Sumo Gardener

How To Get Rid Of Pokeweed Safely | Remove It For Good

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.

What is Pokeweed?


Identifying Pokeweed

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

  • Shovel
  • Rototiller
  • Spade
  • Garden hoe
  • Bow rake
  • Optional – Glyphosate herbicide
how to get rid of pokeweed


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.

how to kill pokeweed


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.

pokeweed control

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.

Loosen the soil with a rototiller


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!

Removing pokeweed roots safely and for good


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.

Read our guide of Ortho vs Roundup - Which is better?

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.

using herbicide to get rid of pokeweed


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.

Did you know plants can be a great way to help improve your home's curb appeal prior to putting it on the market? However, they do need a lot of care and maintenance.

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. 

safe pokeweed removal

About the Author Ann Katelyn

I'm Ann Katelyn, Creator and Chief Author of Sumo Gardener. Since I was a child I've always been fascinated with plants and gardens, and as an adult this has developed into my most loved hobby. I have dedicated most of my life to gardening and started Sumo Gardener as a way to express my knowledge about gardening with the hope of helping other people's gardens thrive.

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Leave a Comment:

pat m lawson says September 12, 2018

really wish I had gotten curious about this plant that started growing by my Cyclone fence this Summer. Now I have a 5′ invasive plant, that I will apply the Glyphosate to. But now it has started raining, so wont be able to get the root dried out. I will put on the Herbicide and see what happens. May have to wait until Spring to get the root out. Thank you for your good description and pictures.

Kelly says August 26, 2021

Thanks for the helpful info. Do the roots shoot out horizontally across the yard? I had quite a lot of pokeweed this year, snd in digging it out, I’m running I too so many roots! Are these long roots pokeweed roots or something else? Thank you for any guidance!

    Mabel Vasquez says August 31, 2021

    Hi Kelly,

    Thank you for your question! Pokeweed has a thick taproot like a carrot, so this is probably not pokeweed that you’re encountering. It is likely another type of weed or it could even be the roots of a nearby tree or shrub, as some plants can spread their root network exceptionally wide in the search for water or nutrients.

    To help prevent your pokeweed from coming back, we also recommend you use a pre-emergent weed killer in the early spring as the seeds are germinating. This won’t harm plants that are already growing, but it will help kill the plentiful seeds this invasive weed spreads!

    I hope that answers your question.

    Mabel Vasquez – Horticulturalist

Hannah says October 13, 2021

Well.. I sure have some hard work ahead of me I have been moving my garden from Kentucky to Iowa and noticed these poke berry plants all throughout the acre yard. At first I thought they were pretty and didn’t know what they were so I left them be thinking oh the winter will come and kill them off then I’ll clean up the flower bed areas for my new flowers. Bad idea! I have at least 8-10 fully developed plants producing seeds. Birds have been eating them and spreading it to the front of the house. I’ve done well to maintain and not allow growth up there but the back yard looks like a beautiful poke berry field. I’ll be digging and burning these bad boys all day tomorrow 😅

    Mabel Vasquez says October 15, 2021

    Hi Hannah,

    Thank you for your comment! I think all of us have had a moment in our gardening lives where the prettiness of a plant hides its problems! It might be a good idea to get a tiller to help get those stubborn tap roots out – and burning them is definitely the best option.

    To help prevent your pokeweed from coming back, we also recommend you use a pre-emergent weed killer again in the early spring as the seeds are germinating. This won’t harm plants that are already growing, but it will help kill the plentiful seeds this invasive weed and the birds that love them spread!

    I hope that answers your question.
    Mabel Vasquez

Barb says September 29, 2022

I’ve looked everywhere for how to safely clean tools used to cut or dig out Pokeweed. I used “Tecnu” to wash my hands (just in case.) I also added Tecnu with laundry detergent in case clothes came into contact. Perhaps I’m over thinking this, and hot water and soap will remove any exposure to tools. Just wondering.

    Mabel Vasquez says October 12, 2022

    Hi Barb,

    It sounds like you’ve got an excellent safety regime worked out for dealing with the Pokeweeds in your garden.

    I believe it’s always best to be overly cautious when dealing with toxic flora so I don’t think you’re overthinking anything at all.

    Apart from your already successful methods, I would consider maybe rather using rubbing alcohol to clean your tools after extraction. This will ensure nothing remains on your tools after use.

    Should you notice any signs of severe rashes forming on your skin at any point, wash the affected skin thoroughly with soap and water as soon as you can. Avoid scratching and apply a calamine lotion to help dry and heal the injured skin.

    Lastly, I would suggest using a new pair of protective gloves every so often to ensure nothing reaches your skin and the integrity of your gloves remains intact at all times.

    Other than that, your current system is pretty much perfect so I would continue following that.

    Wishing you all the success with the Pokeweeds.

    Happy gardening!

Jom says June 24, 2023

Here’s how I got rid of two seven foot pokeweed plants. I cut entire plants off. But left about about three inches of the stump sticking out of the ground. Now there is a natural hole in the middle of the stump. I poured Roundup down the hole. I’d let the solution sink down and then repeated the process several times. I would do this three times a week. Eventually the stump starts to dry out. But keep pouring Roundup down the stump. It seems to hollow out the root deeper each time and so killing it. I did this all summer. Eventually I used two bottles of R/up. So far they have not reappeared, but my neighbors still has his two annual jackweed beauties.I told him of this method but hasn’t started it yet.

    Ann says July 5, 2023

    Hey Jom,

    Nice work on removing your pokeweed, that sounds like a great strategy.

    Thanks for sharing.

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