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How Do I Control Poison Ivy?

Posted by: Nick DiBenedetto on July 5, 2019

This is one of the most unpleasant plants to encounter, whether in the woods or in your planting beds.  It is a native plant, so it is not considered an invasive weed.  It contains an oil that to which most people have an allergic reaction of a blistery, red, extremely itchy rash.  There is a small percentage of the population that has a genetic immunity to this plant oil.  If your pet runs through patches of poison ivy out in the woods and gets the oil on their hair or fur, you can still get the rash from petting them!

What Does Poison Ivy Look Like?

You have probably heard the adage, “leaves of three, let them be.”  That is good advice for the most part.  There are some other plants that has sets of three leaflets, but they also have other characteristics such as thorns that help you differentiate them from poison ivy. 

Young leaves are often light green but turn a glossy bright green as the season progresses.  It can be found as a small shrub, a ground-trailing vine and as a large climbing vine.  You can often find large vines climbing trees in wooded areas.  As the vines mature, red hair-like roots will grow along the whole length of the vine.  This is a useful identification tool.  Any part of this plant can cause the rash.  Even dormant or dead vines can contain the offensive oil so care must be taken year-round when working with this plant. 

How Do I Get Rid Of It?

Ultimately, avoiding contact with poison ivy is the best way to ensure you won’t develop a rash from this poisonous plant. Wearing long sleeves and long pants helps avoid your skin from contacting the plant. Make sure to wash your clothing to remove any oil after it has touched the plant.

Digging it out and burning it are two ways NOT to get rid of it.  Cutting the roots or any trailing leave stems that have rooted in the ground will just cause more growth in the long run.  Burning is dangerous on a couple fronts.  Primarily, you do not want to breathe in the smoke as it can cause the rash to develop in your respiratory system causing difficulty breathing. Seek medical advice if you’ve inhaled smoke from burning the poison ivy plant.  Secondly, the chance of starting a wildfire can’t be overlooked. 

Systemic chemical control is your best alternative to controlling this weed.  Large vines growing up trees should be severed and about one inch of vine removed between the sections so that they don’t grow back together.  This should be done 12 to 24 inches from the ground.  As the vine sprouts from the portion left on the tree you can treat those leaves and get the systemic chemicals down into the roots to kill them.  This may take two or three applications if the vines are large and well established. 

Organic treatments may burn off the tops but will not kill the roots.  The plant will continue to re-sprout if there are food reserves in the roots.  Repeated applications over a period of possibly years would be needed to remove poison ivy from an area.

If you have this weed in your landscape, contact your local lawn care company to see if they provide poison ivy control and get a quote. 

Get More Info From The Pros!

Looking for more information on poison ivy or just ready to let the professionals take over your lawn care needs? The Grassmaster Plus team is ready and willing to answer any questions you have and can provide you a free quote on your lawn care services for the season. Contact our local office today!