Feb 5, 2011

The Weed of Death

Currently, I live in Westland, Michigan with my boyfriend of 4 years, Kenny. We are both renting a place right now, and let me tell you – the property has some of its own ‘planty’ surprises! During the growing season, we are faced with the horror that is…unspeakable! I’m so distraught by its fury I can’t even talk about it!

Ok, there. I took a deep breath. It’s a truly nasty surprise noticeable in the late spring and all summer long: False Bindweed, also known as the Morning Glory Vine or Hedge Bindweed. Its scientific name is Calystegia spp.

This demon is an invasive weed that winds around other plant stems clockwise …and kills them. Anything you have growing nearby that it decides to attack will die, if the weed is given free reign and enough time to perform its hideous murder!

…Bushes are fair game. Small tress and mature and trees alike are fair game. Watch out! If you notice Bindweed near any plants you want to keep—take action now—before it’s too late!!

About Morning Glory Vine

This weedy perennial vine will twine all over the garden, covering your ornamental plants to the point of smothering them. It is usually introduced by seed or invasive roots from under the neighbor's fence. Its success as a weed lies in its thick fleshy roots which travel long distances just under the soil surface. Since morning glory is a perennial weed, control lies in removing the root system. Hand weeding can remove large quantities of roots, but any broken pieces are capable of sprouting new growth. Repeated, persistent digging as the new growth sprouts can deplete the food reserves. If chemical control is required, cut back the growth and apply the material to leaves or stems in as localized a fashion as possible.

The Weed From Hell
One man’s fight with The Weed of Death is revealed below. Eventually he was able to win the battle, even when it seemed the odds were most certainly against him! But it didn’t come without a cost…Time, lots and lots of time!

Gardening is close to impossible when it gets this well established, as the massive root system of the plant goes about 15 foot deep and can throw out endless meters of plant growth all summer. I've seen it scale to the top of a 5 foot fence in just three days. Of all the weeds I've had in my garden, this one is the weed from Hell.

The main problem with bindweed is the massive deep root network, so if you kill that the result should be good. Glyphosate weed killers (like roundup) are taken in to the roots of weeds and kill them, so I tried them first and discovered that they didn't have lasting effects on such a large plant. The quantity absorbed by the foliage isn't enough to kill the main root system, it's just too big, and increasing the concentration of glyphosate would cause the foliage to die faster and quickly cut off the absorption. What you need is slow poisoning, that way the plant and it's vast roots will absorb as much glyphosate as possible before it becomes terminal.

I collected the long strands of bindweed and wrapped them up in balls that I placed inside old jars and tin cans. These I filled with a glyphosate based weed killer, but I mixed it with about 1/3 more water than the instructions suggested, then I covered them over with plastic which I taped down firmly to keep animals and rain out. Do be aware that if these are knocked over and spilt on to plants you want they will die, so it's advisable to keep them at a distance and partly bury them in the ground for stability.

It takes time, but I could clearly see the level in the containers reducing as the plant absorbed it. This seemed to work faster in the hot weather as the plant would be drawing more water, and also not removing the new bindweed shoots as they emerge since their growing is causing the plant to soak up more weed killer, and also these shoots will be your next place to attach another can of solution when the old ones die off. For the first couple of months I saw no effect, although the bindweed had sucked in several pints of weed killer, but then it started to slow down, and after a while I noticed the new growth was an unhealthy yellow color with holes in the misshapen leaves. About four months after starting this the main root system must have collapsed as the plant just withered away, even the bindweed across the road died (must have been one huge plant under the garden/road). It did continue to sprout the very occasional sickly yellow shoot, but a quick spray of weed killer dealt with them nicely.

In the end, it took roughly 2-3 years to kill the entire root system! Calystegia has a huge root system; the real trick is to get to it early or it can be very hard to control. Digging up the weed, the masses of root were as big around as my thigh and traveling the entire length of the home’s cement foundation!

Methods of Control
1. Dig what you can, treat any new growth sprouting immediately with Roundup. Be consistent, complete removal may take a year or two.

2. Fill a small container with roundup. Cut a small hole or slit in the top and stick one of the vines in the container (through the hole in the top). Place the container in an area where it won't get knocked over or disturbed. Watch and wait for the plant to die. You may need to do this several times to kill it all. The idea is to let the plant soak up lots and lots of roundup (far more than what it would soak up from the leaves.) It is VERY important that the container of RU be in a safe spot where kids and animals won't get into it or knock it over.

3. Also another method is to hand pull all old growth you can find, then apply roundup to any new growth. (Just by spraying or painting this time) Newer growth is far more susceptible to herbicides.


  1. I hate this weed!!! I don't like to use chemicals, so I'm going to put pots of vinegar out and soak the plant that come up around my flower bed in that and see. I can't kill the roots at they are in my perennial garden. I'm hoping to do some damage. Maybe if I am consistent for a few years! :)

  2. I have this weed in my garden here in England - the previous occupants grew it up the outside of the house! It was burtn off the outside of the house before I moved here and for the last 10-11 years I've been out every summer pulling it up, getting the roots up whenever possible. So far this summer I've only had to go out 3 or 4 times to pull it up so I think I'm finally getting on top of it. Last year I was out there every week - sometimes twice a week! Perseverance is the key, it can be conquered eventually.

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