Bindweed (Convolvus arvensis) is the bane of many a gardener's life. It is related to the morning glory, which explains a couple of its other common names: perennial morning glory and smallflower morning glory. Other common names include creeping Jenny and possession vine. There are two forms of the plant: Convolvulus arvensis var. arvensis (with broader leaves), and Convolvulus arvensis var. linearfolius (with narrower leaves.
Bindweed is a perennial vining plant that snakes its way across the ground and over fences, plants, or any other stationary thing in its path. It has medium-green arrow-shaped leaves and white-pinkish flowers that look like those of morning glories. Bindweed can grow four feet or more in length and has deep, strong roots. It is regarded as an invasive plant since it is so persistent that it can easily choke out native species. In northern climates, it is a less robust plant but still noxious and capable of causing havoc in the garden.
Life Cycle and Reproduction
Bindweed grows from both seeds and roots. The seeds remain viable for up to 30 years in the soil, so this is not a plant that you want to allow to set seed if you can help it. If you have bindweed, be sure to get rid of it before it flowers and sets seed. However, bindweed grows easily from underground roots and rhizomes, and this is typically why you'll see bindweed popping up everywhere, even if you've never let it go to seed. Even a tiny section of root in the soil is enough to allow bindweed to grow and spread in the garden.
How to Remove Bindweed
Vigilance and persistence are the two most useful weapons in your arsenal against bindweed. Watch for signs of this vine, and remove it as quickly as possible. The best way to get rid of bindweed is to cut it off at soil level. Don't bother pulling it up; it will just sprout wherever you tore the roots--and it is virtually impossible to get all the roots out. By continually cutting it off at ground level, and doing it as soon as you possibly can, you will eventually starve the plant (since it will be unable to photosynthesize) and it will die. Be patient! You may have to do this many times, but it will eventually do the trick.
How to Prevent Bindweed
Bindweed thrives in open, cultivated ground and soil that is rich in nitrogen, such as that found in gardens and farms. Since we can't change that and we can't stop seeds that have been waiting in the soil from germinating, all we can do is deal with bindweed when we see it. Some gardeners find that plants or mulches that shade the ground may prevent bindweed from sprouting. Tough stemmed plants like pumpkins are not damaged by bindweed, and shade the ground in a manner that keeps bindweed from sprouting.
Uses for Bindweed
Believe it or not, even this garden villain has a few uses. You can use pieces of bindweed as ties in place of twine when tying and staking plants. The flowers (which are actually very pretty) attract beneficial insects and exude a soft fragrance. The leaves and stems can be used to make an all-natural dye, and there are also accounts of the roots being brewed as a tea to relieve constipation.