You may copy and/or share this article for personal or non-profit use only. If you would like to order reprints for any other reason, please email us at


Poison Ivy is Everywhere
by Gretchen F. Coyle - posted 05/19/16

Ask any gardener what grows really well in your garden, and you may get an answer you don’t want to hear: POISON IVY. Unfortunately, it thrives in just about any environment.     

Poison ivy manages to grow anywhere – on islands, marshy areas, and forests. Sand, good soil, or among acidic pine needles, poison ivy grows. Worst of all it grows in sun or shade, climbing up, over and around most everything.     

Gardening books hardly ever mention poison ivy, not even as a warning to be aware when walking or weeding. No one wants to admit it is everywhere. Poison ivy popping up in a private garden is like, well, – mum’s the word.      

Poison ivy is contagious by touching leaves or stems, petting an animal in contact with it, and from smoke where brush with poison ivy in it is being burned. If I inadvertently pull some up, I go inside and wash my hands and arms thoroughly with Soft Scrub.

The above information just makes one itch. Many of us are highly allergic to poison ivy. Horrible itchy welts form with relief varying from Vitamin E and over the counter products to ammonia and ice cubes. If I get bad enough I call my doctor for a prescription of some sort. It is one that keeps me awake, yet does give some relief in two days.     

To add insult to itch a new study has come out stating that poison ivy is thriving with global warming and harmful emissions.      

Your mother was right when she told you, “Three leaves let it be.” Excellent advice.


A version of this article appeared in print in Florida Gardening Volume 20 Issue 2.
Photography courtesy of Gretchen F. Coyle.


Gretchen F. Coyle is a garden writer & likes to spend time gardening and enjoying nature.