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posted: 8/16/2013 1:00 PM

Bindweed rootstocks can extend 20 feet

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By Mary Boldan and Mary Moisand

Q. I was reading your article in the Sunday paper and was wondering if you can help me with a weed I have on my property.

The weed is thin and looks for something to wrap around. It has little green leaves on it. Not hard to pull out, but what a pain if you don't catch it early.

It does die off with a spraying of Roundup or similar glyphosates, but how can I discourage it from coming back. Your response would be appreciated.

A. From your description, it sounds as if you have an infestation of bindweed, which is very difficult to control.

This perennial weed reproduces by seeds and rootstocks. The root system is extensive and can extend 20 to 30 feet. Its slender stems twine around vegetation, sprawl over the soil, or attach to anything with which it comes in contact.

Seeds are often carried by birds, on feet of animals or by garden tools. Seeds or roots or root fragments brought near the soil surface by mechanical tilling or drainage water will create new bindweed infestations.

At this stage of the growing season, you can destroy the weed by either hoeing, or using approved herbicides. Thoroughly hoeing every 10 to 14 days will help keep bindweed at bay.

With each hoeing, all plants must be cut off as any missed plants outside the hoed area will provide food to roots for a distance of about 10 feet and will prevent the elimination of established bindweed.

If you choose to use herbicides, those with glyphosate may also help control bindweed. If using near a home garden or flower bed, you may wish to dip a foam paint brush into the herbicide and paint the leaves and stems of the vine.

If the vine is wrapped around vegetation, pull it away before applying. Spraying the herbicide on established bindweed may damage desirable plants, so use with care and follow all label directions.

Next spring, if you see emerging young vines, pull them out before they are 4 weeks old.

This will starve the roots. After this, cover any remaining bindweed with landscape material such as black plastic or thick layers of newspaper to block out any light.

If any bindweed pops up, treat it with glyphosate which should be reapplied at least three times during the growing season.

Q. Last year, my mock orange was in full bloom. This year, there is not one bloom.

A. Mock orange (Philadelphus) is a genus of about 60 species of long-branched, arching shrubs with white fragrant flowers, either double or single, depending on the cultivar.

A common complaint is a nonblooming mock orange. Since mock orange plants bloom on stems that develop in the previous year, do not prune until after the plant blooms; otherwise, you will remove the flower buds and have no flowers.

Also, if you want to improve the shape of the plant and to keep the bushes from getting too thick or the canes too old, prune immediately after the shrub has flowered.

Too little sunlight or too much nitrogen fertilizer can also result in a nonblooming mock orange.

When fertilizing your lawn, make sure you don't let the fertilizer get near the mock orange shrub.

Q. I have two butterfly bushes which are almost five feet tall. When should I prune them?

A. The most commonly grown species is the butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii). It produces flowers on the current season's growth and blooms from mid-July to frost.

You can safely cut it back in the spring with no loss of flower blooming. However, do not prune in the fall since it inhibits the natural hardening off of tissues and can increase the likelihood of winter kill.

The fountain buddleia (Buddleia alternifolia) is the one species that flowers on last year's wood. It has arching clusters of lilac flowers in mid-May.

Prune this species by thinning out one-third of the oldest wood after the bush stops flowering, which is usually in May.

• Provided by Mary Boldan and Mary Moisand, University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners. Master Gardener Answer Desk, located at Friendship Park Conservatory, 395 Algonquin, Des Plaines, is open 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays. Call (847) 298-3502 or email

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