How To Get Rid Of Pokeweed: Do It Safely Either Organically Or With Herbicides

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How do you kill pokeweed? You can easily kill a young pokeweed plant with herbicide or by pulling it out of the ground. Established plants are more challenging due to their large taproots. You can dig these out of the ground or deplete their energy by repeatedly cutting their shoots down.

Pokeweed (aka poke salad, pokeberry, and inkberry) is a wild perennial that grows up to 10 feet tall and five feet wide. It has reddish-purple stems and large green leaves. 

Though pretty to some, it can spread rapidly and be difficult to remove. Additionally, all parts of the raw plant are toxic to humans, dogs, cats, and many other animals. Many birds, in contrast, can safely eat the round, black berries and excrete the seeds throughout your yard. 

In this article, I’ll explain how to get rid of pokeweed safely (either organically or with herbicides) so you can regain control over your yard. 

Contents

How To Get Rid Of Pokeweed Organically

Complete Guide: How To Get Rid Of Pokeweed – Pull Young Plants

You can remove first-year plants by hand. 

What You Will Need To Get Rid Of Pokeweed By Pulling Out Young Plants:

  • Gardening gloves/thick rubber gloves
  • A long-sleeved shirt
  • Pants 
  • Boots 
  • A rainy day 
  • A garbage bag

How To Get Rid Of Pokeweed By Pulling Out Young Plants

Wait Until After It Rains

Weeds are easier to pull out of wet soil. The easier it is to pull pokeweed, the less likely it is to regrow from a piece of root left in the ground.

Wear Protective Clothing

Some people experience rashes after touching pokeweed. But even if you don’t, WebMD warns against touching it with your bare hands, as its chemicals may pass through your skin to your blood. And according to Osu.edu, pokeweed can cause mutations and birth defects (although they might mean by consuming it). 

Get rid of pokeweed safely by putting on: 

  • A long-sleeved shirt
  • Pants
  • Boots
  • Gardening gloves and/or thick rubber gloves

Pull Up The Pokeweed

Grab the plant at its base and pull it upward.

Throw It Away

Discard the plant in a trash bag.

If you want to compost the plant, leave it on a soil-free surface until the taproot dries out. This will prevent it from regrowing in the compost.

Complete Guide: How To Get Rid Of Pokeweed By Cutting It Down Repeatedly

Thanks to their large taproots, established pokeweed plants are harder to eradicate than new ones. But if you keep cutting one down, its taproot will gradually run out of energy and die.

What You Will Need To Get Rid Of Pokeweed By Cutting It Down Repeatedly:

  • A lawnmower or pruning shears
  • Protective clothing from the first method 
  • A garbage bag (to discard any berries)

How To Get Rid Of Pokeweed By Cutting It Down Repeatedly

Wear Protective Clothing

Protect yourself with a long-sleeved shirt, pants, boots, and gloves.

Pick And Discard Any Berries

Pokeweed with berries
Image credit: pxfuel.com

Pokeweed propagates itself with the seeds contained in its berries. Prevent this by discarding any berries in a trash bag. 

Cut Down The Plant

Either snip the plant at its base with shears, or run over it with a lawnmower. Repeat this step until the plant stops growing back. 

Complete Guide: How To Get Rid Of Pokeweed By Digging Out The Taproot

For this method, carefully dig out the entire taproot. Otherwise, the plant may regenerate from a piece left in the soil. You’ll probably have a lot of digging to do, as established pokeweed plants may have taproots over 12-inches long and four inches thick.

What You Will Need To Get Rid Of Pokeweed By Digging Out The Taproot:

  • A shovel
  • Protective clothing from the first method
  • A facemask and safety goggles
  • A garbage bag
  • A rainy day (optional)
  • A soil screen
  • A wheelbarrow

How To Get Rid Of Pokeweed By Digging Out The Taproot

Wait Until After It Rains

If you have clay or otherwise hard soil, let the rain soften it up. This will make it easier to dig and lower the likelihood that you’ll accidentally leave a piece of the taproot in the soil.

Wear Protective Clothing, A Mask, And Safety Goggles

The mask and safety goggles will protect you from any flying dirt.

Discard Any Berries

Green berries on a branch
Image credit: commons.wikimedia.org

To permanently rid your yard of this plant, don’t let it reproduce!

Dig Out The Taproot

Using a shovel, dig a foot-wide (30 cm) circle around the plant. Dig the same length down until you can pry a dirt chunk out of the hole.

Separate The Dirt From The Taproot

Place the soil screen over the wheelbarrow. Thump the dirt chunk against it, separating the dirt from the taproot. You could also try gently rubbing the dirt against the soil screen if it’s being stubborn.

Refill The Hole

Return the loose dirt to the hole and pat it down.

Leave The Root Out To Dry

To prevent it from regrowing, leave the taproot on a soilless surface to dry out and die.

Throw It Out

Discard the taproot in a garbage bag. Compost it only if you’re sure it’s dead!

How To Get Rid Of Pokeweed With Herbicide

Complete Guide: How To Get Rid Of Pokeweed With Herbicide – Method 1

Herbicide works best on younger pokeweed plants, so apply it sooner rather than later. It also tends to work best when applied in late summer or early fall, when the plants start storing carbohydrates in their roots. Note that a single application may be inadequate. 

What You Will Need To Get Rid Of Pokeweed With Herbicide – Method 1:

  • Protective clothing mentioned in the first method, above
  • Safety goggles
  • A breathing mask
  • Glyphosate or Roundup

How To Get Rid Of Pokeweed With Herbicide – Method 1

Wear Protective Clothing, Safety Goggles, And A Breathing Mask

Commercial herbicides, such as glyphosate, may be carcinogenic or cause other health problems. Play it safe by covering up. 

Read The Instructions On The Bottle

Either follow them or (if they don’t contradict my instructions) continue to the next step.

Spray The Plant’s Leaves 

Berries on a bush
Image credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Apply glyphosate to the plant’s leaves. It will travel through the plant’s vascular system and hopefully kill its roots.

Complete Guide: How To Get Rid Of Pokeweed With Herbicide – Method 2

Herbicide may work more efficiently if you cut the plant down and apply it to the wound of the remaining stem, as it will travel a shorter distance to the taproot. 

What You’ll Need To Get Rid Of Pokeweed With Herbicide – Method 2:

How To Get Rid Of Pokeweed With Herbicide – Method 2:

Cover Up!

Wear protective clothing, a pair of safety goggles, gloves, and a breathing mask.

Cut Down The Plant

Use pruning shears or a lawnmower to cut down the plant.

Apply Herbicide To Its Wound

Apply herbicide to the wound of the remaining stem.

You Now Know How To Get Rid Of Pokeweed!

Like many wild plants, pokeweed has its charms. Though you could potentially keep it, there are less problematic sources of curb appeal

Now that you know how to get rid of pokeweed, you can protect your children and pets from its enticing berries and leaves. 

Did you enjoy this tutorial? If so, please share it! If you have anything to say, please post it in the comments. 

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