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

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Saturday - July 30, 2011

From: Huntersville, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Poisonous Plants, Vines
Title: Getting rid of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

How can I rid my yard of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac? I have tried roundup, poison ivy roundup and even a clorox solution and nothing seems to kill it, I keep seeing it come up. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thank you

ANSWER:

Vigilance and persistence are the keys.  If you can dig or pull up the roots of the plants, you are going to be able to get rid of the plants more quickly.   That will take a great deal of effort and you might not be able or willing to do this.  If you can't or don't want to make the effort to try and dig up roots, your best strategy is the following: 

  • Every time you see a new poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac plant emerge in your yard, cut it off near the ground and IMMEDIATELY (using a small paintbrush--the small foam ones work well) paint the cut with the poison ivy Roundup or equivalent.  (Clorox is not likely to be particulary effective.)   You need to paint it as soon as you cut it because, as a means of defense against disease or insect infestation, plant cells close off wounds quickly and the herbicide won't be transferred to the roots.
  • Wrap the cutoff portion in a plastic bag and dispose of it.
  • Keep careful watch for new plants and act when you see them.  It will take a while, but it will eventually rid your yard of the poisonous pests.

Remember to read and follow the safety precautions listed on the label of the herbicide.   Wear long sleeves, long pants, shoes, socks and gloves to keep from getting the poisonous oils on your skin.

Please check the answer to a previous question about eliminating poison ivy with more detailed instructions as well as methods to avoid.

 

From the Image Gallery


Eastern poison ivy
Toxicodendron radicans

Eastern poison ivy
Toxicodendron radicans

Eastern poison ivy
Toxicodendron radicans

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