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Managing Weeds: Morning Glory Bindweed

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Morning glory bindweed eradication is possible.

Morning glory bindweed is a difficult weed to remove. But it is possible to control bindweed. And the best ways to get rid of bindweed is organically.  So if you’re looking for how to get rid of bindweed, we’ve got lots of helpful information. In fact, we’ve included what to do to get rid of bindweed. And we’ve added suggestions for what not to do to get rid of morning glory weeds.

And you may be able to eradicate bindweed. However, there are a lot of myths about ways to get rid of bindweed. And those will likely end up causing more harm than good for your garden. And they aren’t likely to get rid of your morning glory problem.

But we’re here to help you with methods to make managing bindweed a little easier and more successful. And we’ll also get into methods to avoid when trying to get rid of bindweed. Plus, there’s even a beneficial insect you might want to attract to help beat back your morning glory bindweed problem!

Morning glory bindweed can be managed with these steps...

Bindweed aka Morning Glory is known botanically as Convovulus arvensis. It is also called field bindweed.

Can I use boiling water to kill bindweed or other home remedies?

Unfortunately, boiling water won’t eradicate your bindweed. Moreover, most home remedies aren’t going to get rid of bindweed. More likely they will leave the bindweed behind. And they”ll probably damage your garden soil, flora and fauna instead.

  • When you use boiling water to kill bind weed, it will wilt top growth a bit, but it won’t kill the roots.
  • If you use salt to kill bindweed, salt won’t kill your morning glory problem. But, added salt and salt water will just add problems to your soil.
  • Vinegar may kill bindweed leaves and stems a bit, but it won’t destroy bindweed roots. so you’ll still have a morning glory weed problem.
  • And for goodness sakes, don’t use bleach to get rid of bindweed. That’s because bleach will do some nasty damage to the earth.

Can I smother bindweed with black plastic?

Covering bindweed with black plastic to smother it isn’t something we’d recommend. That’s because bindweed will just move underground, under the plastic to pop up somewhere else. Plus, the plastic will do damage to the earth below as well.

What about using herbicides to kill off field bindweed fast?

While we aren’t fans of using herbicides to get rid of weeds, we have tried some of the chemical techniques bantered around for bindweed. But, none of these got rid of morning glory bind weed:

  • Spraying it with herbicide in spring, summer or fall didn’t work.
  • And cutting the off the ends of the vine and soaking the tips in herbicide failed.
  • So we quit wasting time, energy and environmental integrity doing this.
  • And we returned to manual removal.

Understanding bindweed is a key to beating it.

Unfortunately, it’s going to take time and patience to beat back an infestation of unwanted field bindweed. But, going after it the right way, at the right time, can make all the difference. And, understanding how the plant grows seasonally helps unlock keys to eradicating this plant.

Morning glory bindweed is an herbaceous, perennial that hides from view in winter. This means its top growth dies back for winter (in the northern hemisphere).  And as it does this, it sends all of the nutrients from the top into the roots in fall. This keeps its roots fat, strong and growing underground in winter. And its roots spread deep, far, thick and wide. Then, right around the beginning of spring, it begins to send up shoots. And those shoots grow upward fast. Moreover they seek out anything they can climb and strangle with their twining stems. Meanwhile, the roots continue to travel underground. And as the roots travel, they send up more shoots. Plus as those stems reach sunlight, they further strengthen the roots.

Moreover, it only takes a tiny piece of root to grow a new plant. So if you break a piece of root, you’ll get a new morning glory bindweed shoot.

Unfortunately, birds spread its seeds. And that creates new plants too.

All of this enables morning glory bindweed to take over a garden bed fast.

And while there is a beneficial insect that eats morning glory bindweed, it doesn’t eat enough of it! But we’ll get into more about that morning glory bindweed eating bug in a bit.

Field indweed Roots

Remove all of the vine-like bindweed roots that travel horizontally under the soil.

So…what’s the best way to beat this powerful weed back?

  • The most important thing is to dig out all of the roots.
  • That’s because even a tiny bit of root left behind will sprout anew almost instantaneously.
  • So if you see a shoot coming up, don’t just rip the top off.
  • Instead dig down and find the source root and continue to follow it in the soil to pull as much as you can.
  • And use garden weeding tools such as pairing a garden fork and a hori-hori knife.
  • Lay what you pull onto a tarp or plastic sheet in the hot sun to cook it to death.
  • Then don’t put it in your compost.
  • Burn or trash whatever you pull.
  • And continue to watch your garden for new shoots.
  • That’s because they’ll probably emerge again soon.
  • Then you’ll need to repeat your hand removal work.
  • And whatever you do, don’t let it bloom and spread seeds.
  • Or you’ll have even more patches of morning glory bindweed to contend with.

And when is the best time to dig up bindweed?

  • The best time to dig up bindweed roots is usually late winter or early spring.
  • That’s because this is when soil is usually moist and easy to dig.
  • Plus this weed is either still dormant or it has begun to emerge just a bit for spring.
  • Too other herbaceous and deciduous plants are also likely still bare.
  • And that means it’s easy to spot the bindweed.
  • However if you want until late spring, it’ll be more difficult to work around other plants.
  • And if you postpone starting until summer, borders will be lush and soil may be drier.
  • However if you see it twining up any time of year, get after it fast.
  • Moreover come autumn, the plant will be withering to hide in earth for winter.
  • But if you mark your bindweed patch location in autumn, you may be able to dig up roots all winter.
  • That’s because the ground will be more bare again.
  • However if it is frozen, you may need to wait until spring.
Bindweed Root Pile

Don’t leave any Bindweed roots you pull in the garden or in your home compost!

What if bindweed roots are entangled in desirable plant roots?

  • In the blink of an eye, bindweed will climb your shrubs and trees.
  • And when it engulfs the tops of your favorite plants, carefully unwind the vine from its branches all the way to the ground.
  • Then dig out as much root as possible.
  • Moreover if bindweed roots are mixed in with the roots of perennials, you may need to dig up everything.
  • Then rinse soil thoroughly from the roots.
  • And hand remove all of the morning glory bindweed roots before you replant your perennials.
  • As well you not want to transplant any of those perennial divisions elsewhere.
  • That’s because it only takes a tiny bit of missed bindweed root to move the bindweed along with your divisions.
  • And if you have patch of land full of bindweed and you want to plant a garden into it, be sure to clear the bindweed before you plant.

When will my field bindweed finally be all gone?

Unfortunately, once you have an established bindweed patch, it’s unlikely you’ll ever be fully rid of it. This plant is a powerhouse. But, if you get after it early and often, managing isn’t impossible.

But, seriously, tell me more about this beneficial insect that eats bindweed

  • There is a golden tortoise beetle that feeds on morning glories.
  • And that includes bindweed.
  • But the damage it does is fairly insignificant.
  • However anything that puts a dent in bindweed is worth supporting.
  • So before you decide to apply pesticides to bindweed, remember, you may have a crop of overwintering golden tortoise beetles.
  • That’s because they like to spend winter in bindweed patches.
  • But it may be tough to know if you have these beetles in your garden.
  • That’s because their shiny golden form is fleeting.
  • And their larvae is illusive.
Golden Tortoise Beetle on Bind Weed

Golden Tortoise Beetle on morning glory bindweed

WSU Entomologist Sharon Collman spoke to me about the golden tortoise beetle…

The adult (golden tortoise beetles) show up in fall and overwinter so they are found again in spring.  When the eggs hatch, small “windows” appear in leaves where the larvae scrape away all but the upper epidermis of the leaf (adult eats clean holes in leaves).  The larvae look like a piece of soot on the leaf because they cover themselves with frass (bug poo) and hide beneath it.  When an adult dies, the structural integrity of the wings changes and they loose their liquid gold color and fade to orange.  Alas no earrings from these.

Need help managing other garden weeds?

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33 comments on “Managing Weeds: Morning Glory Bindweed

  1. Sarah on

    I have a pond /flower bed that is infested with MG, we pulled all summer sometimes getting out 6 ft roots.
    This spring I have gutted the area. Took out all the plants am keeping – sorting roots very carefully, bc MG roots were in all the roots of every plant.

    Now am sorting all the dirt to sift out roots. It’s a very hard process. There has to be tiny roots getting through sifting.

    1) Is sifting the dirt going to help enough? Is this a waste of time or the only hope? Under the cement and around that I plan to put weed killer, bc MG has gotten under cement.

    Do you have ideas? Thoughts to help me?


  2. Garden Mentors on

    Sarah, Good for you for being so diligent. Can’t promise that sifting and cleaning roots will be a perfect solution, but it’s your best bet. You could try planting your rescue plants into containers for a season or two before returning them to the garden. That might give you time to see if more bindweed will sprout from your transplants BEFORE you put them back into your garden beds. Good luck!

  3. Janice on

    Sarah, I have brick planters built into my patio that always get thick bindweed roots. We have put concrete in the bottom of the planters and then covered the inside of the planter with plasti-dip (coats the inside with plastic), filled the planter with potting soil, and then planted and watered as usual. In just one season, the bindweed roots infiltrated the planter. The potting soil was thick with roots. It had no problem growing thru the plastic-dip or concrete. We have tried sifting soil and found it’s hopeless. There’s just too many roots.

  4. Doris Goosney on

    I have field bindweed in my lawn. I read somewhere that if I cut off the stem at ground level, it would help control it (it will never be eliminated). This is a very tedious process and I have spend many hours doing this. Is this correct? Or is there anything else you can suggest. Obviously I can’t dig for the root in my lawn. (I live in southern Ontario, Canada)

  5. Garden Mentors on

    Doris, Thanks for your question. Unfortunately, without removing the root, you aren’t likely to manage it. Simply cutting the top growth is more likely to stimulate it to grow even more and spread under ground. If it’s in a lawn, perhaps just mow it consistently to keep it from getting sunlight. This might cause it to try to spread underground, but it may also starve the roots. But, again, removing roots is the best control method we’re aware of. Good luck!

  6. Chad Spaltro on

    I have bindweed (aka: morning glory) all over my pasture, garden, raspberry bushes, grape vines, lawn, heck… it’s even competing to take over the patch of space where the prickly lettuce has claimed and grown to about 5′ tall. In one season the bindweed just showed up in all of these areas where it wasn’t growing before… I blame the birds.
    In the garden I focused my efforts, I used a flat weeding tool that has a sharpened cutting edge on it. It’s used for slicing the tops off of new budding weeds. As soon as any weeds started to show their ugly heads (bind weed included) I sliced it off at the ground level. I visited my garden at day break every morning, sometimes I would walk it with this tool in the evening if it wasn’t too hot. I live in rural western Idaho. As long as I remained consistent, about right about beginning of July I noticed that the weeds stopped trying to grow, new varieties started in late summer, the bind weed simply slowed down to a snails pace and I only had to cut the tips a few times a week. This plant is extremely stuborn, I fought a similar battle with Nutsedge in my lawn when I lived in town. In persuit of a weed free lawn I just could not get ahead of this grassy weed. I pulled and pulled but it kept coming back. Then I learned that without using a specific herbacide continuous pulling of every new sprout consistently would eventually starve the ryzomes that were feeding the new sprouts. Eventually, the sprouts just stopped coming back and the root structure died off. I put down grass seed and grew a thick lawn to prevent the return of that nasty weed. Bindweed is spread by birds though, it’s kind of like a community effort, everyone needs to be actively controlling it so that the birds don’t eat the seeds and spread them all over for miles around.

  7. Robin on

    Mine came from a truckload of soil my husband bought for his garlic bed years ago. I have had the best success mowing the bindweed, seems to slow it. I have dug down a foot cleaning roots out, sifting everything but if dirt can fall through the sifter, so can the root bits. That I have learned the hard way. It almost seemed to make it happier. I have been battling it for years. I am at my wits end, I don’t grow vegetables anymore, I am getting rid of my raised beds. All other plants are going into pots, I may decommission my flowerbeds, and I will resort to just mowing. I have even found it growing up under my cedar siding on my house. I stand in my back yard in tears knowing that the only way I will be rid of it is to sell the house and move. Even hiring machinery to remove all growth in my yard and the top foot of soil won’t get rid of it. But that may be my be my only option. Or maybe goats, I wonder if goats will eat it?

  8. Garden Mentors on

    Robin, Sorry to hear about your bindweed woes. Did you know that mowing may be stimulating it to grow even more? Unfortunately, cutting off the top may be inviting the roots to spread out more and pop up more. And you asked about goats…our understanding is that goats will eat the top growth. However, if those roots remain, it may be just like mowing. While getting rid of the top grow so that the plant can’t photosynthesize can help knock it back, any green growth that manages to peek upward will start powering up those roots again. Good luck!

  9. Susan Brunovsky on

    If I use an herbicide on the plants while it is green and it kills the plant will it also kill the roots? Does it not absorb it into the plant and go down to the roots and kill them too?

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