing it or getting it on your skin. If you get it in your eyes, rinse them with water for 15 to 20 minutes. If you accidentally swallow herbicide, call a poison control center immediately. Sip a glass of water, and avoid vomiting.
Pulling poison ivy plants from the ground is an effective method for permanently removing, or killing, them. Wait until after a rain for the best results. When the ground is wet, the plants and their roots are much easier to remove. Use a hoe or shovel to dig deep around poison ivy, and then use a gloved hand to pull up as much of each plant as possible, including the roots. Dispose of the poison ivy plants by placing them in a plastic bag. Close the bag securely, and dispose of it in the trash. If poison ivy plants emerge again, repeat the process. They will diminish over time.
Poison ivy grows quickly, which means you may have too much on your hands to be effective in pulling it out of the ground. In these cases, use long-handled clippers to cut poison ivy plants as close to the ground as possible. Although you can't reach the roots using this method and shoots will emerge, you'll starve the roots and eventually kill the plants if you continue to cut down the plants as they appear.
You can eliminate poison ivy by cutting it back with clippers, but avoid mowing it. Although mowing also cuts back poison ivy, it also releases the oils in the plant and causes the plants to spread.
Removing from Trees
If you have a poison ivy plant that has overtaken a tree, then cut the vine away from the roots and pull it out of the tree. Winter is the best time for this task because poison ivy leaves are dead then and unable to remain attached to the tree. Cut or pull the remaining roots to remove them from the ground.
Certain herbicides will harm or kill lawn grass, trees and/or other desirable plants. Exercise caution when using herbicide on or near desirable plants.
Avoid harming desirable plants by placing a sheet of plastic over them.
If a poison ivy vine grows on a desirable plant, cut the vine away from the plant, and spray only the poison ivy stump that remains.
- Apply herbicide during warm, sunny weather when weeds actively grow. Choose a day with no wind.
Painting with Herbicide
Because all herbicides have the potential to kill desirable plants, one of the best ways to avoid damaging them is to cut poison ivy close to the ground and then "paint" its remaining and new leaves with a non-selective, ready-to-use glyphosate herbicide. Dip a small paintbrush into the pre-mixed herbicide, and carefully use it to paint old and new poison ivy leaves. Use a small amount to avoid dripping it on desirable plants.
Using Glyphosate Herbicide
If you do not have desirable plants nearby, use an herbicide that has glyphosate as its main ingredient. Choose a ready-to-use product in a spray bottle for the easiest application. Spray the poison ivy leaves from a distance of 12 inches until they are completely wet. If you need to spray a vine, cut it to ground level, and then spray its base to avoid damaging your trees or grass. Regrowth of poison ivy will likely occur. Spray the poison ivy again when you notice that it has returned.
Using Triclopyr Herbicide
Herbicide containing triclopyr as its active ingredient is also effective against poison ivy. Make its application process simple by choosing a product that is ready-to-use and comes in a pre-assembled spray bottle. Hold the sprayer 1 foot from each poison ivy plant, and thoroughly wet its leaves without allowing them to drip on more desirable plants. If you notice regrowth, spray the poison ivy again.