Poison Ivy Organic Weed Control

Poison Ivy
Poison ivy
Poison ivy


Poison ivy grow as a deciduous shrub or vine. A resin that covers the leaves, stems, fruits, and roots is toxic and commonly causes severe, painful skin rashes.

Description and Life Cycle:

  • Grows as bushy shrub to 3 feet tall or climbing or creeping vine in shade.
  • Compound leaves bear three oval, pointed leaflets on long petioles; alternate on stem.
  • Leaves to 10 inches long; glossy or dull green hairy or smooth with even margins or slightly toothed or lobed margins.
  • Leaves reddish when young, become glossy dark green in summer; bright orange to scarlet in fall.
  • Resin on leaves causes severe contact dermatitis in most people.
  • Yellow-green flowers grow in panicles
  • Blooms late spring through mid-summer.
  • Fruit is dry, cream to yellow drupe or stone fruit.
  • Running roots extend to 12 feet from plant.
  • Seed commonly spread by birds that eat the fruits.
  • Prefers light, rich soil but will grow in dense clay and sand.
  • Grows in sun or shade.

Root System: Poison ivy has a very tenacious root system that spreads horizontally underground for several yards. Roots can send up new plants from nodes along root length. If any part of the root remains in the ground after weeding, the plant will likely grow back. Poison ivy also produces aerial roots that attach to trees, shrubs, and fences when it grows as a vine. These roots look like hairs growing from the vine.

Organic Controls:

  • Wear protective clothing.
  • Cut plant to base then dig out roots; all parts of plant must be removed.
  • Put all plant debris in a plastic bag and put in garbage.
  • Do not burn plant debris; some people are extremely allergic to poison ivy fumes.
  • If touched, wash immediately with half and half mixture of alcohol and water mixed with 5 percent chlorine; do not wash with oil-based soap, you will spread toxins.

Range: Throughout the United States east of the Cascade Range and Sierra Nevada and southern Canada.

Botanical Name: Taxicodendron radicans

Four Quick Ways to Control Weeds:

  1. Weed early. Control weeds in the first month after they germinate.
  2. Weed often. Hand weed every two weeks through the season.
  3. Weed by hand when the soil is wet (best to get roots).
  4. Use a hoe if the soil is dry. Decapitate weeds before they flower and drop seed.


Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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