How to Get Rid of Invasive Plants

Large stand of Japanese knotweed canes.

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What is the best way to get rid of invasive plants? That is the $64,000 question, isn't it? Whether you invited in the invaders that have taken over the garden or they appeared on their own, removal is usually time-consuming and can be difficult.

Choosing the "best way" to get rid of invasive flowers, vines, or plants depends on their location, proximity to plants you wish to keep, and your preferences about using chemicals. Do you prefer to stay organic? Then the best way for you to get rid of invasive plants will probably entail more work than it would for those willing to use chemical herbicides.

For many people, remaining true to their organic landscaping principles is more important than getting rid of invasive plants quickly, and they will gladly take on the extra work if it means that they can stay natural.

There are several methods for fighting invasive species. It may take a combination of several solutions to solve the problems in your yard and garden.

Warning

When removing invasive plants that are toxic (poison ivy, poison sumac) or using chemical removal methods, always wear protective gear and clothing.

Manual or Mechanical Removal

While time-consuming and physically demanding, mechanical or manual removal of invasive plants is often quite effective. This can involve mowing, cutting or pruning, digging or hoeing to remove root systems, and disposal of the plant material.

When tackling manual removal, be prepared to work hard to both remove the invasive plants and return the area to its optimum condition. Digging out invasive plants can also disrupt the health of plants you want to keep.

Organic Removal Methods

If you prefer organic removal methods, you can try using vinegar as an herbicide. Combine four parts cleaning vinegar to one part water. Add about an ounce of dishwashing liquid to a gallon of the mixture. Mix well and pour into a spray bottle. Choose a dry, calm, sunny day and saturate the invasive plant with the vinegar solution.

An even more simple removal method is to pour boiling water on the plants. This works best for young, tender plants and is not as effective for woody-stemmed plants.

Smothering is another organic method. If you have a large area of invasive plants and no "good plants" to save, cover the area with a UV-stable tarp or heavy plastic. This is a slow form of removal and may take up to two years for all of the vegetation to die.

Chemical Removal Methods

If you opt to go the chemical herbicide route, two popular chemicals on the market are extremely effective in controlling invasive plants—triclopyr and glyphosate.

  • Triclopyr (sold commercially as Brush-B-Gone and Garlon) is selective for woody plants like shrubs and does not injure monocots (grasses, orchids, lilies, etc.).
  • Glyphosate (sold commercially as Roundup and Rodeo) is non-selective, meaning that it will kill just about anything green including your ornamental landscape plants and lawn grass.

Always read any chemical labels and follow the directions carefully for both environmental and personal safety.

Disposal of Invasive Plants

If you kill invasive plants by manual, organic, or chemical methods, there is still plant matter that should be removed from the garden. It is important to gather the material and dispose of it in a way that prevents seeds from scattering or roots reestablishing themselves.

Follow the guidelines of your local municipality for the disposal of yard waste. Do not burn any plants that may produce toxic smoke (poison ivy).

Article Sources
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  1. Mattrick, Christopher. Managing Invasive Plants: Methods of Control. University of New Hampshire Extension Service.