On Page 2 we discussed how to get rid of the rash caused by poison ivy. Now it's time to consider various methods to get rid of poison ivy plants, themselves, where they grow in your yard. The first question to ask is how to remove poison ivy safely.
Indeed, a word caution is in order, before discussing any actions to be taken to get rid of poison ivy in your landscape. When approaching the itchy weed to engage it in battle, try to have as little of your skin exposed as possible, since it is through physical contact with poison ivy (all parts of it, including the roots) that the rash is contracted. At the very least, this means wearing gloves, long-sleeved shirt and full-length pants. Secondly, understand that any of the removal methods discussed below may have to be implemented more than once to achieve complete success.
One organic method used to get rid of poison ivy is to pull it out by the roots. The roots must be disposed of; do not burn! Inhaling fumes from burning poison ivy causes far greater health problems than just the rash caused by skin contact. Another natural removal method is smothering. Smothering entails cutting the plants back close to the ground, then placing newspapers, cardboard, old carpeting, tarps, mulch or some other covering on top. However, be aware that, even after you kill poison ivy plants, they remain toxic. So be careful in disposing of the roots of the dead vines after pulling back the smothering agent (even if you've waited for years).
Herbicides can also be used to get rid of poison ivy. Roundup spray is a popular glyphosate-based herbicide used to kill it. Another widely-available herbicide is Ortho Brush-B-Gon, which is triclopyr-based. These products will kill a great variety of woody plants, making them effective not only in getting rid of poison ivy, but also another nuisance vine: Oriental bittersweet. But they will kill many other plants, too, so don't use them near specimens you wish to keep. If you choose to apply these herbicides by spraying, here's what to do:
- You'll need a tank sprayer; mix the product with water, according to directions.
- Apply when the poison ivy is fully leafed out.
- Pick a day with little or no wind for spraying. Also, check your forecast: don't spray if rain is predicted at any time within the next 24 hours.
- For poison ivy plants growing on the ground or on a wall, heavily spray the leaves and vines. Older plants have large hairy vines. Remember this fact to identify poison ivy in winter, when no foliage is present (rendering the "leaves of three, let it be" rhyme useless).
- For poison ivy climbing up a tree, you may wish to "paint" the herbicide on, so as to preclude damaging the tree with a stray mist from your sprayer.
Please consult eradication of poison ivy and oak for more information on how to get rid of poison ivy.