How to Control Poison Ivy

Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is a native vine common to woodland areas but found frequently growing in gardens and along fence lines.  This vine causes an allergic reaction (dermatitis) in most people when their skin comes in contact with urushiol produced by the plant. It is present in all parts of the plant, including leaves, stems, and roots, on both living and dead plant material. 

poison ivy
All parts of poison ivy can cause dermatitis when they come in contact with your skin.

Control of this weedy vine requires special consideration.  When working around this plant, gardeners should wear long sleeves and pants with waterproof gloves to protect the skin from the urushiol oil. 

The best control for poison ivy is to monitor frequently and remove plants promptly when they are found to avoid vines from becoming large and more difficult to control.


Pulling & Digging  |  Foliar Spray Herbicides  |  Stump Treatment Herbicides  |  More Information


Pulling & Digging

Only those plants that are very small should be dug or pulled. This method is done more easily after a soaking rain or deep watering.  Utilize a trowel, spade, or weeding tool to dig and pull the plant out of the ground. Be sure to wear waterproof gloves and long sleeves. 

Disposal

The best way to dispose of poison ivy removed from a garden area is to leave it to dry and decompose in place, provided no people (especially children), pets, or livestock can access it.  If this is not an option, plants can be sealed in a plastic bag and disposed of in the trash or buried in a pit (at least a foot underground).  Do not place poison ivy in the compost or yard waste bin.  Do not burn poison ivy; the oils can be inhaled and cause problems in the throat and lungs.  

Foliar Spray Herbicides

This application method can only be used if the poison ivy is not climbing or rambling on a desirable plant, as the herbicide will impact any green plant it comes in contact with.  Systemic herbicides such as glyphosate or triclopyr can be sprayed on the foliage of the vine. Use all herbicides with care, as they can cause damage to nearby plants if misapplied.  Leave vines in place to die and decay naturally in the garden as pruning, pulling, or otherwise trying to physically remove them, either alive or dead, can spread the urushiol oil, potentially getting it on the skin and causing irritation and rashes. 

Consult the label carefully as not all herbicides are labeled for all garden settings.  Always apply herbicides when winds are calm and temperatures are cool to prevent drift and damage to desirable plants. Protect desirable nearby garden plants with barriers like buckets, boxes, plastic bags, or plastic sheets to further reduce problems with drift. Herbicides must be used according to the label instructions on the package.  

Stump Treatment Herbicides

For larger established vines, utilize the cut stump herbicide treatment to control this weed. Leave vines in place to die and decay naturally in the garden as pruning, pulling, or otherwise trying to physically remove them, either alive or dead, can spread the urushiol oil, potentially getting it on the skin and causing irritation and rashes. 

Cut the vine off near the base and apply the herbicide directly to the cut surface as quickly as possible after the cut has been made and the sawdust has been brushed aside.  Utilize a sprayer, squirt bottle, or foam brush to apply herbicide to the entire cut surface of the stump.  Only use enough herbicide to thoroughly wet the cut surface and avoid runoff. 

Applications of glyphosate and triclopyr at higher concentrations work well for this application method.  Glyphosate should be at least 20% active ingredient and triclopyr should be greater than 8% active ingredient. 

Applications can be made anytime during the growing season, although late summer and fall applications tend to be slightly more effective.

If the stump resprouts, cut and treat again or apply a foliar spray to the new growth.  Multiple applications are frequently needed. 

virginia creeper
The native vine Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is frequently mistaken for poison ivy.  Virginia creeper has five leaflets; poison ivy has three.
poison ivy
Poison Ivy can be identified by its three-parted leaf.

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Authors:
Last reviewed:
April 2024