Field Bindweed is one of my favorite weeds. Yeah, I said it. It was introduced into the U.S in the early 1800s and has become a nuisance in gardens, lawns, alleys and empty lots around Chicago and across the country. The weed is tough to eradicate because it has a strong and extensive root system. In just one growing season this weed can take over a garden and begin to choke out cultivated plants.
Field Bindweed is sometimes called wild morning glory but it shouldn’t be mistaken with morning glories. It will quickly spread across a lawn, on plants, up fences and walls if nothing is done to impede the growth of this vine. Right now in my neighborhood bindweed is putting on a flower show and many gardeners are letting it grow grow unchecked. Part of this is probably due to ignorance and some of it is probably due to admiration of the flower.
The resemblance to the ornamental morning glory is what caused me let this vine grow up a fence one season. “Free flowers,” I thought to myself the day I noticed it blooming and helping cover the sins that is the area underneath the front stoop. By the next growing season it was smothering annual vines that I paid good money to grow from seeds and that was when I realized it had to be stopped. The bell-shaped flowers didn’t look so cute after that.
It took two years of keeping after it but I finally managed to remove this weed and I did it without the use of chemicals. There is no quick fix solution and even using chemicals requires multiple applications over a couple of years. Even then you’ll have to contend with the seeds & seedlings that will surface after you’ve killed off the original plant.
The trick to controlling bindweed is to starve the roots from nourishment while minimizing any disturbance of the roots. Laying down thick layers of mulch, newspaper or landscape fabric can kill the plant within three to four years. This technique is better for open spaces or in garden beds but not what you want to do if you find it growing in your lawn.
Resist the urge to pull it when you find it growing because the roots are brittle and the broken roots and rhizomes (underground stems) can send up more vines. When spotted growing in your lawn; gently lift up the vine and wind it up and trace it to the main stem and clip it off at the base. Removing the green parts (stem & leaves) of the vine will force the plant to draw upon energy kept in the roots and deplete carbohydrates reserves and eventually die. You’ll have to do this repeatedly and keep it at. Like with other lawn weeds growing your lawn a little taller than you may like it can help shade out bindweed.
The leaves of bindweed are small and narrow and can hide pretty well in the lawn and among your plants. You may not spot it until the tendrils have grown over taller plants and are swaying in the wind looking for the next thing to anchor itself too. Another characteristic of this vine that helps it hide, until it is almost too late, is that the flowers are open during the day and close in the evening. It has adapted to keeping the blooms open when pollinators are active which coincides with the times most home gardeners are at work. By the time you arrive home in the evening the flowers have closed and may be hard to spot. The tell-tale white or pink flowers are best spotted on sunny days around noon when they are open to pollinators.
If this weed is such a pest how can it be one of my favorites?
The flowers are great and they’re visited by long-tongued bees looking for nectar as do bumblebees and little carpenter bees.
This post got me wondering: Why do gardeners always give the cutest names to the most horrible plants?