En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - August 27, 2011

From: Cuba, MO
Region: Midwest
Topic: Poisonous Plants, Vines
Title: Removing poison ivy in Cuba MO
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I bought a home with a huge bed of hybrid iris but the bed is thick with poison ivy. If I cover myself head to toe to prevent getting it is there a way to clean the tubers so they will not be poison? Someone suggested soaking the tubers in bleach water. Any suggestions at all? I live in Missouri. Thanks for your time.

ANSWER:

We don't think you need to worry about the tubers of the iris (we assume that is what you were talking about). Poison ivy is only damaging to humans that don't have long sleeves or fur to protect them; the roots of the poison ivy should not contaminate the iris. We have extensive experience with poison ivy, so let us tell you how we did it.

We wore long pants and sleeves, and rubber gloves, just like you would wash dishes with. The first job is to cut out the poison ivy, with the gloves on. Have a trash can with a plastic liner ready, and don't let anyone else use it because they might mash the cuttings down in the bag and contaminate themselves. Using a paper towel to help get a grip on the vine, pull out as much as you can, getting roots when possible. Deposit paper towel and all in the trash sack to be sent off to the landfill. Work in from the edges of the flower bed, so you won't have to be stepping in the poison ivy. This is hard work, and you don't need to get it all out in one day. Stop, get someone else to open doors for you so you don't leave poison ivy for someone else to touch. With the gloves still on, wash your hands in dishwashing soap, strip off the gloves and go straight to the shower. Strip off the clothes and put them in the washing machine immediately, or you will re-contaminate yourself. If you accidentally brushed some bare skin with some of the poison ivy, a quick thorough soapy wash will at least dilute the effect. Each time you go back you will be able to get deeper into the bed, but keep an eye out for new sprouts where you have already cleared. The most important thing is not to allow the poison ivy to go to seed, because birds love the seeds (little green berries) and will spread them into other areas.

Get as much ivy out of the bed as you can before cold weather sets in. Toxicodendron radicans (Eastern poison ivy) is deciduous but perennial, so it will die back and disappear in the Fall and be right back in the Spring. You will never be totally rid of it, and need to be aware of outbreaks in other parts of your property. If you have a vine with a large circumference stem, get a small bottle of an undiluted wide-spectrum herbacide and some disposable sponge brushes. Using pruners, nip off the vine as close to the soil as possible. Quickly, within 5 minutes, paint the raw stump with the herbicide. You have to do it quickly so the stem will not heal itself over to protect the roots. Each time you are dressed and armed for the battle, get all of the cut or pulled out vines into the trash sack as before.

We know that there are herbicide sprays labeled as "poison ivy killers." Unfortunately, they are also everything else killers. The herbicide has no way of differentiating between your chosen target or plants you wish to preserve. Be careful with your bottle of herbicide, if you spill it or tip it over, you will take out some of the plants you want to preseve and possibly contaminate the soil. And clean off the blades of the pruners, again with the paper towels, so you will not get the poison on you when you start to prune something else.

 

From the Image Gallery


Eastern poison ivy
Toxicodendron radicans

Eastern poison ivy
Toxicodendron radicans

Eastern poison ivy
Toxicodendron radicans

More Vines Questions

Flowering vine for trellis behind fountain in Anaheim Hills CA
June 05, 2010 - We are looking for a flowering vine to plant on a trellis surrounding a water fountain. The fountain splashes leaving the soil constantly wet. We have tried numerous vines, but they all die due to t...
view the full question and answer

Mystery vine in Alberta, Canada
February 01, 2011 - Recently, I came across a vine (looked like virginia creeper/clematis type base - heavy and woody like) in Calgary, Alta - it was climbing on a metal fence that was approx 4'tall - unfortunately the...
view the full question and answer

Need plants to cover a fence and retaining wall combination
January 27, 2010 - Recently we replaced our fence and I need help with plants to mask an 18 foot section of fence/retaining wall. The fence guy set the fence back about 10 inches from the top of the retaining wall which...
view the full question and answer

Differentiating between Cow-itch vine and Balsam-gourd vine
July 08, 2005 - How can I tell the difference between Cow-itch vine and Balsam-gourd vine?
view the full question and answer

Trumpet vine care
October 31, 2007 - I planted a trumpet vine in the early summer of this year. It grew about 3-4 ft. and seemed healthy. It is now Oct. 25th, and I just noticed that all the leaves seem to have shrivelled up and gone b...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center