If you suspect you’ve got poison ivy growing around your landscape, this toxic plant can be a real threat to your family.
If your children or guests come into contact with this nuisance, they can develop a nasty rash from the ivy’s resin or oils (Urushiol).
Identify poison ivy in your yard and get rid of it properly, with these helpful tips:
Poison Ivy Identification: Spotting the Plant in Your Yard
When it comes to spotting poison ivy in your backyard, here’s some ways to identify the plant:
- Leaves of three, let them be! Poison ivy always forms clusters of leaves in threes; the middle leaf most often has the longest stem.
- Measure the leaves. Mature ivy leaves are usually between two and four inches long.
- Rounded and notched leaves. Poison ivy leaves can have variances in shape, some boasting notched edges while others are rounded. The leaves, however, are never serrated. Check out these pictures from Boston.com for help identifying poison ivy leaves.
- Pointed leaf tips. While poison oak has a round, scalloped shape, poison ivy’s leaves always come to a sharp tip.
- Vine, ground cover or shrub. Poison ivy can form as a ground cover and even take the form of a shrub, or can climb up trees on a vine. If it’s in your backyard, it’s probably creeping up some bark and spreading out from the base of the tree as well.
- Don’t be fooled by the vine. While a mature poison ivy plant will often have a hairy brown vine, young ivy may not have had a chance to form any hairs yet.
- Color variance in spring and fall. Many people think poison ivy is always red and overlook the green leaves of the summer but it actually starts the season red, turns green as it matures and then just like your other leaves, ivy can turn red, yellow or orange during autumn. It’s still poisonous, even when a different color!
- Shiny or dull. While many think poison ivy leaves are always shiny, that’s not true. They can be reflective, and more often than not, they’re actually dull! This actually changes with the seasons, spring it’s shiny, summer dull, fall it takes on a shine again
- Don’t confuse ivy with oak or sumac. Check out the key differences between poison ivy, oak, and sumac here.
How to Get Rid of Poison Ivy in Your Yard, Safely
Once you’ve identified poison ivy, you might think it’s time to remove it. But this toxic plant can be a real pain to chop down!
Unless you’re thinking of purchasing a head-to-toe bodysuit to attack the plant, fighting with poison ivy is a bad idea! Trust us, as lawn care professionals, we’ve tried every trick in the book, including Tyvek suits. Spoiler alert: even with the suits, we were COVERED in rashes. We don’t recommend this approach.
We’ve tried plowing through the roots and vines with a rototiller— but clearing the remains from the blades is just as dangerous. Our crew almost always ended up with a rash somewhere, and if not properly washed, poison ivy’s toxic oils can remain active on boots or tools for up to a year.
Our advice: spray the sucker!
Grab that weed killer. Hit the whole plant with a chemical weed killer and apply generously on a hot day. Poison ivy is so hardy that spraying it on mild or cool days won’t kill it. The plant is respirating more on hot days and the uptake of the chemical is much greater. It is best to spray in the late spring/early summer because in the early spring the vine is living off stored nutrients in the roots so it won’t uptake the spray from the leaves.
Large vines growing up trees should be cut from the base. Spraying the vine only won’t kill it. DO NOT REMOVE THE VINES! We can’t stress this enough! The urushiol that causes the rash needs to dry out before removing the vine or you will still get poison. This process of drying out can take a year or more. You read that right! It will be more than a year before you can safely remove those vines.
Don’t be discouraged if it comes back. Poison ivy can be a real pain, and underground root systems are resilient. It might need a few sprays to get rid of it completely! We recommend an initial heavy treatment then a follow-up spray about three to four weeks later. For really bad infestations, eradication can take up to two years before you even start spot spraying!
Let the Professionals Eradicate the Poison Ivy
Poison ivy’s toxins can spread very easily, and once on your skin for more than an hour, your chances of developing a rash are extremely high.
Put away the calamine lotion and leave the poison ivy eradication to the experts. Our lawn care professionals can effectively kill the plant with a special spray chemical mix, which we’ve perfected after many years of spraying.