Vines are sneaky and rampant in Florida. Vines creep into your landscaping, quietly invading your territory, teasing you into believing they’re good, with their beautiful foliage and sometimes cute, fragrant flowers. But, before you know it, you’ve fallen prey to their witchcraft, and vines are everywhere. Vines greedily wrestle your garden space from smaller plants, the ones you paid big bucks for at the garden store, and wrap their way around trees, fences, and bushes. Your initial belief that vines are a natural addition to your landscaping that provides shade and spreads easily is busted. You’ve been taken by pretty but invasive Florida vines that take no prisoners.
And some, like the kudzu vine, are downright scary. The Nature Conservatory calls kudzu vines “mile-a-minute” and the “vine that ate the South” for good reason. The mature kudzu vine can grow a foot in a day (yes, 12 inches in 24 hours).
If you see a vine, tear it out—unless you really want it, but why?—and get kill the roots. Destroying vine roots isn’t easy, but if you don’t do it right, the vine will come back. In force. Simply cutting off the vine near the bottom of the plant leaves the roots intact, so the vine can start sprouting again. Digging roots out is nearly impossible, because vine roots grow laterally, meaning you have the main root ball at the base of the original sprout, that travels across rather than down, shooting off more vines along the way. That kudzu vine can grow to 100 feet long. But we’re not going to let it get that big, right?
As much as you hate to do it, the only answer is a chemical herbicide. Gather up your tools. You will need a bypass lopper, pruning saw, thick gardening gloves (because some vines sport thorns), waterproof gloves, a chemical stump and vine killer, a small paintbrush, and garbage bags. There are many brands of root/herbicide killers available, and they’re all chemicals that need to be handled with extreme care. Most experts recommend an herbicide with glyphosate or triclopyr. Here’s what to do:
1. Choose a time when you know it will be at least four hours before it rains, so the herbicide can dry before the rain comes. Otherwise, rain will wash it off, and you risk it hitting other plants, which will die. The vines will be just fine. And try to find a time with little or no wind, because you don’t want to risk the herbicide blowing onto a plant you like.
2. To start, cut off the vine as close to the dirt/base as possible, leaving about an inch sticking up. Thinner roots can be lopped off, but thicker stems will need the pruner. Thin out the bottom foliage, so you can access every root growing up out of the ground.
3. Wearing waterproof gloves and using a small paint brush, apply the herbicide to the top of the root where you cut it. Only to that spot. Many experts say to cut off a few vines at a time and apply the herbicide to the root right away. If you don’t apply it to the root within 15 to 30 minutes, the roots won’t suck the stuff in.
4. You can remove the remaining vines now if you wish to, but depending upon what they’ve encircled, it can be easier to wait until they turn brown and brittle.
5. The process where the roots completely die can take several weeks, so don’t expect that instantaneous death that used to be shown on TV commercials for Round-up.
6. Do not allow pets, children, or other living things near the herbicide areas until the product has thoroughly dried. This can is said to take two hours, but that estimate depends upon the weather. It could take closer to six hours.
Dispose of the gloves and the paintbrush in a garbage bag. Vines can take a very long time to compost, so it may be best to get rid of them by roadside pickup, if your town offers that, or possibly in the trash (contact your town for rules about that).
And stay alert to future invaders. The sooner you eliminate them, the better.