Garden Beauty or Pest?

Beauty or pest? I guess that depends on your point of view and whether they are taking over your garden or not. I have always called them Morning Glories, but they have other names, too. Their scientific name is Ipomoea cordatotriloba, but they also have several common names: Native Morning Glory, Purple Bindweed, tievine, and cotton morning glory.

They are native to the southeastern part of the United States, Mexico, and South America. It is an aggressive vining plant that will cover anything in its path like a blanket.


I’ve been spending more time writing than gardening lately, and you can see how that is a problem. This is a rose bush, covered by the wild morning glory vine. See the red leaves sticking out, trying to find some light. I will make the time to clear away the morning glory vine this weekend so the poor rose can breathe better, but it won’t be easy.

One morning glory plant can send out trailing vines that stretch out for over 15 feet. They wrap around things so completely I will have to be careful when I clear that rose bush, or the vines will strip all the rose leaves off the plant.

It grows everywhere, and it is impossible to get rid of.

“… Each plant can produce 500 or more seeds. The seeds have a very thick seed coat that can lay dormant in the soil for 20 years (some say 50 years or more). The plant develops an extensive root system that can grow 10 feet or more into the soil. Because of this, you can pull it, dig it up or plow it and it will still come back. In fact, research shows that a 2” piece of root can produce a new plant. In addition, all of those deep roots make this plant very drought resistant.

“All of the survival traits that the plant has developed make it very hard to control organically. The only real option you have is frequent pulling or smothering. If you decide to pull, realize that you will need to pull every shoot that pops up every three weeks or so for the next three years! If you want to try and smother it you are going to need to use something like a large sheet of plywood or hardi-plank, and you are going to have to leave it in place for years. However, since the seeds can remain dormant for years, smothering and pulling is really only going to slow down the spread of this weed.” (Purple Bindweed - The Thorn in My Side, 2014)

I don’t like to use chemicals in my garden. I’ve wanted to go organic for years, but this beautiful vine is one of the reasons I haven’t been able to – at least not yet.

“The only way to effectively kill bindweed is with an herbicide. Even though I do not personally like chemicals, the reality is that some weeds will never be fully contained with organic methods. If you don’t mind spraying chemicals try Glyphosate (Round Up) or Tripcloyr (Remedy). Both work well against bindweed. …” (Purple Bindweed - The Thorn in My Side, 2014)


Some people are beginning to use the plant for things other than its beauty.

“A thick, sticky resin can be derived from the milky-white juice that flows naturally through the roots. The resin is usually hardened and used as a potent purgative. The flowers themselves are also considered a very effective laxative and diuretic when made into a tea. This tea can also be used to clean damaged skin, sooth a fever, and lessen the blood flow of menorrhagia. In addition to medicinal uses, the bindweed flower has a number of other useful applications. For instance, the petals, when dried, take on a dark, delicate appearance that can easily be fit into a vintage art project; the thin vines can also be used in art projects, as they are tough enough to double as a glossy twine in floral arrangements; a natural green dye can be extracted from the entire plant; and the stalks and roots can be eaten. When eaten raw, these plants tend to have a slightly bitter aftertaste; however, when the plants and young shoots are steamed, they are said to develop a mild, sweet flavor.” (Bindweed Flower - Pictures & Meanings of Bindweed Flowers)

This plant is truly a pain in the keister, but it is so beautiful that it is almost worth it. The blooms open up each morning and proudly dance around in the breeze. Then, when the sun gets high, the blooms begin to close, and by the middle of the afternoon, they are closed up for the night.

So, you see, it’s hard to decide whether they are a garden beauty or a pest. I guess it depends on what day it is and whether you’re gazing at their beauty or trying to uncover a rose bush. Personally, I think they are both, but you will have to decide for yourself.