I have a fair amount of poison ivy growing on one part of my fence. Now that spring is here, it's just barely started to grow again, and buds that will turn into the dreaded leaves have began to appear (note the slightly lighter colored growth along parts of the darker core of the plant):

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Can I go ahead and start spraying it with poison ivy killer now, or is it only really effective once the leaves have fully appeared first?

Or perhaps is it better to simply use poison ivy spray directly where the vine originates from the ground, meaning I can start now and do it repeatedly?

  • If you know that all of those vines are poison Ivy, why not cut them down and pull it off the fence while it's dormant?
    – JPhi1618
    Mar 30 '16 at 18:56
  • Is it safe to do that now before the leaves appear? Poison ivy kind of freaks me out, so I haven't attempted to cut it down yet.
    – Derek
    Mar 30 '16 at 19:02

Glyphosate pesticides (most notably, Roundup) are supoosed to be sprayed on the leaves; plants translocate the glyphosate into the root. However, I've found that poison ivy is realtively difficult to control with glyphosate pesticide. But, glyphosate is still the go-to solution as far as over-the-counter herbicides are concerned.

Generally speaking, the products specifically "designed" for poison ivy are just highly concentrated glyphosate (30%-50%). Those products usually instruct the user to cut the vine and apply the herbicide to the area of the cut stem (the lower half, with roots in the ground).

However, the best way to deal with a large poison ivy vine is to simply cut it off as close to dirt level as it is convenient to do, and then spray regular strength (2% glyphosate) herbicide on any newly emerging sprouts (on the leaves) in the surrounding area which will emerge over the next few weeks. Also, I have found that poison ivy is more susceptible to nonanoic acid (fatty acid) herbicides than many plants. But to be fair, nonanoic acid is a defoliant, not a root killer, and mixing too much nonanoic acid will cause the leaves to die before glyphosate can translocate; but if you only use a little (about 2 oz per gallon), then it will help the glyphosate penetrate the leaf and increase the efficacy of a typical 2% glyphosate solution.

Regarding the removal of poison ivy vines... the oil (urushiol) can remain viable for many years. So use caution and care when removing old vines, and do not burn them. Urushiol can volatilize and kill you if you breath it.


Tear off what's there in order to trace it back to its origination, pulling the vines up & out off of the surface & out of the grass. Removing what you can now is safest. Without leaves & actively pumping oil you'll be much more able to contain any oil to your gloves.

After that yes, wait for any remnants to sprout & produce leaves before spraying them. You can only kill poison ivy through its leaves. With your newly & dramatically shortened plant your herbicide will definitely kill it back entirely.

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