My Never-Ending Battle with Bindweed

By Mary Ellen Ellis | May 7, 2021
Image by jamesvancouver
by Mary Ellen Ellis
May 7, 2021

The first time I saw bindweed in my flower bed, I though it looked pretty. It’s a delicate vine with white trumpet-shaped flowers. They look a little like morning glory, but the flowers are smaller. Now, I can’t look at the thing without a sense of dread. This is the worst, most difficult weed I have ever faced, and the battle is not over. 

Is Bindweed Really That Bad? 

Just 19 noxious weeds are completely prohibited in Michigan, meaning you cannot sell or cultivate them. One of those is bindweed, also known as Convolvulus arvensis. Here’s what makes bindweed so insidious: 

  • It reproduces both from the roots and its seeds. 
  • Bindweed flowers and produces seed all summer long. 
  • The roots can grow as deep as 20 feet (6 m.) into the soil. 
  • The roots store energy to help the plant during meager times. 
  • Cut a root, and a new plant will arise from the pieces. 
  • Bindweed pushes easily through even thick layers of mulch. 

You can see just how tough it is to kill or manage this plant. Eradicating it completely from a bed is basically impossible. 

Bindweed in My Beds

I first saw bindweed as it wrapped its pretty little fines around my day lilies. I thought it was pretty but misplaced, so I pulled it out. I thought I was done. Little did I know this plant would keep haunting that bed for years to come. 

Every year, I pull up bindweed and it keeps coming back, within days. I’m not normally a neat freak about weeds. I don’t need a pristine flower bed or yard. But bindweed is truly insidious. Pulling it becomes a summer-long project. 

New Plan of Attack

One thing I rarely or never do is use herbicides. I just don’t like to poison the environment. I have heard that herbicides, while they can’t eradicate bindweed, do provide an easier way to manage it. 

I have a better plan, though, and if it doesn’t work, I’ll simply keep pulling it out day after day, year after year. I read online that dahlia roots secrete a substance toxic to bindweed. I have never grown dahlias but this season seems like a good time to start. 

Note: Any recommendations pertaining to the use of chemicals are for informational purposes only. Chemical control should only be used as a last resort, as organic approaches are safer and more environmentally friendly.

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  • Rach
    Comment added June 9, 2022Reply

    I have bindweed in my garden, and dahlias. The bindweed almost killed the dahlias by growing up and covering it from the sun completely! So I think that may be a myth about toxic roots.

    Funny, I also admired it until I realised how obnoxious it is!

    • Katy
      Comment added October 5, 2022Reply

      Have you found a way to keep the bindweed off your dahlias safely?

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