Morning glory vine weed

Morning glory (Ipomoea lacunosa) is a flowering vine that is native to the eastern and southeastern United States. On the East Coast and in the South, it’s a well-loved and beautiful part of well-tended gardens.

#morningglories #blue #blueandwhite #thatcolor #thankyougod #latergram

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But on the West Coast, it’s an invasive, pesky weed. When I moved into my new house, the yard was infested with morning glories.

Why Wild Morning Glory Is A Problem

Morning glory can, like other vine plants, choke out and kill the plants that you actually want to cultivate. It also grows very quickly; the plant’s creepers will take over an entire corner of your garden in just a few days.

When I moved into my house, morning glories had spread from our shared driveway, where everything grows wild, into an area of about 500 square feet in my garden. They would probably have spread over my entire yard if we hadn’t intervened.

How To Get Rid Of Morning Glory

The only way to eradicate morning glory—apart from herbicides, which we never recommend—is to make sure that none of the vines remain in your garden. That means you have to pull up every last vine of the stuff because it will come back quickly.

Don’t be fooled by those delicate, innocent white flowers. Morning glory is incredibly invasive in the Pacific Northwest! 영철 이 / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Getting rid of morning glory is a long-term project. You’ll need to fight several battles to get rid of the vine. The good news is that you can keep up on your morning glory eradication when you’re doing other garden chores, like deadheading, watering or trimming.

Before you start pulling, take a thorough look around your garden. Morning glory loves any vertical structure, so look over every side of a fence, lattice or hedge. Inspect any area where you’ve seen the vines from top to bottom.

The Tools For Eradication

All you’ll need to get rid of the morning glories in your garden is your gloves and a trowel. You also might want to wear a shirt with sleeves, because you’ll be going deep into the brush to get rid of their vines.

To kill a morning glory plant, you have to pull out the full vine. Trimming the vine from a plant it’s started to attack won’t do the trick: It will grow back quickly. To pull the vine, you’ll need to follow the vine back to its root and pull it from there.

Thinned back my morning glories…loving how beautiful the ropes are! #morningglory #whatsthestorymorningglory #morninggloryvines

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The vines can get big. I’ve pulled morning glory vines that were more than 20 feet long. Be very gentle with the vine until you’re ready to pull the whole thing out; broken segments can quickly establish their own root systems.

Three Steps To Rid Your Garden Of Morning Glory

  1. When you find the root, gently disentangle the vine from the plant that it’s started to wind around.
  2. When you’ve successfully isolated the vine, let it rip. The broken vine will smell, oddly enough, like Pine Sol.
  3. Pull the whole thing out, and make sure that the whole root comes out with it. The vines can grow underground for a few feet, so make sure that you’ve dug to the original source of the plant.

And keep an eye on the area where you’ve pulled the morning glory vines. They will come back faster than you think: We pulled all the vines from the infested corner of our yard, only to have new vines start to bloom about a week later.

Morning glories in Salem. #minoubazaar #morningglories

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Morning glory is hardy and quick-growing, so eradicating it from your yard is a long-term project. It can be frustrating, but with persistence and vigilance, you’ll be able to easily get this pesky invader out of your yard.

The showy white or light pink, funnel-shaped flowers of the wild morning glory are abundant along roadsides right now. Maybe, like me, you think to yourself as you’re driving around or on a walk, “I’d like to find out what kind of wildflower or plant that is when I get home” and then later forget about it until you see them again. So, here to help you with at least one of those flowers, I will provide some information on this pretty native wildflower.

The scientific name is Calystegia sepium. This comes from the Greek kalu “cup” and stegos “a covering” for the genus name Calystegia and sepium means “of hedges” or “of fences”, because of its climbing tendencies. In addition to wild morning glory, the plant has some fun and interesting common names including old man’s cap, devil’s guts, bride’s gown, white witches’ hat, Rutland beauty, great bindweed and hedge bindweed. It is a member of the Convolvulaceae, the morning glory family.

This plant is easy to grow and becomes aggressive at times, covering other plant to the point of killing them. The vine of the wild morning glory twines around slender stems and objects in a counter-clockwise direction. Darwin described this plant and patiently (I’m guessing) observed that the plant made two revolutions around another stem (size unspecified) every 1 hour and 42 minutes. He even noted that completing the semi-circle moving away from the sun took 14 minutes longer than the semi-circle of growth moving toward the sun!

Wild morning glory vine growing over a shrubby plant. Note the distinctive shape of the leaves. J. Allen photo.

Some identifying characteristics: This herbaceous perennial vine grows up to about 3-10 feet in length and branches freely. It can form tangled masses on structures and other plants or just freely grow along the ground. Stems are reported as being either hairless or with hairs. Young vines may have a red tinge to them. Leaves are shaped like an arrowhead. They, like the stems, may or may not have hairs on both the upper and lower surfaces. The tips are pointed. The leaves are about 2-4” long. The base of the leaf is distinctly angular with lobes described as resembling dog’s ears in shape. Flowers are produced singly and have fused white to light pink petals, forming a funnel shape. Two large green bracts are present on the base of the flower, both in the bud stage and after the flower opens (visible at base of buds in the photo below). Individual flowers are only open for one day. Flowers are present in the northeast from mid-May through September. Two to four seeds are produced in a capsule. The dark brown seeds are shaped like little orange segments and can survive for up to 30 years.

Flower of the wild morning glory, Calystegia sepium.

This plant can be confused with other vines, especially field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis). Field bindweed has smaller leaves that have a more rounded tip and bases that are rounded or pointed, but not cut off squarely like the ‘dog ears’ of wild morning glory.

While this plant is attractive, it is aggressive enough to be designated a noxious weed in some states. It is not listed as noxious in Connecticut. If you have a problem with the vines and need advice on how to get rid of it, the best method is just hand pulling. This will require persistence because new plants can grow from the rhizomes which tend to be shallow but can reach 10 feet in length. And, as mentioned above, seed can survive for up to 30 years. A study (done in a greenhouse) reported in 1974 that wild morning glory had allelopathic tendencies, meaning that exudates from the roots inhibited the growth of other plants. This would help explain its ability to ‘take over’. Another, more labor intensive tactic that is reported to kill the vines is to unwind them and rewind around the stem or support in the opposite (clockwise) direction.

A number of insects visit the flowers for nectar and act as pollinators. These include long-tongued bees such as bumblebees, little carpenter bees, mallow bee, squash & gourd bee, and the morning glory bee. Day-flying sphinx moths may visit the flowers in the morning. One reference mentions Syrphid flies as well. It is thought that the flowers on the same vine are self infertile. In a study in Japan, it was found that all the pollen was gone by noon. The leaves are eaten by the caterpillar of the common plume moth (Emmelina monodictyla) and by several tortoise beetles. This plant is not favored by mammalian herbivores. The bobwhite and ring-necked pheasant eat the seeds some.

The stalks and shoots are reported to be edible and to have a sweet taste after being washed and steamed. They should not be eaten in large quantities because of a purgative effect. Wild morning glory has been used in traditional medicines as a diuretic. The seeds are toxic in large quantities and the roots are somewhat toxic to pigs but the pigs eat them anyway without having serious trouble.

Morning Glory Control: How To Kill Morning Glory Weeds

Morning glory weeds in the garden can be viewed as a nemesis due to the rapid spread and ability to take over garden areas. Alternately, you can release that tension and go Zen by admiring the twining vines and lovely soft flowers. Most gardeners want to know how to kill morning glory weeds, but if you have a big back forty or a wild spare lot, the morning glory vine is an excellent no-care plant that will persist and produce lovely spring and summer floral displays.

Morning glory weed control in the cultivated landscape, however, is essential to prevent the plant from taking over.

Morning Glory vs. Bindweeds

Morning glory belongs to a family of unique and tenacious plants called Ipomoea. It is very closely related to the Convolvulus, or bindweed plants, which are perennial. Morning glory vine is an annual but reseeds itself so successfully you really wouldn’t know it.

The bindweed plants grow from rhizomes, or underground storage structures that promote the spread of the weed. They are hardy and tenacious, opportunistic weeds that get into cracks and crevasses and are nearly impossible to remove. Many gardeners classify morning glory bindweeds as one type of plant. On the contrary, their separate taxonomy and growth patterns clearly identify the two as very different plants with similar


Morning Glory Vine Info

Another difference between morning glory and bindweed is the availability of the annual seeds and lack of access to bindweed seeds. Who would want to grow a weed that can visibly grow in a day, spreads over almost any surface and doesn’t die unless you apply chemicals?

Morning glory is more accommodating and the seeds are widely available in a host of colors. The slender stems grow rapidly and twist around each other for support. Flowers are funnel shaped, sometimes with a deeper or lighter throat. Garden supply centers carry the plant in pink, rose, purple, lavender, and white. The name morning glory vine stems from the flowers habit of opening in the first rays of morning light and closing when the full heat and sun of the day arrive.

Morning glory weeds in gardens are useful as ground covers, natural décor for fences and barriers, and beautifiers for that broken shed or barn that you still haven’t removed. Do be cautious where you plant this vine though, as it grows with an uncanny speed and can be very invasive and difficult to remove.

How to Kill Morning Glory

Many gardeners are confused and call morning glory bindweeds. While the plants are separate species, they do have similar stubborn growth habits and are difficult to eradicate just with pulling. Morning glory weed control is a multi-part task. Pre-emergent herbicides will not work on this plant and pulling is labor intensive and tends to just break the vine, which may even resprout.

Completely removing the plants can be a maddening, many years long task. The use of thick mulches or weed barrier fabric can help smother the seedlings in spring. Do not allow the vines to flower and set seed, which will prevent some of the sprouts the following spring.

Systemic and broad leaf herbicides have some effect, but you need to spray early in the season when the plants are young. Painting it on the leaves helps prevent drift and surrounding plant injury. You will need to be vigilant and monitor for new plants and treat them.

Controlling morning glory will take several seasons and persistent seeds in soil can sprout years later. Morning glory vine can be a glory in the garden, but it can also be a royal pain, so think once and twice before you install this rampant colorful vine.

Note: Chemical control should only be used as a last resort, as organic approaches are safer and much more environmentally friendly.

Are Morning Glories Pretty Plants? Or Invasive Weeds?

Q. Mike: I have very little area in which to garden. One plant I find to be trainable and easy to grow is the morning glory. I help the vines find their way onto fences out back and electrical poles out front. Some of my neighbors love them; others call them a “noxious weed”. If my vines aren’t growing over other living plants, are they ‘weeds’? Is the term “weed” purely objective, or is there a subjective view of what is and is not a weed? And should my neighbors be afraid? Am I helping to propagate something terrible; or am I growing a beautiful flowering vine that softens the view of concrete and asphalt? Thanks for your input.

    —Bruce in Center City Philadelphia

A. There are two famous ‘definition’ quotes in my business, Bruce: “A perennial is a plant that, had you not killed it, would have lived for many years” and “A weed is a wonderful plant growing in the wrong place.”

Let’s take running bamboo as an example. It’s a beautiful four season plant that produces incredibly useful wood, provides cover for wildlife and can be used to make great trellises, bean poles, arbors and other garden supports. (It’s also the strain of bamboo that’s the source of the edible treat known as bamboo shoots!) But its ‘running’ habit can overwhelm natural areas, lawns, gardens and even structures. In a dedicated area where it is restrained on all sides, it is a sensational plant. When placed where it can grow unchecked into wild areas or the property of others, it is the most noxious of weeds.

(Note: If you love the look of bamboo but don’t want to risk becoming a horticultural terrorist, check out the many varieties of clumping bamboo—equally beautiful, but eminently more well-behaved.)

Perhaps the most currently vilified ‘weed’ is garlic mustard. It secretes compounds that kill surrounding plants—including big honkin’ trees. It threatens a native butterfly by looking like its host plant, but is instead toxic. And deer won’t eat it, so they devour native plants while this monster spreads unchecked. But it is edible by us humans, with flavors of garlic, mustard and horse radish; it may have great potential as a medicinal plant; and it is reportedly not a problem in Europe or other areas where it’s considered Native. Weed here; useful plant there.

I personally grow a lot of plants that others call weeds. My family loves the sweet, flavorful, raspberry-like fruits of the escaped ornamental known as ‘wine berry’, and so I protect every brilliantly red cane that appears on our property. I anxiously await the thousands of sulfur-colored flowers that bloom up and down the dramatically tall spikes of mullein; bees and other beneficial insects love the small flowers as well—and always leave a few plants in place, even when they pop up in my raised beds. And wild violets are simply pretty plants whose edible flowers provide the otherwise hard-to-find nutrient rut in in its most natural form.

But all three of those plants drive others to herbicide and bad language.

And so, any morning glories that adorn your personal property are beautiful annual flowers that make great use of limited space by growing their vines faithfully up any support you provide. They even reduce summer time cooling costs when they’re trailed up a sunny wall, diverting a ton of heat without doing the structural damage that self-clinging vines like ivy can cause.

But any vines that escape to sprout up on the property of others are weeds to them. Morning glory vines that are not supported by strings, trellis or fencing flop around in an ugly tangle—or climb all over the plants your neighbors had HOPED to see. And if they successfully re-seed themselves, they can be a bear to eradicate.

In really warm climes, the morning glories that are annual plants here in the North become perennial, and can easily be considered noxious if not controlled. And even though true morning glories are annuals—that is, plants that die over winter and technically must be started a new every year—they can drop a lot of seed. Some winters—maybe most—those seeds won’t survive in areas with freezing temps. But when they DO, the number of vines that explode out of the ground in the Spring can be Biblical. It only happened to me once, but it took all summer to get the things under control, and I never planted morning glories again.

Your location favors seed survival because of the heat sink the city creates. And Center City Philly is an ancient neighborhood—it contains the two oldest continuously occupied blocks of row homes in the nation—and the houses tend to be jammed together, making it easy for a plant to get communal.

So stop growing them up power poles, where they can easily travel to drop their seed where it isn’t wanted (and maybe even make mischief with the odd transformer). Keep them close to home; don’t grow your vines up into areas that will allow them to wander off your property. If a vine starts to get frisky and tries to make a hard right into someone else’s backyard, pull it down ASAP.

And if you notice the vines returning some Spring without you having had to plant fresh seed, be vigilant! Look for stragglers outside your property, take personal responsibility for them, and pull them up or spray them with white vinegar or other non-chemical herbicide on a dry day. Because at your house they’re probably among the best flowers you can grow. Next door, they’re weeds.

Oh and one final note: There are white varieties of cultivated morning glory that are as annual in nature as their more familiar blue and purple flowered cousins. But if you didn’t PLANT white morning glories and white flowers appear on morning glory-like vines, destroy every last one: That’s bindweed, a noxious perennial that loves to strangle other plants. Here’s a to our previous Question of the Week on that persnickety plant.

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Tips on how to kill Morning Glory (field bindweed)

I have a very serious infestation of morning glory weed (the kind with the little white flowers) on the corner of my lot, and cannot seem to get rid of them with anything. We spray them with round-up and the leaves die back, but then they come up from the roots again! Can you tell me what else there is to kill them?

Answer from Zamzows Lawn Expert
You have one of the two hardest weed to get rid of that grow in the Treasure Valley. I have said for years if you have morning glory or Canada thistle the easiest way to get rid of it is to move. What you have to do is spot spray the morning glory once every two weeks until you kill the whole root system off. Morning glory will produce as much as 60 feet of root on one plant. All along this root is dormant growth buds. Once you kill the foliage and part of the root up pops one of the growth buds and you have to spray that plant. Just walk and spot spray the morning glory every two weeks for most of the summer. Do not let this weed go to seed as the seed can still germinate even after 50 years.

I would use Zamzows Ultra Broadleaf Weed Killer. Ultra is herbicide concentrate that kills 200+ broadleaf weeds and won’t kill your grass (if used as directed). You can see the fast-acting results in just 24 hours! This amazing product works even in cool weather climates! Many other competing broadleaf weed killers don’t. It is also rainproof in as little as three hours!

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