How to Remove Morning Glory From Your Garden
Looking to get rid of the morning glories that you planted last season? These beautiful flowering vines come with a price. They can expand rapidly, and take over just about any garden. In this article, gardening expert Madison Moulton walks through how to remove morning glory from your garden if you've decided it's time to go.
Just the word ‘weeds’ is bound to induce sighs and eye rolls in gardeners across the world. No one wants to encounter any type of unwelcome weeds and have to deal with their onslaught. But, if you do, it’s important to know how to deal with it.
When it comes to Morning Glory, the case can get quite complicated. These plants have stunning flowers that gardeners may want to keep, but it’s their growth habits and spread that make them dangerous to your other plants.
With knowledge that Morning Glory can be invasive, you may have and how you can control or prevent their spread, you can keep the other precious plants in your garden safe year-round.
About Morning Glory
There are many who regard weeds as simply a plant growing in the wrong place. With its pretty flowers, Morning Glory would probably fit the bill.
But there are also those who consider Morning Glories a noxious weed that should be removed. Legislation is not far behind, with chances of the plants being added to the USDA Federal Noxious Weed List high.
There are, however, many different plants that fall under the Convolvulaceae family, known as the Bindweed or Morning Glory family. With so much variety, it can be difficult to decide which of the plants are classified as weeds and which aren’t.
The Morning Glory Family
This giant family of about 60 genera and more than 1600 species include plants in many categories, covering just about every type of plant there is.
Apart from one aquatic plant – Ipomoea aquatica – these plants currently do not make the list of Noxious Weeds as set out by the USDA. A noxious weed, identified by the Plant Protection Act (Public Law 106-224) is any plant designated by federal, state or local government officials as injurious to public health, agriculture, recreation, wildlife or property.
Once a weed is classified as noxious, authorities can take actions to contain or destroy the weed. There are also Invasive Plant Bills in place for certain states in the USA. It’s important to check the status of any plant against state legislation before deciding to plant it. Not all states have these, but a good percentage do.
Invasive Morning Glory Plants
When it comes to invasive Morning Glory, these are some of the main species to look out for:
This perennial vine was introduced into North America via crop seed dating back to 1739. It originates from Europe and Asia. As an invasive species in the USA, it threatens plant crops and invades roadsides and grasslands along streams.
This is a deep-rooted plant that spreads across the ground until finds a structure it can climb. The roots spread widely vertically and horizontally underground to form dense mats. The vines reach up to 6 feet long and aggressively cover any structures, smothering any plants they come in contact with. Studies have shown that a dense infestation of this plant can reduce crop yields by 50 – 80%.
Convolvulus arvensis has arrowhead-shaped green leaves with white or light pink trumpet-shaped flowers appearing from July to August. It reproduces from seeds, roots, stems and rhizomes, making it one of the worst plants to eradicate once established. It can also grow in sun, shade and anything in-between and is drought tolerant.
Sharing the same invasive nature as Convolvulus arvensis, Hedge Bindweed has similar flowers and foliage in a larger form. The underground system of fibrous roots and rhizomes can extend up to 10 feet, making it difficult to remove. Plus, it has the ability to grow from any bit of root, stem or seed left behind.
Calystegia sepium produces allelopathic biochemicals that influence the growth, germination and reproduction of any other plants in its way, effectively killing them off. It has no known pest or disease issues, so no luck there for a solution to its rapid invasive growth.
It invades crops, pastures and streams, and areas along roadsides and railroads. So far, this plant occurs in 57% of all the counties of the USA, infesting hectares of land.
With this expansion of the plant, it is extremely difficult to get rid of using the usual manual or chemical methods. There are people lobbying for biological control, but this takes time and is not always effective.
Although not as invasive, these herbaceous annual climbing vines are nevertheless a problem and can eventually become a threat to the environment should they not be controlled.
Ipomoea purpurea originates from Central America and Mexico and has become naturalized in many tropical areas. It has heart-shaped leaves with large trumpet blue or white flowers in summer and into early fall. The vines can reach up to 10 feet tall.
This plant produces seeds triangular in shape that are also used as a psychedelic drug. This has resulted in some commercial growers coating any seed they sell with a toxic compound. As part of the sweet potato group, it’s also important to note that parts of the plant are toxic to humans and pets.
Ipomoea purpurea will grow more vigorously in warmer conditions, kept down in freezing conditions and high frost. But, it can come up again in the spring and summer year after year. It prefers rich organic soil but will grow just about anywhere and has adapted to poorer soils and disturbed areas.
It is considered a weed in agricultural areas and is a serious problem along watercourses and warm moist areas. This plant competes with native species for everything from space to water, nutrients and light.
This species of Morning Glory has been declared a noxious weed and invasive plant in over 15 countries. It spreads rapidly from stems and stolons and produces seeds dispersed by wind, insects and animals like birds.
The seeds germinate easily, giving the plant its ability to spread rapidly. It can completely cover other trees, shrubs and groundcovers, smothering them and taking any nutrients, water and light other plants need to survive.
Although not yet a huge problem in the USA, this plant is well on its way to becoming the next noxious weed in the Morning Glory category. It should be avoided, especially in the warmer regions of the country.
There is a silver lining to getting rid of this plant. A fungus-like plant pathogen that attacks it – called Albugo ipomoeae-pandurata or White Rust – causes leaf and stem lesions that will inhibit growth and control the spread of the plant.
Morning Glory Management & Control
When it comes to controlling your morning glory, you have some options. If you personally planted it, but have decided that it’s outlived it’s stay, there are ways to remove this plant. By far the easiest method, is prevention, though. Most people plant morning glory without knowing its invasive tendencies. Let’s take a look at each aspect of management and control.
The best form of controlling any of these weeds is prevention. Don’t buy any plants, seeds or take cuttings for the garden.
In fact, it’s best to check the invasive plant species list in your state before planting anything. Most nurseries will adhere to the law, but often the law needs to catch up with the habit of an invasive plant. Gardeners will also know which plants are invasive from experience.
The cost of controlling invasive plants on a large scale is immense, with factors such as terrain, the cost of labor, the number of weeds and the varieties of weeds present all having an influence on the cost. With prevention, that cost is eliminated.
The first thing to do when trying to control an invasive weed is to prevent it from seeding.
The best way is to pick off the flowers and in the summer, pick off any seed pods. Do this carefully to avoid spreading any seeds and put the pods in a plastic bag to throw away.
Do not put any discarded material from any part of this plant in the compost. Even hot active compost will not destroy the seeds.
Catch Them Early
Early detection and rapid response are required for any seedlings that may appear, and follow-up sessions are imperative to get on top of the problem.
Before any seedlings can establish, hand pull the plants and dig out the roots. Place all plant material in plastic bags to break down or discard.
Vigilance will be necessary for several growing seasons before the invasion is under control. Remember that any part of the plant can regrow, and in some species, seeds can lie dormant for 20 years in the soil.
Manual or Mechanical Removal
Although a potential solution, this method is not recommended. It is very difficult to dig up every bit of root and rhizome from the mass of root systems these plants have without leaving any behind. Any left behind will simply regrow, causing the same problem the next season. You can pull out the seedlings as they grow, but this requires several years of work and vigilance before the problem is completely gone.
You can try covering the vines with thick mulch, black plastic or plastic fiber mats to smother them. But there are some problems with this way of trying to eradicate the plants too.
Firstly, they are tenacious plants that can escape around the sides or through holes in the covering. They can grow with very little light and are adept at sending out underground roots to a more advantageous place. Secondly, whatever covering you choose needs to be in place for a long time (even several years) and any escaping vines dealt with timeously.
Systemic herbicides are the recommended way to eradicate these plants for good. This type of herbicide moves through the vascular systems of the plants and kills off the entire plant – including the roots and rhizomes.
Make sure the product you choose is for use specifically on Morning Glory and follow the manufacturer’s instructions exactly to get the best results. Doubling the dose will not make it die faster and it will probably not work as it should. Also use the manufacturer’s instructions on any follow-up spraying that needs to be done and follow it to the letter.
Some herbicides can be painted on or bushed onto leaves which stops the poison from coming in contact with any other nearby plants. Remember not to spray on a windy day which will carry unwanted herbicide to other plants and kill them off too.
If you need to use ‘non-selective’ herbicides, make sure to target the plants only. Some selective broadleaf herbicides will work on Morning Glories.
The plant can also be cut down and a suitable herbicide painted on the cut stem to kill it off. Remember to pack all the plant material into garbage bags and discard them rather than putting them anywhere near your compost heap.
Follow all the safety requirements before using any chemical control and if in doubt, call in an expert.
As pretty as they are, these Morning Glory weeds do not provide any benefit to your garden and will be more than destructive to the surrounding plants. Rather make better plant choices than have a problem for decades that’s difficult to overcome.