How To Get Rid of Poison Oak Plants

Photo of green leaves

Poison oak plants cause rashes if you accidentally touch any part of the plant. Rashes cause discomfort as well as possible medical complications. Most people are able to avoid this plant when they are growing in the wild. However, if they are growing on your property, you may need to remove it for your own safety and comfort.

Here are some guidelines to help you get rid of poison oak plants safely.

1. Identify the type of plant properly. Both poison oak and poison ivy grow up and around trees. Both plants have leaves that turn red in the fall and produce white berries. However, poison oak plants have leaves that are similarly shaped to oak leaves. Vine and shrub varieties are local to North America.

2. Use protective gear. To kill the plants, you will need to get close to them. You should keep yourself covered to prevent accidental contact. The basic clothing needed includes long-sleeved shirts, pants and gloves. Make sure to wear closed shoes instead of flip-flops.

3. Try manual removal. Removing the plants manually is best if the ground is not frozen. This allows you to have access to the roots to remove the entire thing. The process may be repeated in case new crops grow on the property.

  • Pulling out by the roots - To pull out the entire plant by the roots, you may need special vises, or you will have to seek assistance from other persons. Try digging the area around the plant carefully, to be able to get the entire root system. Some plants have extensive root networks underneath the ground. Even the root is poisonous, so make sure you are able to get as much of it as possible.
  • Smothering - Instead of directly pulling the plants, you may prevent it from getting air and sun so that it withers and dies. Cut back the plants so that only the mains stem and roots remain. Cover the area with any material so that it cannot access sunlight. Suggested materials to be used are cardboard, paper, carpeting, tarp or mulch. After the plant has died, you will still need to pull the roots. Although the plant is dead, the roots can still poison you, so be careful in handling it.
  • Disposal - The plant needs to be disposed of properly. You can seal it and dump it in the trash, as long as you are sure that it will not get access to new soil. Whatever you do, do not burn the plant. The fumes of a burning poison oak plant can have adverse health effects.

4. Use herbicides. Herbicides will make sure that the entire plant dries from the leaves to the roots. The most common brands used are Roundup (main chemical is glyphosate) and Ortho (active ingredient is triclopyr). The latter brand is ideal if the plant already has flowers. Roundup is effective even if the poison oak already bears fruit.

5. Try cutting and herbicide. If the plant is still growing, you can prevent it from flowering with this method. So that the plants can immediately soak the herbicide, you begin by cutting the plant down to stumps. Spray or paint the herbicide on the wound so that the chemicals seep into the plant.

6. Use sprays.

  • Prepare the sprayer that you will need to distribute the chemical.
  • Prepare the herbicide. There are instructions that state how much water should be added to the solution.
  • Pick the date. There should be minimal wind during spraying. There should also be no rain until the next day. Don't forget your gas mask to prevent fume inhalation.
  • Spray the plant. If it is growing on the ground or a wall, target the leaves and vines.

7. Try painting. This method is ideal if the plant is attached to a tree. To prevent damaging the healthy tree where the poison oak is climbing, paint the leaves with the herbicide.


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