How to Remove Poison Ivy from Your Yard

Poison ivy can be identified by its clusters of three leaflets.

Poison ivy can be identified by its clusters of three leaflets. Learn how to safely remove this plant from your yard and property with our expert tips.

Few things can spoil outdoor activities more than encountering poison ivy. This plant, part of the Anacardiaceae family, which also includes poison oak and poison sumac, contains an oil called urushiol that causes a very itchy and persistent rash. Poison ivy is widespread throughout the United States and can often be found in residential backyards, especially in rural areas.

If you find poison ivy growing in your yard, follow these expert tips to remove it safely without ending up with a rash!

Steps to Remove Poison Ivy

Materials You'll Need

  • Protective clothing (long sleeves and pants)
  • Safety goggles
  • Long socks and closed-toe shoes
  • Waterproof gloves
  • Poison ivy herbicide
  • Pruning shears
  • Plastic bags
  • Black or clear plastic sheets

Method 1: Using Herbicides to Remove Poison Ivy

When dealing with poison ivy, it’s recommended to use a herbicide specifically designed for this plant. Always follow the instructions on the label. Because poison ivy has an extensive root system, multiple applications will be necessary.

Since these chemicals can harm other plants, apply them directly to the poison ivy leaves. Allow the plants to die completely, which can take a week or two, before removing them. Wear appropriate protective gear and dispose of the plants carefully to avoid skin contact.

There are several herbicides available that are effective against poison ivy. Here are some examples:

  • Roundup Poison Ivy Plus Tough Brush Killer – This product is formulated to kill poison ivy and other tough brush.
  • Ortho MAX Poison Ivy and Tough Brush Killer – Another effective herbicide that targets poison ivy and other tough plants.
  • BioAdvanced Brush Killer Plus – This herbicide is designed to kill poison ivy, kudzu, and other invasive vines and brush.
  • Southern Ag Crossbow Specialty Herbicide – Known for its effectiveness on woody plants, including poison ivy.
  • Bayer Advanced Brush Killer Plus – This product can be used on poison ivy and other brush to prevent regrowth.

Always read and follow the instructions on the label of any herbicide to ensure safe and effective use.

Method 2: Manual Removal of Poison Ivy

For those who prefer not to use chemicals, a manual approach can be effective. Consistently cutting back the above-ground parts of the plant will eventually kill it. This method requires persistence and thoroughness.

Use pruning shears to cut the poison ivy at ground level and place the cuttings in a plastic bag for disposal. Monitor the area regularly and repeat the process as new growth appears. It might take several seasons to fully eradicate poison ivy this way, but it’s effective and won’t harm other plants.

Method 3: Smothering Poison Ivy

Another effective method to remove poison ivy is to use plastic to suffocate the plant. Outline the area with poison ivy and cover it with black plastic for several months or clear plastic for six to eight weeks during the hottest part of the growing season.

This method blocks sunlight and heat, which kills the plant. Ensure the plastic edges are secure to prevent any light from getting in. After removing the plastic, check for any remaining growth and remove it as needed.

How to Identify Poison Ivy

Identifying poison ivy can be crucial for effective management. Poison ivy has compound leaves composed of three leaflets arranged alternately along the stem. These leaves may be shiny upon emerging and can have smooth, wavy, or toothed edges.

In the fall, the leaves often turn red, though they may also become yellow. During spring, poison ivy produces flowers, and its berries ripen to a grayish-white color by late summer, persisting through winter. This plant thrives in moist woodland settings but can also infiltrate gardens and landscapes, often disseminated by birds and deer.

identifying poison ivy leaves
Three-leaf poison ivy plant, identifiable by its clusters of three leaflets and shiny appearance. Recognizing these features is essential for avoiding contact and effectively managing this common outdoor nuisance.

Safety Tips for Removing Poison Ivy

Removing poison ivy requires caution to avoid contact with its rash-inducing oil. Here are some safety tips:

Cover Up Completely

Every part of the plant, including stems, leaves, and roots, can cause rashes. “Dress appropriately,” Myers advises. “Wear long sleeves, pants, waterproof gloves, and safety glasses.” Closed-toe shoes and long socks are also essential.

Stay Focused

When removing poison ivy, be careful not to touch anything else. This prevents transferring the oil to other parts of your yard or your body.

Avoid Touching Your Face

While working, refrain from rubbing your eyes or touching your face.

Clean Up Thoroughly

Urushiol oil can linger on clothes and tools. Carefully remove and wash your gloves, shoes, and clothes immediately. Clean your gardening tools and gloves with rubbing alcohol or soapy water to eliminate the oil.

Additional Tips for Managing Poison Ivy

Create Natural Barriers

Planting a barrier of native, non-invasive plants can help keep poison ivy from spreading into your yard. Plants like mint, marigold, and lemongrass can serve as natural deterrents.

Regular Monitoring

Regularly check your yard, especially borders, for new poison ivy growth. Early detection and removal can prevent the plant from establishing a strong root system.

Educate Your Household

Ensure everyone in your home can identify poison ivy and understands the importance of avoiding it. This can prevent accidental contact and subsequent rashes.

For large infestations or if you are highly sensitive to poison ivy, hiring a professional might be the best option. Professionals have the experience and equipment to handle poison ivy safely and effectively.

Maintain Soil Health and Ground Cover

Healthy soil and dense ground cover can reduce the likelihood of poison ivy taking root. Use mulch and plant ground-cover species to create an environment less conducive to poison ivy growth.

Persistent Aftercare

After removing poison ivy, keep an eye on the area for new growth. Even with diligent removal, roots or seeds may remain and sprout. Regularly inspect and promptly remove any new plants.

Consider Hiring Professional Help

Hire a Local Landscaper Near You

Preservation Tree Care

Irish Lawn and Landscaping

Property Worx, LLC

Troy Clogg Landscape Associates

Understanding Poison Ivy Biology

Growth Habits

Poison ivy can grow as a ground cover, shrub, or vine, making it highly adaptable. Understanding its growth patterns can aid in locating and removing it effectively.

Seasonal Changes

Poison ivy undergoes seasonal changes that can assist in identification. In spring, the leaves are often reddish, turning green in summer. In fall, the leaves can become yellow or red before falling.

The Danger of Urushiol

Urushiol, the oil in poison ivy, is what causes the allergic reaction. It can remain potent on surfaces for years, meaning old, dead plants can still cause rashes if touched. Handle poison ivy with care, even when it’s dormant or dead.


Poison ivy can be a persistent nuisance in any garden or yard, but with the right knowledge and tools, you can remove it and enjoy your outdoor spaces rash-free. Whether you opt for chemical sprays, manual removal, or covering the plants, vigilance and safety precautions are key. Regular monitoring and maintenance will help keep your yard free of poison ivy. By understanding the plant’s growth patterns and seasonal changes, you can better manage and prevent its spread. Happy gardening, and stay safe!

This comprehensive guide provides everything you need to tackle poison ivy effectively. With careful planning and persistent effort, you can reclaim your yard and enjoy a beautiful, poison ivy-free environment.


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