How to Grow: Controlling Poison Ivy

Learn about poison ivy, including the best and safest ways to control it.

Listen to podcast:

For as long as I can remember, each summer I get some amount of poison ivy rash.

Leaf, Growth, Flora, Nature, Outdoors, Poison IvyPoison ivy is best identified by the “leaves of three, let them be,” rhyme. It grows as an aggressive ground cover and up trees. I once saw a whole tree enveloped in poison ivy vines. I stayed away! It’s best to avoid contact with leaves, stems and roots since the chemical urushiol can stay active for months on clothes, tools and machinery.

So how do you eliminate poison ivy from your yard? That can be tricky. It’s best to pull it out and not to string trim or burn it. First of all, even though 15% of the population may be immune to poison ivy, it’s never a sure thing. Wear rubber gloves, long sleeved shirt and pants and boots you can wash. For young plants, pull them out after a rain. They tend to have shallow roots. For older plants cut them to the ground and grub out the roots best you can. Bury removed plants in an unwanted area of your yard after they’re clearly dead. I usually don’t recommend chemical herbicides, but for tough to kill vines, cut the vine about 1 foot above the soil line, paint the stump with a poison ivy systemic herbicide and cover it with a small yogurt cup attached to the stump with duct tape. That will keep wildlife, pets and kids away from the poison.

After working around poison ivy, wash hands, tools and boots with cold water, then wash with soap. Washing your skin with soap and warm water first opens the pores to the urushiol chemical. Remember the oil can stay active for months. There’s nothing worse than getting poison ivy in winter from working on your mower.

From the Vermont Garden Journal on Vermont Public Radio.