The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

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Bindweeds got you in a bind?

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Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

As Architect Frank Lloyd Wright stated "a physician may bury his mistakes, but an architect can only plant a vine". Plenty of pretty vines exist to dress up arbors and trellises and even hide a few "mistakes" in our landscape. Clematis, climbing hydrangea and native honeysuckles come to mind. However, a few vines slip into our landscapes and become the mistake.

At first we may see one or two vines gently twining up a few garden flowers with little cause for alarm. Their presence elicits a mild curiosity as to their identity and we hesitate to decide their fate in our landscape. Our attention is drawn elsewhere (as often happens) to other flowery objects in the garden. Next year or even next week that mild curiosity develops into a frantic plea, "What is that and why has it engulfed my entire garden?!"

First rule with plants that "just show up" is get an accurate identification. Bring in a sample or send close-up pictures to your local UI Extension office. Check out this website for the one nearest you.

Bindweeds are common weedy vines that may "show up" in our landscapes. True to their name they bind tightly around shrubs, flowers, fences and slow moving dogs. Our two common bindweeds are perennial vines in the Morningglory family and spread by underground rhizomes and seed. This is a triple whammy of dissemination. Bindweeds are plants to learn to recognize and remove quickly.

Hedge bindweed, Calystegia sepium, twines around pretty much anything and anywhere. Hedge bindweed is native to eastern North America; however, now it twines around most of the US and into Europe and Asia. Yes, some of our native plants become weeds on other continents. Leaves can be 2-5 inches long, are alternate on the stem and distinctly arrowhead shaped. Leaf tips are pointed and leaf bases have large, long squared off lobes. True to its morningglory family hedge bindweed has white to pink funnel shaped flowers that appear May through September. Roots are often shallow (yeh) but can be 10 feet long (yuk).

Field bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis, is similar in appearance and growth to hedge bindweed. However, the arrowhead shaped leaves have a rounded tip instead of pointed tip as in hedge bindweed and leaves and flowers are smaller in field bindweed. Field bindweed is native to Europe and Asia and has expanded throughout much of the world into fields, pastures, lawns, gardens, roadsides and parking lots. Field bindweed is tough to control by pulling since the roots are cordlike and spread in all directions.

Control of viney weeds requires persistence. Pull vines before they become rampant. I know that is easier said than done. We generally don't wait by the garden and play "whack-a-mole" with every weed that dares to pop its head up. After a good rain pull as many plants and roots as possible to reduce spread and flowering. Remember early detection and persistence is key. Remember don't put bindweed in the compost pile and examine new loads of soil or mulch.

If the viney weeds are intertwined with perennial flowers, dig up the flowers, carefully remove the vine and its roots from the plant and soil mass and then replant. Irrigating the soil mass may help to reveal any vine roots before replanting. I never promised this would be easy.

Herbicides can be effective when used correctly. Always read and follow all label directions. Herbicides with improper usage can damage and even kill desirable plants. Post emergent herbicides such as 2,4-D and glyphosate are difficult to impossible to use on viney weeds without damaging the entwined desirable plant. However, if the desirable plant can be protected against herbicide spray with plastic or heavy cardboard during application until spray dries, then herbicides may be an option. Or you could just move to a new home.

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