Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is most often found in uncultivated areas---in woodlands, along stream banks or near fences---but it makes an occasional appearance in perennial beds and shrub borders. The best defense against poison ivy is to know how to identify it and to steer clear of it when walking through natural areas. If you have poison ivy on your property, there are chemicals that will eradicate it.
Poison ivy may grow as a woody, erect plant, a trailing shrub or a woody vine. The leaves form alternately on the stem with three leaflets. The leaf edges may be smooth or toothed and may vary in size, according to the University of Oklahoma Police Department. They often have a reddish-green hue when they emerge in early spring. The plant produces yellow, insignificant flowers in early to mid-summer, followed by whitish or whitish-gray berries. Vines may grow to 30 feet high and several inches in diameter and often have a fuzzy, rope-like appearance.
Glyphosate, triclopyr and amitrole are used to kill poison ivy. Glyphosate is sometimes labeled as "isopropylamine salt of glyphosate." Amitrol-T may be labeled as 3-Amino-1, 2, or 3-triazole. These chemicals are sold under various brand names and may be sold in combination with other chemicals, such as 2-4 D. In some areas these chemicals are restricted for use to licensed professionals.
All these chemicals are nonselective, meaning they will kill other plants they come in contact with. Some of them, including amitrol-T and triclopyr, remain in the soil for several weeks or even months and will kill newly planted vegetation. Even small amounts of the herbicide 2-4 D can kill plants. Wash all sprayers thoroughly after use to remove any trace of the chemical.
Gardeners should treat herbicides as toxic chemicals, following all package directions carefully. Spray poison ivy on warm, dry days when no rain is predicted. The poisonous oil remains active in poison ivy even after the plant is dead, so gardeners should wear protective clothing when removing it. Herbicides are most successful, according to Ohio State University Extension Service, when applied to new growth, early in the summer. Even with repeated applications, herbicides may not kill all poison ivy plants.
Non-Chemical Weed Killer
In addition to herbicides, gardeners may dig up poison ivy, preferably in spring when the soil is wet. Young, less established plants are easier to eradicate than older plants. Vines may attach themselves to trees and other shrubs, making removal very difficult. Continuously cutting back the plant to the ground may also eventually kill it. Gardeners should wear protective clothing and gloves and wash the clothing immediately after exposure to poison ivy. Rinse the washing machine an extra time after washing clothing to remove any traces of the oil that could recontaminate other clothing, according to Ohio State University.