Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 19, 2018

How to live with bindweed

By Deborah Roberts, guest writer | Jul 11, 2018
PHOTO SUBMITTED Deborah Roberts’s photo shows arrowhead-shaped leaves of the bindweed vine entwined around a rose bush, which is in seed.

NOTE: The Jefferson County Master Gardeners are providing a monthly column, named “Dear Iris,” for The Fairfield Ledger readers.

Readers’ questions can be sent to The Ledger at PO Box 110, Fairfield 52556, emailed to lifestyles@ffledger.com or dropped off at the office, 114 E. Broadway. Include your name and contact information in case the Master Gardeners need more information.

For information about the Jefferson County Master Gardeners, call the Jefferson County ISU Extension office at 472-4166.


I moved to Fairfield in 1984, into a house on Main Street next to Portia and Bruce Andre and their family. If you don’t know them, you should; they’ve fostered 100-plus children over the years. Saints. I knew very little about gardening. My house had only bushes, ugly is what I called them. Spiky is what they were. As a new mother, I only managed to find time to plant a singular row of annuals up the path to the front door. Plain and boring, yes. But simple. The weeding was easy, dandelions. Times have changed. It’s bindweed now, it’s feared and loathed by so many gardeners. Partially thanks to higher carbon dioxide levels, this invasive species is far more prominent than ever.

What should you do? Don’t pull it out. Never. Ever.

It flowers with a lovely bloom, and is often called Wild Morning Glory. For many gardeners, there’s nothing glorious about this plant. First comes the thin, fine vine, creeping around and around tall flowers. Leaves sprout later, shaped like arrowheads. It doesn’t mind that your roses have thorns, nor that your gangly cosmos hang delicately nearby. It will entwine all.

“Why can’t I pull it out like any other weed and kill it?” gardeners ask. Because: the root system is complicated. Its rhizome growth can reach 2.5 to 5 tons per acre. Yes, you read that correctly.

If you pull it out, the roots spread in all directions. Instead of one problem, you have countless. Your choices? Not many.

1) Pour boiling water on it.

2) Poison it.

3) Attack the problem at the root level.

The first method will kill it, true, but also kill the plant it is attached to. The second method will kill not just the bindweed, but also our environment. In the past, I’ve always used a “paint-on” poison. Mine contains triclopyr, a dangerous herbicide.

However, in researching for this editorial, I learned of the third method. It’s not as easy as the other two. But it’s also not as harmful. I’ll try it. Prune the vines back to 1 inch above the ground, whenever they appear. Watch the area and cut back when it appears again. This lets the plant slowly use up the energy reservoirs in its roots, and finally, die.

It will take time and kindness to attack the problem at the root level. It’s not as fast or as simple as the other methods. But, like the Andres fostering children, hopefully we can help foster positive change as well. Maybe I can help save the world while I save my garden.


Deborah Roberts has lived in Fairfield since February 1982 when her 2-month-old son and husband, now deceased moved here from Houston. Her second son was born in Fairfield in 1986. She has been on the Dorothy Bell Garden Tour three times at three different locations over a 17-year period. She is an avid gardener, always learning, and happy to share her knowledge with anyone. She gives away plants/seeds regularly.

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