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Here’s how to get rid of Poison Ivy in the yard – use this natural weed killer that really works!
All gardeners love to see plants blossoming and thriving. It brings us joy and makes us feel that the work has been worthwhile. However, there is one type of plant that most gardeners dread seeing in their yard – poison ivy!
Here’s how to identify it and how to get rid of Poison Ivy plants. I’ve got a recipe for home made Poison Ivy Killer below – and you probably already have the ingredients to whip up a batch!
This homemade weed killer can be used on every kind of weed. So if killing weeds is your goal, this recipe is for you.
Some weeds can be killed using hot water or even boiling water; just pour it on the weeds you want gone. However, poison ivy plants often manage to survive this method.
Hey! Did you touch Poison Ivy? Have a rash? Here’s how to soothe and heal Poison Ivy Rash
How to Identify a Poison Ivy Plant/Vine
Many people grew up learning the phrase “leaves of three, leave it be” as a way to identify poison ivy. However, it turns out that many plants (even harmless ones) also have three leaves.
So what’s a better way to properly identify poison ivy?
How to identify poison ivy leaves? Look for a three leaf pattern
Yes, poison ivy has three leaves. What is important is how they look and where they are. Poison ivy (with the exception of Virginia Creeper and Boxelder) has three leaflets that grow at the end of the stem.
There will be one main leaflet at the end and then two smaller leaflets beneath it on opposite sides of the stalk.
Does Poison Ivy climb?
Poison ivy loves to climb, so you can often find it climbing up tree trunks, fences, and walls.
How does Poison Ivy grow?
It’s NOT always a vine! Whereas other plants may grow in a very specific way, poison ivy is more versatile.
It can creep up a tree, bunch up as a shrub, sprout as a single plant, or even become a thick, green blanket on the ground.
Does Poison Ivy have Thorns?
It doesn’t have thorns but the vine is hairy or fuzzy along the stem. So, take a good look at the vine. If it’s thick and hairy, it might be poison ivy.
The leaves turn red in fall and dull after rain
Though the leaves are green early in the season, by fall, they will turn red. They may also lose their usual waxy sheen after it rains, becoming dull in appearance.
Does Poison Ivy have Berries?
Poison ivy will grow very small berries that look like tiny pumpkins. They can vary in color from white or yellowish to blue-black or dark red, depending on the variety.
Can Humans eat Ivy Berries? Are they Edible?
No, never eat the berries of a poison ivy vine! The small berries are poisonous to humans. If you have young children, this is another very good reason to get rid of any poison ivy plants in your yard.
Why You Should Get Rid of Poison Ivy
Now, you may wonder why so many people make a big fuss about poison ivy. Admittedly, although it is called poison ivy, not everyone is actually allergic to it.
Some people can touch poison ivy and not be affected at all. However, others can merely be near or brush up against the tiniest leaf and break out in a painful skin rash or blisters.
In extreme cases, a person may even go into anaphylactic shock!
In addition, they may even touch a pet who has rolled around in poison ivy and end up suffering an allergic reaction.
That’s why, even if you aren’t personally allergic to poison ivy, it is a good idea to get rid of it anyway – especially if you have friends, family, or neighbors who may be allergic.
Another reason you should get on top of things when you discover poison ivy is that the vines can grow out of control, climbing up and around trees, homes, and other structures to the point where it can actually cause structural damage.
While it takes time for this to happen, it’s better to just nip it in the bud as soon as possible.
So use this homemade poison ivy killer recipe and start getting rid of this weed in your yard today.
A few notes to consider before killing Poison Ivy
Before I give you this homemade poison ivy and weed killer recipe, here are a few things to keep in mind:
The poison ivy plants that are not too old (less than a year old) respond extremely well to this treatment. I highly recommend killing the poison ivy plant as soon as you see it growing.
Plants from older, more established roots will die but may come back a year later. You will have to spray the plants again.
Simply spray the new growth again with the natural weed killer. The roots will die of exhaustion because all of their energy will be wasted in putting out all that new growth for nothing.
Some really old roots are made of mutant zombie stuff, and may need a few more repeat doses.
Use straight vinegar (no water added) to make the spray more potent.
This recipe is not JUST for poison ivy. Since the combination basically kills and suffocates plants, it can get rid of many different plants growing in your garden – including weeds and plants you want to keep. It also kills off weed seed.
Make sure you ONLY spray it on plants you want to get rid of.
Let’s move on to the natural recipe for how to get rid of poison ivy plants.
How to Get Rid of Poison Ivy without Killing other Plants
Yeah, well there’s really only one way to get rid of the vines without killing any other plants. You cannot get any spray onto any plants you want to save.
This homemade poison ivy killer cannot discern between “bad” plants and “good” plants. One way around this is to use a small spray bottle and set the spray to a very fine setting. No misting!
How does vinegar kill poison ivy?
It’s the acid found in vinegar that kills the vines. Usually vinegar is around 5% acid – high enough to do the job!
How long does it take vinegar to kill poison ivy?
After spraying with the vinegar, it takes about 2 weeks for the poison ivy vines to die. You may find that you need to spray the vines several ties.
Because there are no chemicals involved, it takes longer and you may need to repeat spraying.
What kills poison ivy the fastest?
Chemicals such as Roundup will kill the vines the fastest. If you don’t mind spraying chemical sprays, it will do the job the quickest. However, not only is the following method chemical free, it will also be a lot cheaper.
Homemade Vinegar Poison Ivy and Weed Killer Recipe
3 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup table salt
1 tablespoon liquid detergent or soap (I use Dawn) for stick-to-itiveness.
- Mix vinegar and salt until the salt is completely dissolved. Stir in liquid dish soap, and pour into a spray bottle.
- Spray onto the green growing leaves of the plants.
- Wait a week, then repeat on any survivors. Best time to apply: during a dry spell.
(This recipe is an excerpt from Mrs. Tightwad’s Handbook #5 : QUICK SUBSTITUTES & EASY FORMULAS FOR OVER 100 CANT’-DO-WITHOUT ITEMS)
How to Dispose of Poison Ivy Safely
Before I let you get to it, I have a few safety tips on how to remove poison ivy and basic weed control.
Always use gloves
First of all, always use gloves when handling poison ivy. As I mentioned before, poison ivy can cause a range of allergic reactions, ranging from a skin irritation to anaphylactic shock.
To prevent this, please wear thick gloves when handling poison ivy. Not everyone is allergic, but even if YOU aren’t, you may touch the plant and then contaminate something that will be touched by someone who IS allergic.
Besides, its better not to test whether you’re allergic, right?
Wear protective clothing
In addition to wearing gloves, you should also wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
That way, you can protect the rest of your skin from coming into direct contact with the poison ivy plant.
Bag it Up and Throw it Away
Once the poison ivy plant has died, dig it up as completely as you can (being careful not to let it touch your skin. Try to get as much of the root up as possible so that it can’t grow back.
Place it in a plastic bag, close and tie off the bag, and then dispose of it in the trash.
Wash hands, gloves, and clothing thoroughly
Once you’ve sprayed the poison ivy, be sure to wash your hands, gloves, and clothing thoroughly so that you get rid of any of the oil that makes poison ivy poisonous.
You may need to use some of your spray to clean as the vinegar and degreaser in the detergent can help remove the oil.
Can You Burn Poison Ivy?
Many people burn plants to kill them, but you should NEVER burn a plant that you suspect is poison ivy.
What Happens if you burn Poison Ivy?
It may be tempting but again, never burn poison ivy plants or any plant you think might be a poison ivy vine. Burning can cause the oil that is in the poison ivy plant to take to the air and be inhaled into people’s lungs.
The Bottom Line: Getting rid of Poison Ivy is a task, but it can be done naturally with a little help from vinegar and salt!
Now that you know how to get rid of Poison Ivy plants, you can get started tackling these and other weeds in your garden. Let me know how it works for you in the comments below.
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Originally published 2011; updated February 2021