How to Get Rid of Poison Oak in the Garden


Poison oak, native to North America, is commonly found growing wild in the western states: California, Oregon and Washington. It grows as a shrub or vine, and while it is lovely to look at, it is an unwelcome addition to the garden and a plant to avoid when hiking. Like its cousins, poison ivy and poison sumac (members of the genus Toxicodendro) it causes allergic contact dermatitis. Grazing sheep and goats is one way some manage poison oak, yet it wouldn't be a suitable solution for a garden as the critters aren't discriminating grazers.

Step 1

Find a person who has a degree of immunity to poison oak to assist in the removal. Some people are more susceptible to poison oak than others. If you don't have a high degree of immunity to the plant and you don't know someone who is, contact a local gardening center or local agricultural department for possible referrals.

Step 2

Dress in protective clothing, shoes and gloves. Completely cover the arms, legs, feet and hands.

Step 3

Dig up each plant, taking it with the root. If the soil is moist this will be easier because dry soil will cause the roots to break.

Step 4

Drape a plastic bag between you and the plant, avoid touching it even with your gardening gloves.

Step 5

Cut the base of the poison oak vine, if it is growing around a tree. Carefully unwind it from the tree, keeping the plastic bag between the vine and your gloves.

Step 6

Place the discarded plants in a large plastic bag without directly touching the plant with your gloves.

Step 7

Seal and mark the bag when you dispose of it to avoid someone opening the bag.

Step 8

Wash your clothing, shoes and gloves.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never burn poison oak; it creates a toxic fume. Those sensitive to poison oak should not assist in its removal.

Things You'll Need

  • Protective clothing, shoes and gloves
  • Plastic bags
  • Shovel
  • Garden sickle


  • University of California: Poison Oak
  • Oregon State University: Poison Oak
Keywords: remove poison oak, poison oak susceptibility, digging up poison oak

About this Author

Ann Johnson was the editor of a community magazine in Southern California for more than 10 years and was an active real estate agent, specializing in commercial and residential properties. She has a Bachelors of Art degree in communications from California State University of Fullerton. Today she is a freelance writer and photographer, and part owner of an Arizona real estate company.