How To Get Rid Of Pokeweeds And Make Your Garden Thriving And Lush

One of the most dangerous things which can appear in your garden are probably weeds. Besides taking space, they will drain the soil of its nutrients, and that can lead to a bad harvest. But, some of those weeds decided to take their threat one step further. Some species can be dangerous, especially if left unattended. 

Thus, if you know how to get rid of pokeweeds, you might save someone from your surrounding who lacks knowledge about this plant. In this article, I will show you how to do so, to prevent someone poisoning, as well as to improve your garden.


What Is Pokeweed?

What is pokeweed

This plant, most commonly known as pokeweed or American pokeweed is not the newest Pokémon available. On the contrary, it has been present on the American ground for some time, and here are some general facts about it, in case that you are curious.

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    Its Latin name is Phytolacca americana
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    Native Americans had used it for making red paint
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    Pokeweed is perennial plant
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    It can grow up to 10 feet, but usually, it is tall from 4 to 6 feet
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    Very toxic plant can cause severe damage or even fatal outcome
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    Birds are unaffected by its toxin

As it is shown, this plant doesn’t have any useful appliance. It can be used as a decorative plant, but great precaution should be taken since it features very alluring and tempting looks.

How Pokeweed Spreads?

The birds and other non-mammal species are unaffected by the toxin of this plant, and because of that, pokeweed represents an excellent source of food for such animals. The seed which is contained inside the berry is ingested by the carrier and can be spread elsewhere, where it can stay dormant for forty years.

Of course, the seed is not the only way this plant spreads. Its roots can also sprout again, and this is why it is difficult to eradicate this weed. Even the smallest piece of root might lead to reappearing of the plant.

How To Recognize Pokeweed?

How to recognize pokeweed

The most distinctive feature of this weed are the berries, they are the size of the grape, and have dark purple or black color. Because of that, they are often confused with grapes by children and ingested. The other features include spear-shaped leaves and purple shade of stems and branches.

This makes things difficult since they can be confused with other plants when they are young, but once you see the leaves, you will recognize them elsewhere.

What To Do If Ingested?

What to do if ingested pokeweed

After one or two hours after eating any part of the plant, nausea and vomiting will appear. This is the most definite sign that the person is suffering from intoxicating with this plant, and the care of the doctor is vital. I have to stress out that in case you see a child eating the berries, go to the doctor immediately, since spasms and eventually death might appear, and this is why quick respond is vital.

Of course, if this weed affects the hay which is fed to cattle, it will also lead to a fatal outcome, which is one more reason to eradicate this weed from the areas where you grow grass for feeding cows and other domestic animals.

In the 18th and 19th century, there were recipes for preparing and eating pokeweed, and although this is possible, I’m firmly against it. The taste is similar to spinach, so you’re not missing anything special. Of course, these ways include boiling and changing the water several times, so even if everything is done by the book, poisoning is possible.

What Equipment Will Be Needed For Removing Pokeweed?


Depending on the stadium of the plant, you will need either some or none of the tools. In any case, keep a saw, spade, and shovel close at hand. There are also some procedures which can be done, but these will be covered separately.

To dispose of the plants and stems, you will need a trash bin or a bag. Since its toxic features, I don’t recommend using it for making manure tea, or to include it in your mixture for your compost tumbler.

When Should I Remove Pokeweed?

In general, there is no specific time of the year when you should remove pokeweed. Perhaps it is the best to do so before it bears berries since those can spread further. Of course, if you want to do so in spring, you can. As is said, it is up to you.

So, How Should I Remove It?

There are three situations in which you can want to remove pokeweed. There is one more, and I will cover it as well. But, let’s go one step at a time, shall we? In the beginning, take garden gloves, since this weed can cause rash and other allergic reactions, so don’t touch it, just to be sure.

Note that all of those methods listed here are mechanical. You can use chemical solutions, but I’m not overly fond of those.

Situation One – Sprout


Indeed, the easiest way to remove pokeweed is when the plant is in seedling phase. It is not yet firmly bound to the soil, so removing it might seem natural. However, things are a bit more complicated.

I have mentioned that the roots are versatile growers, and removing those is the ultimate goal. Since the plant is young and tender, to just pull it out of the ground will not be easy. It will snap, leaving the rest of the plant underground. Now, to avoid this, use the shovel.

Start by loosely digging around the plant, and pulling it out gently once the ground is loosened enough. In case that the stem snaps, dig out the whole part where the plant was. The best course of action is to leave the entire plant and the soil somewhere on concrete base, for several days to dry out completely.

Situation Two – Young Plant

Young plant

After some time of growing, pokeweed will develop into a bit stronger plant, with roots which are better developed. This is perhaps the best time to remove it, since it can be pulled out, without spreading.

Again, start by loosening the soil around the plant. This time, however, I recommend you to do so with a spade. It is much lighter and precise so that you will do a better job overall. After loosening the soil, grab the plant firmly right above the ground, and pull it out with the ground.

This time as well, the plant should be left to dry out in the sun so that it will die for sure. After this, you can throw it away.

Situation Three – Mature Plant

Mature plant

This is perhaps the trickiest situation of all three. As the plant matures, it develops woody outer layer on the outside, which is good since it won’t snap, but the trouble is that it will develop large leaves, so approaching it will be tricky.

Start with cutting off the berries of the plant, since this will prevent further spreading. Continue with cutting the stem about 7” above the ground. The length is optional; it is vital that you can use what is left to pull the roots out. 

Leave aside all the stems to dry, like it is done in previous cases. Again, loose the soil around the plant, but this time, you will have to cover more ground, since the roots are well-established and spread.

Throw the roots to the pile as well, so they will dry. As for disposing of plants, my preference is to fill a bag with them and throw them away. Burning can be prohibited by law, and other ways are not guaranteed to be as effective as this one.

An Important Note

All of these three situations are used when you want to remove the plants. However, there is one more procedure you should consider. After removing pokeweed, tilling is an excellent thing to do, since it will bring a lower layer of soil up, and this means that any root remains will dry out.

After tilling, it would be wise to lightly water the area where pokeweed was; it will help you to identify any remaining roots. For this purpose, I can recommend using an oscillating sprinkler, since those have several settings, and you can use the lightest one, just to change the color of the soil.

And The Fourth Situation?

There are people, (me included) who consider that pokeweed can be used as a decorating plant. With its lush and beautiful leaves, it will undoubtedly add more color to your garden. It is possible to use it for this purposes, but you will have to be extremely careful.

To control pokeweed spreading like wildfire, leave several plants you wish to use as a decoration, but keep a close eye on them. As soon as green berries appear, take gardening shears or scissors, and cut them off the plant. Throwing them away is the best course of action.

In this way, the pokeweed will be kept under control and will serve as a beautiful ornament in your garden. Again, every time you have visitors, please point out that the plant is toxic, and those with small children must take extra care.


So, this is the end (like in the song played by “The Doors”) of my guide. I surely hope that you won’t have any troubles with this plant since it can and will cause health issues if left unattended. But, since you know how to get rid of pokeweeds, this shouldn’t be much of a problem now.

As always, feel free to leave opinions, comments or advice in the comment section below.

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