What Is Bindweed?

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In the enchanting world of flora, there exists a plant that's as captivating as it is troublesome – Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis). Hailing from the charming landscapes of Europe, this perennial vine has ventured far and wide, spreading its roots to North America, Australia, and New Zealand. But don't be fooled by its delicate allure, for Bindweed is a notorious noxious weed, known by various monikers like perennial morning glory and creeping jenny.

What sets Bindweed apart from your typical garden greenery is its unruly nature. Beneath the surface, it hides a complicated root system that extends for miles, making it a nightmare to control. And if that weren't enough, its seeds can lie dormant in the soil for years. This relentless invader grows thick and fast, capable of suffocating your beloved plants and wreaking havoc on crop yields. Bindweed can also wreak havoc on your garden infrastructure, tangling itself in fences and climbing walls like a botanical troublemaker. Learning about the traits of this sneaky weed will better help you recognize and eradicate it before it's a real problem.

Identifying Bindweed

field bindweed with morning glory flowers

Fortunately, bindweed is a striking plant that stands out and makes it easy to identify. Here is what to look for when trying to identify bindweed:

  • Leaves: Bindweed leaves are heart-shaped and have smooth edges, typically 1-2 inches long and 1-1.5 inches wide.
  • Flowers: Bindweed flowers are white or pink and have a trumpet-shaped bloom, typically 1-2 inches in diameter.
  • Stems: Bindweed stems are slender and twining and can grow up to 20 feet long.
  • Roots: Bindweed roots are deep and extensive and can spread for long distances.

If you see any of these characteristics in your garden, it is essential to scrutinize the area to see if you have a bindweed infestation.

Here are some additional tips for identifying bindweed:

  • Look for bindweed in areas where other plants are struggling. Bindweed is a very aggressive plant that often outcompetes other plants for water and nutrients and will thrive in less-than-ideal conditions.
  • Check for bindweed in areas where there has been previous construction or disturbance. Bindweed seeds are known to spread by machinery and equipment.

Life Cycle Of Bindweed

Bindweed is a perennial weed that spreads from an extensive rootstock and seed. It is a tough weed to control, and it is considered one of the most invasive weeds in the world.

Seed Germination

Bindweed seeds have a hard seed coat that allows them to remain dormant in the soil for many years. Seeds can germinate in the spring or fall, but they require a period of cold dormancy to break the seed coat. Once the seed coat is weakened, the seed will germinate at temperatures of 41° to 104°F.

Seedling Growth

Bindweed seedlings grow quickly and can reach heights of up to 6 feet in a single season. The seedlings have twining stems that allow them to climb other plants or structures, such as fences or the sides of homes.

Vegetative Growth

Bindweed spreads primarily through its extensive root system. The roots are deep and can reach depths of up to 14 feet. The roots also produce rhizomes, or underground stems that can spread horizontally. A single bindweed plant can produce up to 600 feet of rhizomes in a single season.

Flowering & Fruiting

Bindweed plants typically begin to flower in late spring or early summer. The flowers are trumpet-shaped and white or pink. Each flower produces up to four seeds. Bindweed plants can continue to flower and produce fruit throughout the growing season.

Seed Dispersal

Bindweed seeds are dispersed by various means, including gravity, wind, water, and animals. Seeds can also be dispersed when soil is disturbed during cultivation or other activities.


Bindweed plants go dormant in the fall when the weather becomes cold. The roots and rhizomes remain alive underground and resume growth the following spring.

Bindweed is a tough weed to control because it can reproduce both sexually and vegetatively. It is also very tolerant of a wide range of environmental conditions. It is essential to use an integrated approach that includes multiple control methods to control bindweed.

Controlling & Managing Bindweed

Bindweed is a difficult weed to control, but there are several methods that can be used to reduce its population and prevent it from spreading.

Cultural Control Methods

Cultural control methods involve changing the environment to make it less favorable for bindweed growth. These methods include:

  • Planting competitive crops: Planting crops that are tall and fast-growing can help to shade out bindweed and prevent it from getting enough sunlight.
  • Mulching: Mulching around plants can help prevent bindweed seeds from germinating and can also make it more difficult for bindweed seedlings to emerge.
  • Hand-weeding: Hand-weeding is effective for controlling small infestations of bindweed. Remove the entire plant, including the roots, to prevent it from regrowing.

Mechanical Control Methods

Mechanical control methods involve physically removing bindweed plants from the soil. These methods include:

  • Mowing: Mowing bindweed plants regularly can help to weaken them and reduce their spread. However, it is important to note that mowing will not kill bindweed completely, as the roots will still be alive underground.
  • Tilling: Tilling the soil can help to disrupt the bindweed root system and prevent it from spreading. However, tilling can also break up the bindweed roots into smaller pieces, which can then spread and produce new plants.

Chemical Control Methods

Chemical control methods involve using herbicides to kill bindweed plants. Herbicides should be used as a last resort and only after other control methods have failed.

Two main types of herbicides can be used to control bindweed:

  • Contact herbicides: Contact herbicides kill the plant tissue they come into contact with. Contact herbicides are ineffective at killing bindweed roots, so they must be reapplied regularly.
  • Systemic herbicides: Systemic herbicides are absorbed by the plant and then travel throughout the plant to kill the roots. Systemic herbicides are more effective at killing bindweed than contact herbicides but can also be more harmful to other plants.

Integrated Control

The most effective way to control bindweed is to use an integrated approach that combines multiple control methods. For example, you could mow bindweed plants regularly to weaken them and then hand-weed any remaining plants. Alternatively, you could apply a systemic herbicide to bindweed plants in the autumn, and then mulch the area in the spring to prevent bindweed seeds from germinating.

It is important to note that controlling bindweed takes time and effort. There is no quick fix; you may need to use a combination of control methods for several years before you see results.

Bindweed might be pretty, but make no mistake that this pesky weed can make life difficult for you and any surrounding plants in your garden. Catching them early and stopping the spread is the best way to control these tough weeds and clear your garden of undesirable plants.