How to Get Rid of Poison Ivy Plants

Dealing with poison ivy is manageable, but requires extreme caution and vigilance even after treatment. Often, homeowners overlook the plant’s roots after removing them themselves, resulting in their return. Today, we share detailed information about poison ivy, ways to identify and distinguish it from other plants, when and where it grows, control measures, and how to prevent it from returning after removal.

What is poison ivy?

Poison ivy is a plant that contains an oily resin known as urushiol. When urushiol enters co

If it does not come into contact with the skin, it causes contact dermatitis, a red, itchy rash with bumps or blisters. While many homeowners can easily identify and avoid poison ivy, it is particularly concerning in areas with children and pets who cannot differentiate it from other harmless plants.

This plant does not tolerate regular mowing and rarely thrives in well-maintained lawns. However, homeowners can still find it along fences, gardens, and wood piles. Poison ivy vines make it a notorious climber that can spread laterally along the ground just as easily.

All of these trailing, trailing poisonous vines make this toxic plant even harder to eradicate and a much bigger problem in areas where children and pets play.

Identify poison ivy

The plant is best identified by its trifoliate compound leaves. Thus, the old rhyme “leaves of three, let them be.” Poison ivy leaves are attached to red petioles and are mostly hairy on older plants. Owners can also identify it by its oblong leaflets, which have smooth margins and sometimes have a lobe or notch on one side.

While lawn and homeowners can certainly avoid poison ivy foliage, it is always best to try to eliminate the problem before unsuspecting people lurk near the vine.

How to Distinguish Poison Ivy from Other Plants

As mentioned above, the poisonous plant has three pointed leaves that change color depending on the season. They turn reddish in spring, green in summer and yellow-orange or red in autumn. The leaves may also have notched edges in some plant species. In other species they are smooth.

Poison ivy plants sometimes have white berries that they use to spread and cover larger areas. Birds eat these berries and transplant the seeds to new land along with their droppings. This is one of the main reasons why the plant is so common in the United States, except in California, Hawaii, Alaska, and other parts of the West Coast.

When and where does poison ivy grow?

The plant grows throughout most of North America, disguising itself as a shrub, groundcover, or vine. Prefers “disturbed terrain,” such as a background perimeter along paths, walkways, trees, and fences. Blends well with the landscape.

Poison ivy is primarily associated with spring and summer, when it is most abundant. It prefers savanna and forest habitats, but can also be found along pasture edges, stream banks, and other uncultivated habitats.

The poisonous plant spreads primarily through shoots that arise from extensive, shallow, horizontal root systems. Its aerial vine allows it to crawl along the perimeters of the garden, walls and the branches of other plants.

Control poison ivy

A dry, windless day is the best and safest time to control and remove poison ivy from your lawn, especially when spray herbicide is used to kill the plant. You don’t want the herbicide to impact you or other desirable plants. A windy day could also spread parts of the poison ivy to surrounding areas, exacerbating the problem rather than solving it.

We also recommend removing poison ivy during the spring, when its leaves are red and easier to spot. However, it is vital to monitor and prevent the plant from spreading as soon as you identify it. This is when it is easiest to manage and eradicate from your landscape.

How to Remove Poison Ivy Plants

Attempting to remove the plant without taking proper precautionary measures can lead to poison ivy rashes or, worse yet, an allergic reaction when the leaves come into contact with the skin. This section provides information on how homeowners can get rid of poison ivy infestation or prevent it altogether:

Pulling the hand

Removing poison ivy with a glove is one of the most effective ways to remove the plant. However, this process requires direct contact with the plant. Therefore, it requires extreme care so as not to disturb the plants and their roots.

Start by cutting the stems above the ground with sharp scissors. Tearing or tearing the stems could cause the toxin resin to become airborne, which can lead to poison ivy reactions like those mentioned above. Dispose of the cut parts in sturdy garden waste bags before removing the roots with a small shovel and disposing of them in the garden waste bag.

Pour with boiling water

You will have to soak the plant in boiling water to scald its tissues and kill it. However, it is worth mentioning that this method may not be as effective at killing the entire plant and may require several attempts to completely destroy hidden roots and stems.

The leaf tissue left after blanching the plant may still have urushiol oil on its surface, which could cause an itchy or allergic reaction upon contact with the skin.


Many commercial herbicides used to control and kill poison ivy require a higher concentration to be effective. We recommend homeowners consult the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines before using commercial herbicides for best results. While natural treatment is preferable, commercial herbicides are most effective when used judiciously.

suffocate the plant

Smothering the poison ivy plant involves blocking the oxygen and light sources it uses to thrive. However, the hardy nature of the plant may make this control method less effective, depending on the smothering method used. Poison ivy is well adapted and can thrive in shady conditions and situations, making smothering a less desirable solution.

Hire a professional

This is the most effective poison ivy control method for removing poison ivy plants from lawns and other areas. Hiring a professional landscaping company is recommended in cases of extensive or difficult to control poison ivy infestations. Professional landscaping experts have the knowledge, tools and experience to safely remove poisonous plants and prevent them from growing back.

Will poison ivy plants come back after removal?

Hand pulling can be a difficult, if not impossible, control method when dealing with mature poison ivy plants with well-established root systems. Additionally, the highly hardy nature of the plant means that it can regrow from root fragments left in the soil. Its complex roots would mean that homeowners would need at least three or four attempts to completely remove its underground runners. Failure to do so would allow it to grow back and infest the soil.

We recommend removing the entire plant, including roots and stems, when it is still small. This is the most effective way to control the plant. We also recommend mowing or tilling the grass regularly and cutting vines repeatedly at the soil line to keep it under control.

Preventing poison ivy

Herbicides containing glyphosate and triclopyr have been shown to be effective in controlling the spread of poison ivy. Most grass species are tolerant to triclopyr, making it the preferred chemical component of herbicides over glyphosate, especially in areas where the herbicide may come into contact with grass.

How to Prevent Poison Ivy Plants

We advise lawn owners to use caution when using commercial herbicides around broadleaf plants as they can damage or harm these desired plant species along with the poison ivy plant. Contact a professional landscaping expert if you need help deciding whether to spray herbicide near other plants.

While getting rid of poison ivy from your lawn may seem like a good idea at the time, using herbicides or the wrong amounts could also damage other surrounding plants and grass.

The conditions in which poison ivy thrives

Poison ivy can thrive in areas from partial shade to full sun exposure. It also adapts well to a variety of soil moisture conditions. It can grow in both humid riparian areas and arid, impoverished soils, making it an incredibly hardy and difficult to kill plant.

Poison ivy is a perennial woody plant that can grow as a low, spreading shrub with delicate stems, a tall, upright shrub, or as a woody vine attached to tree trunks by aerial roots that look like a hairy rope.

Frequent questions

What is the difference between poison ivy and poison oak?

Poison ivy and poison oak are two different plants. However, they share similar characteristics, the main similarity being that they both contain urushiol.

Poison ivy is more of a vine with leaves that grow in groups of three. It primarily grows close to the ground, but can also grow as a vine or small shrub on rocks and trees. Its leaves are somewhat pointed and have an intense green color that turns yellowish or reddish, depending on the time of year. The leaves sometimes appear shiny with urushiol.

Poison oak, on the other hand, has deeper green leaves with varying amounts of red at different times of the year. Its leaves also grow in groups of three, but they are slightly different from poison ivy leaves. They are more rounded, less pointed, and have a textured, hair-like surface.

Will killing poison ivy harm other plants?

We recommend hiring a professional landscaping expert to get rid of poison ivy from your lawn or lot without killing other plants. A landscaping professional will evaluate the extent of the spread, the species of poison ivy invading your land, and the best preventative and control measures to prevent the plant from returning after removal.

We do not recommend using commercial herbicides containing glyphosate because this chemical also kills grass. Instead, use herbicides with 2,4-D, Mecoprop, Triclopyr and/or Dicamba, as these chemicals are harmless to most grass species.

We also recommend lawn owners spray herbicides on days with minimal or no wind and protect desirable plants from the spray by using sheets of cardboard or plywood. Using these tips should allow you to remove poisonous plants without harming other plants.

Lawn Doctor offers a variety of lawn treatments, including the control and management of unwanted plants, including poison ivy. Contact our landscaping experts to help you keep your lawn in excellent condition without worrying about poison ivy.

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