Poison Ivy is one of the worst enemies to gardeners and hikers. In the drier western states, its rude cousin Poison Oak is just as bad. The techniques for eradication of Poison Oak and Poison Ivy are the same are.
You basically have two options, one mechanical and one chemical. The mechanical is friendlier to the environment but the chemical is easier on humans, you make the call what is better for you.
To mechanically eradicate the plant you have to kill the roots. You can trace the vine back to its crown and dig it out with a shovel or you can use pruning equipment to cut the stems back to the ground. This will take repeated attempts as the roots will send up new shoots time and time again, so you will have to be persistent.
To chemically eradicate the plant you must apply a chemical to the leaves. It must be the type of chemical that is systemic and will be sucked down to the roots. If you use a chemical that only kills the leaves the plant will re-sprout. The chemical ‘Round-up’ (glophosate) works best from my experience but I hear Amitrol also works well. This too will probably take repeated sprayings as the plant will attempt to re-grow. The spray must be applied when the plants are actively growing and not when they are dormant in the winter. The best time I have found is late summer/ early fall when the plant is pulling down nutrients to the root system in anticipation of winter.
If you decide to go the mechanical route please be careful and wear protective clothing, preferably disposable. The poison is oil based so if you get it on your skin, lather up with soap quickly. Warm water tends to spread the oil so cold water with soap is best.
My friend Tim “Smiling Cat” Eutin sent the following question to my blog.
- Hello Rees,
I just came in from mowing the lawn and was thinking about you. Why? You are very knowledgeable and come across as “real” and trust worthy. Here’s my problem…
I moved into an older home that has a large hedge. The hedge is a mix of 31 different plants, trees and vines. It doesn’t look as bad as it sounds as long as I keep it trimmed. (definitely not bad enough to go through the effort of removing it – that can wait for the next owner!)
Anyway the hedge has poison ivy in it. How can I get rid of the poison ivy without killing the hedge?
In your case SC, if the hedge can not be sacrificed then I suggest you suit up and go at it with chemicals. If you are careful, you may be able to untwine the vines from parts of the hedge and apply Round-up. If it is difficult to untangle just do the best you can. I suggest you use a paint brush or tiny sprayer to apply the chemical. This will take persistence and you will probably need to repeat but it can be done. I’ve used a similar method to kill spreading morning glory in a bed of junipers.
Whatever you do never burn the dead plants as the smoke will move the poison into your lungs….and that’s bad.
One last thing, make sure it is Poison Oak or Poison Ivey that you have. Fragrant Sumac and Virginia creeper have some similarities. Do a Google image search to be sure.