A somewhat deceptive weed, bindweed presents itself as a harmless vine with beautiful flowers sprouting from the soil…until it strangles your favorite plants! This lovely little garden assassin is a perennial vine with flowers that come in several colors and is a member of the morning glory family.
But is this common ground weed a friend or foe? Keep reading to see what bindweed is really doing in your gardens and flowerbeds.
How to Identify Bindweed
Bindweed is easy to identify by its trumpet-like flowers that are white, whitish pink with dark pink stripes, or even pinkish purple in color. These blooms are 1-1.5 inches long, smaller than those of its close relative, morning glory.
This perennial weed is a broad-leaved vining climbing variety that grows up to 6 ½ feet. Its vines grow around the stems of other plants counterclockwise, tangling anything in their path.
Typically found in front lawns, garden beds, flower gardens, and even the cracks of broken asphalt, bindweed is a hardy weed that prefers alkaline soils and is extremely difficult to eliminate.
Brief History of Bindweed
Bindweed was first noticed in Virginia in 1739. It is believed to have arrived via contaminated farming seed, likely grain seeds.
Because of the constant moving and settling of the early immigrants, these seeds were transported and planted all over the United States, causing them to be widespread today.
How Bindweed Became an Issue
In 1877 Ukrainian settlers accidentally brought more bindweed in wheat seeds that were planted and farmed. By the 1880s, there was what they called the bindweed plague.
During this time, most of the states had been infested with the weed, which caused farmers many headaches and resulted in them salting the soil in various ratios before planting crops.
Other Names for Bindweed
If bindweed doesn’t ring a bell for you, it may be because it has a few other names it goes by. The most common names are creeping Jenny, field morning glory, and devil’s guts.
Why Bindweed is Considered a Weed
Bindweed is considered a weed because it wraps around all other plants near it, eventually strangling them with its long vines. Growth is fast, which means there’s little time to free the plant bindweed has attached itself to.
Although the flowers are attractive, once bindweed gets into other plants, it’s challenging to eliminate.
How Does it Spread?
This weed spreads in multiple ways: roots, rhizomes (deepest part of the root system), stem fragments, and seeds. Once the seeds penetrate the soil, they can be viable for decades.
Rhizomes are the reason bindweed can spread so rapidly. Even if you believe you have the whole plant uprooted, the smallest bit of these roots left in the soil can regrow in the blink of an eye.
Birds and smaller animals like chipmunks and squirrels eat the seed pods and stem fragments and spread them in their droppings.
Once bindweed starts to pop up, know that many more are lurking just below the surface.
How to Get Rid of Bindweed
Bindweed is known for being exceptionally difficult to get rid of, but here are some options for handling it.
The most effective way to rid of bindweed is with commercial herbicides. You’ll need to use herbicides containing a combination of glyphosate and dicamba. Be careful when using these as they are very powerful and can kill other plants in the surrounding areas that are being treated.
Try boiling water if you want to go an organic route and use a homemade weed killer that’s better for the environment (and your wallet). Pour it directly on the weed for the best results.
When you spot bindweed tangled up in your garden plants, it’s tempting to grab hold of the vines and pull. But resist that urge! Otherwise, you run the chance of stripping your plants of their leaves rather than getting rid of the bindweed itself.
What Happens if Bindweed is Left Alone?
So how harmful is bindweed? Can it just be left alone?
The answer is no!
The Nature Conservancy of Colorado conducted a study that shows bindweed can decrease biodiversity. It eventually overtook most plants in the area and became the dominant plant.
These weeds also have an efficient and extensive root system. Once an infestation of the weeds has taken place, they can also drain the soil of any moisture causing crops and other plants to wilt and die.
It can even weaken small shrubs and young trees in your landscaping if allowed to grow unchecked. In short, this weed can cause significant damage to vegetable gardens and other crops.
At the first signs of bindweed, take (prudent) action against it before it gets into your cultivated plants.
Are There Any Benefits to Bindweed?
Very few and they’re probably not worth having it around.
There are some studies where the flowers have been boiled into tea and have been shown to reduce fever and heal wounds.
But be cautious when using this plant medicinally, because the roots and flowers together can have a strong laxative effect on the GI tract!
Can you eat bindweed?
Bindweed won’t harm you or animals. The flowers on this plant are used in some medicinal teas as fever reducers. But the roots of the plant can have laxative properties if they’re ingested.
Will bindweed kill my plants?
Bindweed can and will kill plants when given the opportunity mostly for light competition. This is why even larger plants and shrubs can succumb to this vining plant. When you see this pesky weed in gardens or flower beds, take steps to get rid of it immediately.
Will bindweed harm my children or pets?
Bindweed has no topical toxicity and won’t harm humans or animals. If you see it growing where your children or pets play, there is no danger to them.
What does bindweed grow on?
This weed grows on anything that grows vertically! Once the vines sprout from the soil surface, they search until they find something to scale. Nearly all plants are at risk of being overrun by bindweed.
What season does bindweed start to grow?
This twining perennial weed starts to emerge from the ground mid-spring. It continues to grow throughout the growing season and blooms in late spring or early summer.
The Wrap-Up on Bindweed
Once these weeds start to sprout up, you’ll want to eliminate them ASAP. Bindweed can be very damaging to any plant it runs into. Be careful not to pull this weed as it can damage the plant it has wound up and will likely sprout back up before you know it.
Chemical weed killers are proven to be the most effective in eradicating these twining perennials, but that comes with its own list of pros and cons.
Even though this weed isn’t harmful to pets or humans, the same can’t be said for your landscaping, flower beds, and gardens.
Curious to know what other weeds may pop up in your yards this year? Read all about common weeds in your garden beds and how to identify and remove them easily.