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How to Kill the Poison Ivy on your Property: 9 Straightforward Steps

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Dealing with poison ivy on your property can be a daunting task, but with the right approach, you can effectively eliminate this pesky plant and reclaim your outdoor space. Poison ivy, known for its itchy and irritating effects on the skin, requires careful handling and a strategic plan for removal. In this guide, “How to Kill the Poison Ivy on Your Property: 9 Straightforward Steps,” we’ll walk you through a series of simple yet effective steps to safely and efficiently eradicate poison ivy. From identifying the plant to using the right tools and methods, you’ll gain the knowledge needed to protect yourself and maintain a poison ivy-free environment. Let’s dive in and take the first step toward a safer and more enjoyable yard.

Step 1: Identify the Poison Ivy

  • Description: Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) can grow as a vine, shrub, or ground cover. Correct identification is crucial to avoid confusion with other plants and to take appropriate action. If you’d like to explore more about how to identify and control garden weeds, read our blog 17 Lawn and Garden Weeds: How to Identify and Control Them.

    Key Characteristics:

    • Leaves: Groups of three leaflets per stem. The middle leaflet usually has a longer stalk. The leaves can vary in shape but are generally almond-shaped with pointed tips.
    • Color: Leaves are green in spring and summer, turning red or orange in fall. Young leaves might appear reddish.
    • Texture: Leaves are often shiny or glossy, but can also appear dull.
    • Growth Pattern: Can grow as a climbing vine, shrub, or ground cover. Vines may have hairy roots that look like a fuzzy rope.
    • Flowers and Berries: Small, greenish-yellow flowers in spring, and white or yellowish berries in late summer to fall.

    Look-alikes: Be cautious not to confuse poison ivy with similar plants like Virginia creeper, which has five leaflets, or box elder, which has opposite leaves.

Step 2: Wear Protective Clothing

  • Importance: Protecting your skin from urushiol oil, which causes allergic reactions and severe rashes, is essential.

    Recommended Gear:

    • Long-sleeved shirt: Tightly woven fabric to prevent oil penetration.
    • Long pants: Durable material like denim or canvas.
    • Gloves: Rubber or thick cloth gloves. Avoid leather as it can absorb and retain urushiol.
    • Boots: Closed-toe and preferably high enough to cover your ankles.
    • Goggles and Mask: To protect your eyes and respiratory system from any splashes or accidental contact.

Step 3: Cut and Remove the Vines

  • Procedure:

    1. Locate the Base: Find where the vine connects to the soil or support structure.
    2. Cutting: Using sharp pruning shears or a knife, cut the vine as close to the base as possible. For climbing vines, cut at several points along the vine to make it easier to remove.
    3. Removal: Gently pull the cut vines away from trees, fences, or other structures, avoiding direct skin contact. For larger infestations, you may need to use a saw for thicker vines.

    Disposal: Place the vines in a heavy-duty plastic bag and seal it. Never burn poison ivy, as the smoke can carry urushiol and cause serious respiratory issues if inhaled.

Step 4: Dig Out the Roots

  • Why: Poison ivy can regenerate from roots left in the soil, making it necessary to remove them completely.

    Tools: Use a shovel, trowel, or specialized weed puller.


    1. Loosen Soil: Dig around the plant to loosen the soil and expose the roots.
    2. Root Removal: Carefully extract the roots, ensuring you get as much of the root system as possible. Roots can extend several feet underground.
    3. Inspection: Double-check the area for any remaining root fragments.

    Disposal: Place the roots in a sealed plastic bag. Any remaining roots can regrow, so thoroughness is key.

Step 5: Apply Herbicide

  • Types of Herbicide:

    • Glyphosate-based: Effective on poison ivy. Available in ready-to-use sprays or concentrated forms that you dilute.
    • Triclopyr-based: Another option specifically formulated for tough, woody plants like poison ivy.

    Application Instructions:

    1. Preparation: Wear protective clothing and follow all safety instructions on the herbicide label.
    2. Application: Apply the herbicide directly to the leaves and stems. For vines, cut the stem and apply the herbicide to the cut surface for better absorption.
    3. Timing: Apply on a calm, dry day to prevent drift to desirable plants. Avoid applying before rain to ensure the herbicide is absorbed.

    Safety: Always store herbicides away from children and pets. Rinse any tools used with water and soap.

Step 6: Repeat Applications

  • Persistence: Poison ivy is resilient and may require multiple treatments.

    Reapplication Schedule:

    • Frequency: Reapply herbicide every 2-4 weeks, or as instructed on the product label.
    • Monitoring: Regularly check for new growth and treat promptly. Even small sprouts can regenerate into larger plants if left unchecked.

Step 7: Monitor the Area

  • Regular Inspections:

    • Frequency: Inspect the area at least once a week during the growing season.
    • What to Look For: New sprouts, especially in previously infested areas. Also, check for any signs of regrowth from root fragments.

    Action Plan:

    • Early Intervention: Quickly remove or treat any new growth to prevent it from establishing.
    • Documentation: Keep a log of treatment dates and areas treated to track progress and reapplication needs.

Step 8: Dispose of Contaminated Items

  • Cleaning Procedures:

    • Clothing: Wash separately in hot water with a strong detergent. Urushiol can remain on fabric and cause future reactions.
    • Tools: Clean with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Be thorough to ensure all urushiol is removed.
    • Gloves and Gear: If disposable, discard in a sealed bag. For reusable items, wash thoroughly with soap and water.

Step 9: Consider Professional Help

  • When to Hire a Professional:

    • Large Infestations: Extensive areas of poison ivy can be overwhelming to handle alone.
    • Health Concerns: If you have severe allergic reactions or respiratory issues.
    • Accessibility: If poison ivy is in hard-to-reach areas or climbing large trees.

    Benefits of Professional Services:

    • Expertise: Professionals have the knowledge and equipment to safely and effectively remove poison ivy.
    • Efficiency: They can often complete the job faster and more thoroughly than DIY efforts.
    • Safety: Reduces the risk of exposure to urushiol and related health issues.

Additional Tips

  • Create a Barrier:

    Plant Alternatives:

    • Ground Covers: Plant aggressive, fast-growing ground covers that compete with and suppress poison ivy.
    • Native Plants: Choose native plants that thrive in your region and can outcompete poison ivy.

    Educate Others:

    • Awareness: Teach family members, especially children, how to identify poison ivy.
    • Prevention: Encourage everyone to avoid contact and to report any sightings of new poison ivy growth immediately.


Effectively eradicating poison ivy from your property requires a methodical approach, patience, and persistence. By accurately identifying the plant, using proper protective gear, and following the detailed steps for cutting, removing, and treating with herbicide, you can successfully eliminate this persistent plant. Regular monitoring and repeated treatments ensure that any regrowth is promptly addressed, preventing future infestations. Whether you choose to handle the task yourself or seek professional help, adhering to these guidelines will help keep your property safe and poison ivy-free, protecting you and your family from potential allergic reactions and discomfort. For more detailed information and tailored advice, visit our page on weed pulling services. For support on your next weeding project, please feel free to reach out through our contact form, and our team will be happy to help.