How to Get Rid of Poison Ivy

Arm yourself with the proper know-how to identify and eliminate poison ivy in your landscape.

Poison ivy loves to wreak havoc and make you itch. And, because it boasts a complex root system and produces a rash-inducing oil, it can be a pain to get rid of. Thankfully, there’s a method for controlling the madness. First, it's important to learn how to identify this itch-inducing interloper. Then, of course, it's time to get rid of poison ivy. Keep in mind that you'll want to survey problematic areas monthly during the growing season (May through November) and look for new poisonous plants that might have appeared.

6 unique characteristics to help you quickly identify poison ivy:

  1. 3 leaves with smooth edges and pointed tips
  2. Leaves will have a smooth, glossy (or shiny) appearance
  3. The center leaf will be the largest
  4. Side leaves grow from the stem
  5. Leaf color will vary from shades of red to green to yellow as seasons progress
  6. Berries will be light green or cream-colored (if present)

Jump to a topic you want to know more about.

How to identify poison ivy

Where it grows

How to control it

How to dispose of it

Getting rid of other harmful vining plants

HOW TO IDENTIFY POISON IVY

You’ve probably heard, “Leaves of three, let it be.” But there are a ton of three-leaved plants out there! Here are some handier ways to identify poison ivy:



Leaves

Watch for three leaves with smooth sides and pointy tips. There are two smaller leaves beside the longer middle leaf. Leaf lengths range from 1/4 of an inch to 2 inches.

Growing patterns

Poison ivy can appear as ground cover (4–10 inches), upright bushes or shrubs (up to 4 feet), and as vines that climb trees.

Stem arrangement

Each group of three leaflets grows on its own thorn-less stem and alternates arrangement. These stems all connect to the main vine, which is covered in hair.

“Hairy vine, no friend of mine!”

Spring appearance

Leaves emerge a reddish color, but will start to turn green as the spring progresses.

Summer appearance

Leaves are typically green, and the plant may have clusters of light green or cream-colored berries.

Fall appearance

Leaves change from green to shades of red, orange, and yellow.

Winter appearance

Poison ivy loses its leaves in the winter. But beware of the leafless vines, as they can still produce rash-causing oil.

Where it lives

North America, primarily in the Midwest and eastern United States. Poison ivy typically doesn’t reside in the western United States, desert areas, or at high altitudes.

WHERE DOES POISON IVY GROW? 5 PLACES TO LOOK

1. The Edges of Your Yard

Poison ivy annually invades yards because of the “edge effect.” That’s when seasonal weather patterns cause wooded areas at the fringes of yards to dry out, creating a perfect habitat.

2. Growing as a Ground Cover

The dark floor of wooded areas frequently houses creeping, crawling poison ivy.

3. Climbing Up Trees

Poison ivy loves to play hide and seek and commonly imitates tree branches. Sorry poison ivy, you’re not fooling us.

4. At the Base of Stumps

Poison ivy sometimes makes a home for itself on or around dead tree stumps.

5. Hiding Among Small Shrubs

While not typical, poison ivy can even develop into a shrub, usually in a sunny location.

3 WAYS TO CONTROL POISON IVY

Roundup® Poison Ivy Plus Tough Brush Killer products have your back. The main active ingredient in Roundup® Weed and Grass Killer products is glyphosate.  It works by targeting an enzyme that is essential to plant growth.

  1. Target the leaves

    Spray Roundup® Poison Ivy Plus Tough Brush Killer on the leaves of actively growing poison ivy until they’re thoroughly wet. For best results, spray on a warm, calm day.

  2. Take down vexatious vines

    To control thick poison ivy vines, cut them to 3–4 feet and then spray the leaves with Roundup® Poison Ivy Plus Tough Brush Killer. That’ll do the trick.

  3. Stop the stumps

    To take control of tree stumps where poison ivy thrives, first cut them close to the ground. Then, drill four-five holes into the freshly cut stump and immediately poor undiluted Roundup® Concentrate Poison Ivy Plus Tough Brush Killer into the holes.

THE WAITING GAME

After applying Roundup® Poison Ivy Plus Tough Brush Killer products, it’s just a matter of time before the poison ivy is kaput. Here’s a timeline of what you can expect:

  • Within 24 hours: wilting and curling begins.
  • Three-four days: weeds begin to turn yellowish-brown.
  • One-two weeks: weeds are done for.

NOTE: Particularly hardy poison ivy plants might take a few more weeks to be stopped completely.

DISPOSING OF POISON IVY

Proper disposal is the final step in getting rid of this noxious weed. Make sure to wear disposable gloves and clothes that cover your skin completely. Place the remains into a tightly sealed garbage bag, and then clean your tools and clothes with hot, soapy water.

BE CAUTIOUS: A FRIENDLY REMINDER

Poison ivy’s secret weapon, urushiol, is both a toxin and an irritant. Contact causes a red, itchy rash that can take 10 days or longer to heal. Also, know that it covers not only the leaves, but the entire plant. So even when the leaves are gone, the urushiol isn’t.

“Even when the leaves are gone, the urushiol isn’t.”


NEVER BURN THE PLANT. The fumes are dangerous and can cause respiratory problems. If you come into contact with the oil, immediately wash the exposed area with isopropyl alcohol and lots of cold water, and seek medical attention if necessary.ITCHING FOR MORE INFO?

View this infographic with even more poison ivy facts and advice.


GETTING RID OF OTHER NOXIOUS WEEDS AND TOUGH BRUSH

Poison ivy isn’t the only noxious weed that loves to invade landscapes. A rash of other noxious weeds and burdensome brush can also be stopped with Roundup® Poison Ivy Plus Tough Brush Killer products. Here’s how to identify and stop some of those other weeds.

NOXIOUS — harmful, poisonous, or otherwise very unpleasant



Poison Oak

Leaf Shape: Three serrated or lobed leaflets with a shiny upper surface.

Growing Patterns: Upright bushes or shrubs.

Flowers: Not Applicable (N/A)

Fruit: N/A

Where it Lives: North America, primarily in the Northeast, the Midwest, and along the Pacific

Coast. It loves sandy, dry soil from sea level to 5,000 feet.

How to get rid of it: Spray Roundup® Poison Ivy Plus Tough Brush Killer products on the leaves until they’re thoroughly wet. Since poison oak is tough, reapplication may be necessary.

Poison Sumac

Leaf Shape: Compound leaves of seven-twelve leaflets with shiny upper surfaces.

Growing Patterns: Woody shrubs up to 30 feet tall.

Flowers: N/A

Fruit: Yellowish-green berries, typically in clusters. (Nonpoisonous sumacs have red berries.)

Where it Lives: Moist and marsh-like habitats in the southeastern United States, standing water in the Northeast and Midwest, and anywhere with bushes and shrubs in sandy, dry soil.

How to get rid of it: Spray Roundup® Poison Ivy Plus Tough Brush Killer products on the leaves until they’re thoroughly wet.

Kudzu

Leaf Shape: Dark green, 3–10 inches long in groups of three, hairy undersides.

Growing Patterns: Very long vines, some even up to 100 feet in length.

Flowers: Hanging clusters of grape-scented flowers from late July to September.

Fruit: N/A

Where it Lives:

 Southeastern United States. Typically found growing on utility poles, fences, trees, and basically anything stationary.

How to get rid of it: Spray Roundup® Poison Ivy Plus Tough Brush Killer products in mid- to late summer when the kudzu’s vines are actively growing. Apply every three-four weeks, as kudzu is very persistent.

KUDZ-WHO?

View this infographic to get the download on kudzu & more.


Wild Blackberry

Leaf Shape: Five distinct oval-shaped leaflets with toothed edges.

Growing Patterns: Dense thickets that can grow up to 10 feet tall.

Flowers: Roughly 1 inch across with five white or pink petals.

Fruit: Ranges from white to red when growing, black when ripe.

Where it Lives: Northeastern United States and parts of the Midwest. Can also be widespread in the Pacific Northwest. It loves living along streams, ditches, and fence lines.

How to get rid of it: Spray Roundup® Poison Ivy Plus Tough Brush Killer products on the actively growing plant’s leaves. Since wild blackberry can have deep roots, reapplication may be necessary. Dead canes should then be cut down and removed.

STUMP THE STUMP

Roundup® Poison Ivy Plus Tough Brush Killer products can also be used to make sure tree stumps don’t resprout.

  1. Cut the stump as close to the ground as you can.
  2. Drill 4 or 5 holes and immediately pour undiluted Roundup® Concentrate Poison Ivy Plus Tough Brush Killer into the holes.

Pro tip: In a pinch, Roundup®Weed & Grass Killer Concentrate Plus can also be effective.