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Poison ivy is a noxious weed that can quickly spread in shady and unmaintained areas of the landscape.
Poison ivy can grow as a groundcover, as a vine up the trunks of trees, and even as a bush in some cases. It will always have its characteristic “leaves of three” no matter what form the plant takes. The leaves also have some red coloration where the three leaflets come together, and many of the leaves will turn bright red in the fall, revealing their presence. The berries are eaten by birds which then spread the seeds. Poison ivy is very irritating to people who are allergic to it. All parts of the plant contain oils that stick to human skin and cause blisters and rashes. Some people do not have a sensitivity to poison ivy; however, sensitivity can develop later after heavy exposure so caution should always be taken when dealing with this weed.
When working in areas with poison ivy, always wear gloves and long sleeves and pants. Gardening gloves and tools should be washed afterward.
Tiny plants can be hand-pulled by putting a grocery bag over them, pulling them out, then tying off the bag and throwing it away. For larger stands, chemical controls may be the only option. These are most effective May through July. Poison ivy can be killed with glysophate products such as Hi-Yield’s “Killzall”. However, this product is non-selective and can kill desirable shrubs and perennials if over-sprayed. If the poison ivy is growing in grass, Bonide’s “Poison Oak and Ivy Killer” works well without harming the grass. For large vines, a stump killer is most practical. Cut the vines 6 inches from the ground and treat the fresh cut with the stump killer. Use extra caution not to spill or over-apply the product however since it can damage the tree as well. If the stump resprouts, treat the leaves with Killzall.