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How to Kill Poison Ivy & Poison Oak

By Barbara Biehler ; Updated September 21, 2017

Few plants have caused gardeners more misery than poison ivy and poison oak. Members of the Sumac family found in a wide area of North America, poison ivy and poison oak contain a chemical in their sap known as urushiol, which can cause an itchy rash, inflamed red skin and painful blisters after contact. Although poison ivy and poison oak can often be a challenge to kill, the plants can be adequately controlled with herbicides.

Dress defensively before approaching poison ivy or poison oak. Wear a long-sleeved shirt, a pair of long pants, garden gloves and boots to cover exposed skin to prevent direct skin contact with the harmful plants.

Trim poison ivy or poison oak to the ground with a pair of garden shears or loppers, and then carefully remove the foliage from the work area.

Spray plants with glyphosate — a non-selective herbicide commonly found in nurseries and home and garden centers. Take care not to drench the poison ivy or poison oak with the herbicide to avoid harming other desired plants in the landscape.

Reapply glyphosate in a week to 10 days if plants have not died completely. Poison ivy and poison oak are prolific growers that may require several applications of glyphosate to eradicate.


Things You Will Need

  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • Long pants
  • Garden gloves
  • Boots
  • Garden shears or loppers
  • Glyphosate


  • Poison ivy and poison oak can be identified by their three-leaflet growing pattern upon a single stalk or stem. Poison ivy leaflets are sharply pointed, while the leaflets of poison oak are more rounded.
  • Poison ivy and poison oak can either grow as a free-standing shrub 3 to 10 feet tall or as vines that wrap around trees and other shrubs.
  • Glyphosate can come concentrated in sealed containers or in ready-to-use premixed spray bottles, so it's important to thoroughly read the application instructions on the container before use.
  • Poison ivy and poison oak can be controlled by grubbing or hand-pulling if the plants are growing in areas with other tender ornamentals. Roots are more easily removed when the soil is wet. Take all necessary precautions before handling plants.


  • Never attempt to eradicate poison ivy or poison oak plants by burning. Burning plants can release poison chemicals in the air, causing breathing problems as well as severe allergic skin and eye reactions.
  • Tuck pant legs in boots to avoid accidental skin exposure when working with poison ivy or poison oak.

About the Author


Barbara Biehler is a freelance writer who has written articles for various websites, as well as online specialty courses for MyComputerBuddies.com. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Central Florida and over 15 years experience in business development, sales and marketing. An avid gardener, cook and voracious reader, Biehler resides with her family near Nashville, Tennessee.