Bindweed winds around flowers, spreading by seed and runner

Backyard Q&A

August 11, 2002|By Dennis Bishop | Dennis Bishop,Special to the Sun

Q. While I was on vacation, a weedy vine engulfed many of my flowers. My neighbor calls it bindweed. How can I get rid of it without damaging my flowers?

A. Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis, is a perennial vine that looks and grows very much like morning glory. In fact, they are in the same family. If it gets established in beds, it will twine itself around your flowering plants and can be difficult to pull without damaging your flowers. It spreads not only by seed, but also by underground runners and is therefore difficult to control. The root system of an established plant can spread laterally for 20 to 30 feet, and overall can be several hundred feet in length. If you pull it, it will come back again from the roots.

As with other weeds, it is best removed as a young seedling. At that stage, you may be able to control it through repeated cultivation or hand pulling. Otherwise, a herbicide may be required for control, but be very careful. The herbicides that kill bindweed will also kill your flowers.

Q. My butterfly bush flowered beautifully this year, but it has gotten quite leggy and looks unkempt. Should I prune it to give it some shape?

A. Butterfly bush, Buddleia davidii, blooms on new wood and should be pruned in late winter or early spring. You can cut it back hard at that time, and it will produce new flowers by midsummer. Many gardeners cut their butterfly bushes in this way every year. This keeps the plants smaller and prevents them from becoming leggy. If you want a taller plant, you could allow it to grow for several years and remove only the largest branches. This should also be done in late winter or early spring. If you try to shape your plant during the summer, you will remove flower buds.

Checklist

1. Before spraying herbicides, be sure to identify the weed you are trying to control. Check the herbicide label to be sure it will control that weed.

2. To protect the water supply during a drought, gardeners should water only when necessary. Water trees first to protect your long-term investment in them.

3. Some plants produce fewer flowers during hot, dry weather, but don't give up on them. If you continue to care for them, they will bloom heavily again when the weather cools.

Dennis Bishop is an urban horticulture educator for the Baltimore office of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Services. If you have a gardening or pest problem, you can call the Home and Garden Information Center hot line (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) at 800-342-2507. You can also e-mail questions, order publications and diagnose plant problems by visiting the Web site, www.hgic.umd.edu.

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