Pokeweed is one of the hardest weeds to control or kill. They are a nuisance to gardeners everywhere. Pokewood, or Phytolacca Americana, is a perennial herb that grows in U.S. plant hardiness zones 2 through 11.
Many gardeners want to learn how to get rid of pokeweed, only to realize that it is a never ending process!
Birds help to propagate new plants by dropping seeds after eating them. Also, seeds fall off the plant. One pokeweed plant can produce 50,000 seeds in a lifetime.
Each seed can last for 40 years. These are some of the reasons why the pokeweed invasion is so hard to control! Pokeweed and cockroaches could both survive the apocalypse.
What is Pokeweed?
You can find pokeweed almost anywhere in the United States. It is a native plant that grows in disturbed soils like fields and pastures.
However, you can find them almost anywhere. Unfortunately, pokeweed is hazardous to livestock. All parts of the pokeweed plant are considered toxic.
Identifying pokeweed is quite easy, and you will likely see it each year. It has a red, woody stem with oval leaves. These leaves can reach up to ten inches long!
July to September, the pokeweed has green flowers and has grape-like clusters of berries. The plant is quite deceiving; the berries look edible but don’t dare try them! They can lead to some unpleasant reactions.
One of the reasons you need to get rid of pokeweed is that children could try to ingest the berries. They look delicious, and children are naturally curious.
Typically, eating a berry or two won’t kill you. It is full of toxic compounds, dangerous for children. While the roots are the most toxic choice, every part of the plant has some toxicity.
Things You Will Need to Get Rid of Pokeweed
- Garden hoe
- Bow rake
- Optional – Glyphosate herbicide
How to Get Rid of Pokeweed
There are a few methods for getting rid of pokeweed. Most people use a combination of these methods when they learn how to get rid of pokeweed..
Unfortunately, you will always have to keep up with the process of removal and always keep an eye on the inflicted area.
1. Remove small, new shoots by hand
Don’t just pull on the top of the plant. You have to firmly grab the plant at the base and pull straight up. When you do this, think about harvesting a carrot.
If you do it correctly, a thick taproot with a thin root will emerge from the soil. This method works best in light soil; clay soil compacts easily, making it harder to remove the roots.
2. Manual removal of larger pokeweed plants
For larger plants, pulling it up by base won’t work as well. Manual removal requires you to dig deeply to get out of the taproot.
You will want to dig a circle around the base of each plant. The hole should be 12 inches in diameter and depth. Using a spade will make this job much easier.
3. Use your tools to get the plant loose
Pokeweeds don’t want to come out of their comfortable home in the soil. Don’t expect to remove the plant without some muscle work.
One of the best methods to remove the shrub once you dig the hole is to use your spade to pry it loose from the group. You want to get the entire root from the hole. Otherwise, it will grow back too quickly.
4. Loosen the soil with a rototiller
Once you have manually removed all of the pokeweed plants in the desired area, you need to get all of the loose root pieces. The last thing you want, after all of this hard work, is for the plants to grow back.
A rototiller can churn up the soil to a depth of 12 inches. Then, use a rake to go through the turned up soil, looking for root pieces.
5. Sun the pokeweed to kill them off
If you just throw the pokeweeds over to the side, you will likely find a regrowth in that area. You want to get rid of them totally!
Place the pokeweed plants on an area away from the soil, such as on a tarp or a work surface. They need to be left in the sun to dry out and die.
Once they are thoroughly dried and dead, you can put them into a compost bin or a waste bin. Never put them in your compost bin before they are fully dried!
6. Frequent maintenance removal is crucial
You will have to continue this process. It is important for you to pay attention to the area. If you notice new shoots or plants emerging from the ground, pull them up as fast as possible.
Seeds have a long viability span. There is a good chance they will eventually reemerge.
7. Use glyphosate herbicide for persistent problems
Sometimes, you have to resort to an herbicide to entirely get rid of the pokeweeds. Take the top of the shoots and put them into a bottle with two or three percent glyphosate herbicide.
This method helps the stem suck up the chemicals, taking it directly to the roots. You will find this approach is useful for persistent problems that seem to have no end.
You need to keep the top of the shoot into the solution for two days. Or, you can apply it to the leaves of the plants. Then, you have to pull or dig up the plant after ten days.
Victims of pokeweed find that they must continue this process every year. Thankfully, the patch will eventually get smaller with dedication and a lot of digging.
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It is important to remove all of the new shoots you find. You have to get the entire root out of the ground, or they will return. For the larger plants, you need to dig a large hole around the plant and pry the plant out of the soil.
Remember always to dry out the plants before disposing of them! These vicious plants are hard to eradicate, but you will be victorious eventually and you will be rid of your pokeweed for good.
How do you clean garden tools after digging pokeweed?
After digging out pokeweed, it’s well worth cleaning your tools. Until the sap has dried off it can still transfer to clothes and shoes and cause severe skin irritation.
Clean your shoes before you enter the house, to protect pets who may ingest the sap from the soles, and wash any clothes that came into contact with the sap.
Tools can be cleaned straight away or washed down with soapy water once dry, which can reduce the chance of irritation and the sap loses potency once dry.
And always remember to dig out every last root. Over time, the soil will lose any trace of pokeweed sap, but only if the roots have been fully removed.
Now You Know How to Get Rid of Pokeweed in Your Garden
If you know any tips that we missed please add them in the comments below. We hope that you now know how to get rid of pokeweed safely for good at home.