10 Awful Weeds and How to Kill Them

June 7, 2015 | By | Comments (35)

Wisteria in bloom. Photo: Steve Bender

What is a weed? A weed is any plant that’s growing where you don’t want it. Some weeds are ugly. Some are pretty. But nearly all share the nasty habit of growing out of control, coming up everywhere, and making you want to shut yourself in a dark room watching Wendy Williams trash Hollywood celebrities. That’s bad. How can you kill and prevent weeds and save your sanity? As always, ask Grumpy.

But be warned — if any of you are philosophically and intractably opposed to the use of garden chemicals no matter the situation, stop reading now. Because while Grumpy advocates minimal use of “chemicals” (which is kind of a dumb thing to say since everything in the garden contains chemicals) and recommends natural solutions whenever possible, some weeds cannot be controlled organically. I’m going to tell you what works, organic or not, and let you make the choice.

Awful Weed #1 — Wisteria

Japanese and Chinese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda and sinensis) are absolutely gorgeous in flower. So why do Southerners hate them so? Because these rampant vines smother, strangle, crush, and destroy everything around them. They spread by runners, seed, and suckers.

How to kill it: If it’s a small vine, spray it according to label directions with Roundup. If it’s a big one spraying won’t reach, cut through the trunk a foot from the ground and immediately paint the cut surface with Roundup or Brush Killer. Pouring 20% vinegar over the roots may kill a small one, but won’t work on a big one.

Awful Weed #2 — Chinese Privet

Chinese privet

Chinese privet. Photo: Steve Bender

Why oh why did some numskull bring this awful plant from China and sick it on us about a century ago? Now billions of these evergreen shrubs dot the South like poppy seeds on a roll. Birds eat the blue-black berries and poop out the seeds wherever they fly or sit. Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) grows anywhere it’s cold-hardy — in sun, shade, wet soil, dry soil, woods, fields, and cracks in the road. I hate it.

How to kill it: Follow same procedure as for wisteria. Be ruthless.

Awful Weed #3 — Kudzu


Kudzu in bloom. Photo: Steve Bender

You may know that kudzu vine (Pueraria montana lobata) was brought to the South from China as an ornamental plant, as forage for cattle, and for erosion control on highway banks. It has its good points, really. Every bit of it — leaves, flowers, tuners — is edible. Deep-fried leaves are delicious. But that doesn’t make up for the fact that it grows up to a foot a year and would cover the Eiffel Tower if planted next to it.

How to kill it: Cattle love it, so if you have cows, let them graze it to the ground for three years in a row and that will pretty much do it. Lacking cows (or goats), spray it according to label directions with Roundup.

Awful Weed #4 — Water Hyacinth

Water hyacinth

Water hyacinth in bloom. Photo: Steve Bender

Native to South America and released in the South around the same time as kudzu, water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is to Southern waterways what kudzu is to fields and forests. I imagine this plague started when some dope growing a single plant in his aquarium dumped it into a pond, bayou, or lake — not knowing that it reproduces incredibly fast by seeds and floating plantlets (its population doubles every 6 days). It completely hides the surface of still water in short order, making fishing and boating impossible.

How to kill it: The best control is climate. Tender to cold and frozen waterways, it won’t survive drops in temperature much below 20 degrees. Some biological controls have been introduced, but they aren’t available to average homeowners and success has been modest anyway. Boats with machines that skim water hyacinths off the water and chop them up can clear water, but again, you’re not likely to have one. Some herbicides, such as these, are registered for use against water hyacinth and do kill it. But they can be toxic to fish and wildlife, kill untargeted plants, and rob the water of oxygen and kill fish as water hyacinths die. I don’t feel comfortable recommending them. Instead, never release water hyacinth into the wild!

Awful Weed #5 — Field Bindweed

Field bindweed

Field bindweed in bloom. Photo: imgkid.com

Looking like a wild morning glory, field bindweed (Convovulus arvensis) is a vigorous perennial vine that often snakes its way up, over, and through your garden plants. It spreads by seeds that can sprout after 50 years and roots that can grow 10 feet deep. You can try digging it out, but any bit of root left in the ground eventually sprout as a new plant.

How to kill it: Not gonna sugar-coat it for you — getting rid of this sucker is tough and often takes years. If it’s growing by itself, spray it with Roundup. If it’s tangled in other plants that Roundup would kill, you’ll have to carefully paint the chemical onto only the field bindweed leaves. You’ll miss lots of leaves, so repeat applications will be necessary. You also need to prevent seeds from sprouting. You can do this by applying Preen to the soil in affected areas.

Awful Weed #6 — Nutgrass (Nutsedge)


Nutgrass. Photo: flickr.com

If you have lots of nutgrass in your lawn, blame yourself. Nutgrass (not true grass, but a sedge) thrives in sickly lawns that are underfed, poorly drained, watered too much, and mowed too short. Stop all that. Grow a thick lawn mowed no shorter than two inches and let the good grass crowd out the nutgrass. In the flower and veggie garden, pull any plants as soon as they sprout and spread a two-inch thick layer of mulch over the top. Pulling plants early keeps them from spreading by seeds, roots, and tubers (nuts) left in the ground.

How to kill it: In the garden, suck it up and pull it. Pull some every day. Hoe out seedlings before they get three inches tall. Stick to it. Persistence works. In the lawn, treat according to label directions with Image containing imazaquin. Make sure it’s labeled for your type of grass.

Awful Weed #7 — Grass in Your Flower Beds

Bermuda grass

Bermuda grass. Photo: sunset.com

Grass works fine for lawns, but when it invades flower beds, it’s a royal pain. Doesn’t matter if it’s bluegrass, Bermuda grass, crabgrass, goosegrass, or dallis grass. The question you face is: Once it has infested the bed, how can I get rid of it without harming my flowers? Just about any weed-killer you spray on the grass will kill your flowers too.

How to kill it: Spray the grass according to label directions with Ortho Grass-B-Gon. It kills only grasses and will not harm broadleaf plants.

Awful Weed #8 — Chameleon Plant

Chameleon plants

Chameleon plant. Photo: visoflora.com

How could a plant so pretty be a problem? Plant it in your garden and you’ll find out. A perennial ground cover that flourishes in warm, wet climates, chameleon plant (Houttynia cordata ‘Chameleon’) spreads aggressively by roots and seeds. Plant just one in your garden one spring and soon you’ll discover it coming up everywhere. Pulling it does no good because any root left in the ground sends up another plant.

How to kill it: Spray it according to label directions with Roundup. If it has insinuated itself into all of your other plants, mix up some Roundup and carefully paint it on the leaves, avoiding the foliage of your good plants.

Awful Weed #9 — Cudweed


Cudweed. Photo: flickr.com

As with nutgrass, if you find this squat, woolly perennial with dinky, yellow flowers taking over your lawn, it’s your own fault. Β It means your lawn is sparse and patchy due to mowing too short and not enough fertilizer. A thick lawn leaves no empty spots for cudweed to colonize.

How to kill it: Apply a broadleaf weedkiller like Ortho Weed-B-Gon or Spectracide Weed-Stop according to label directions.

Awful Weed #10 — Common Violet

Common violet

Common violet in bloom. Photo: missouriplants

Ooooh, I can already hear all those catcalls and epithets! “You spiteful assassin! How can you want to kill pretty, little violets? Do you kick puppies too?”

Look, I don’t want to kill violets. They’re native and they’re cute. The problem is one violet produces hundreds of seedlings in a single year. That’s too much of a good thing.

How to kill it: You’re gonna hate this, but no weedkiller will touch it. The only way to kill violets is to dig them out, making sure you get all of the tuberous roots. Give yourself an incentive. Every day, dig out as many as you can in the time it takes to consume an adult beverage. Sounds like it’s gonna take years.









  1. Cynthia Dando

    I have little Crepe Myrtle trees coming up all over my back yard. As far as I know, there have never been crepe myrtle trees in my back yard. I have tried Vinegar & Water, Roundup, and my lawn folks, but they are spreading even more. Do you know of what I can do to get rid of them? Thanks.

    August 6, 2016 at 9:48 pm
  2. Gloria Johnson

    Mexican petunia is sold in garden centers here even though on invasive plant list some parts of Florida. Neighbor has it right against my fence–constant battle to eradicate rnners that come up on my side.

    June 27, 2016 at 8:49 am
  3. Missy Katt

    Kudzu grows a foot per DAY , not per Year.

    June 22, 2016 at 9:09 am
  4. Patricia

    Star of Bethlehem? I have a yard full of it and apparently NOTHING will kill it.

    June 22, 2016 at 6:49 am
  5. Ron Shea

    I have a bank where Creeping euonymous was planted for ground cover. Must not have been the right one as it has taken over, into 2-3 inch vines… Want to destroy it totally.. Akron,Oh. What is the best product that I can put on it in the spring? Thansk ron

    November 25, 2015 at 6:32 pm
  6. Kim

    I have a very invasive vine in my backyard, it may be virginia creeper, waxy leaf, small white flowers in the fall, when I mow it it emits an oil that makes you want to dig your eyes out, basically grows in the shade and up trees, sprayed with round up, didn’t die, please help.

    July 11, 2015 at 8:29 am
  7. Janice Dickerson

    What is the wild grape- like vine that is in my crepe Myrtle and how do I get rid of it (KILL it) without harming my crepe Myrtle?

    July 3, 2015 at 3:23 pm
  8. Erica

    Grumpy, fortunately I do not have any of the weeds listed above, however I have neglected my daylilies and they have become overgrown with other horribly invasive beings. What can I use to rid them that won’t hurt my lilies? Would I be better off potting them and starting over?
    -Itchy and sweaty in South Florida

    June 22, 2015 at 4:52 pm
  9. gw

    Note to the RoundUp haters below…….Indiscriminate, broadcast spraying of RoundUp is a terrible agricultural practice. But precise, targeted painting or dripping of concentrated RoundUp on the stump of a freshly cut invasive plant, shrub or tree does not introduce chemicals into the soil, water and surrounding vegetation. This form of application is non-harmful to the environment and essential for biological restoration. Just ask the land managers of your local botanical garden or nature areas. With an epidemic of invasive non-native plants destroying ecological biodiversity, it is impossible to restore habitat for trees, wildflowers, birds, insects and wildlife otherwise.

    June 18, 2015 at 8:45 am
  10. gw

    Asian honeysuckle shrubs, Japanese honeysuckle vines, vinca, euonymus fortuneii and clematis terniflora should be on the list, topped only by kudzu, maybe. Do nature a favor and eradicate these invasives. They’re not plants, they’re epidemics.

    June 18, 2015 at 8:19 am
  11. gw

    Please tolerate the violets. They’re the host plant for the Fritillary family of butterflies. ‘Cause which is better? A biologically worthless lawn? Or lovely little purple flowers in spring and beautiful golden butterflies in summer?

    June 18, 2015 at 8:12 am
  12. Lowell Gastonberry

    What about devil”s weed? supposed to be a ground cover but takes over everything. Only way to get rid of it was by pulling and cutting as much as I could and covering with paper and patio blocks for 2 years. No round-up poison used here. Bad stuff.

    June 17, 2015 at 2:47 pm
  13. Amber

    How, oh how, did bamboo not make this list? Our neighbor has planted bamboo as a privacy fence for his pool and it’s forever popping up 3ft shoots, overnight, in our backyard. Death to bamboo!

    June 13, 2015 at 6:41 am
  14. Kathleen

    Will do. A few may be snake- bit & unfit for duty, though.πŸ™‚

    June 10, 2015 at 1:43 pm
  15. Brynn

    Kathleen, send them my way when they’re done at your house!

    June 10, 2015 at 8:06 am
  16. Kathleen

    When the 1st guest shows up with a trowel.πŸ™‚

    June 8, 2015 at 4:11 pm
  17. Nana

    What time is the party?

    June 8, 2015 at 3:30 pm
  18. Kathleen

    I have an open invitation to all Roundup deniers to come to my home & hand pull the nut sedge, poison ivy, dollar weed, and wisteria in the 90+ degree, 90 percent humidity, West Nile carrying-mosquito infested conditions.Not to mention the occasional water moccasins that lurk in the weeds.
    I’ll provide sweet tea.πŸ™‚

    June 8, 2015 at 1:46 pm
  19. Esbe

    Well, after reading that Wisteria is considered a weed, rather than the fact that the person planting it did not prune it – and then saying to spray it with “Roundup” which is the most devastating chemical anywhere to humans and pets – I came directly to the comments section. Whomever wrote this article should not be allowed to publish again.

    June 8, 2015 at 12:19 pm
  20. Hal Austin ~ BEWARE!!

    Let me get this straight, you suggest killing natural growth with dangerous chemicals that will have devastating effects on humans? Who are these awful weeds you are aiming to kill, humans?!? Shame on you for encouraging the use of any poisons for the sake of beauty.

    June 8, 2015 at 11:55 am
  21. Sampiro Locke

    Hard work should be promoted over toxic weed killers instead.

    June 8, 2015 at 11:52 am
  22. Linda Edmonds Yoakum

    I have crabgrass in a flower bed and it’s really mixed in with monkey grass. If I use Ortho Grass be gone will it kill the monkey grass?

    June 8, 2015 at 11:39 am
  23. Teresa

    I doubt most people would have this issue & I had never heard of it till I moved to TX, but in my lawn at the front door I have a about a 4X30 foot section of Texas grass & it is horrible. Would like something that wont kill the bermuda but not having much luck in research finding anything.

    June 8, 2015 at 11:25 am
  24. Cindi

    Bermuda grass is taking over my asparagus patch. What can I use there?

    June 8, 2015 at 11:22 am
  25. Kathleen

    Does the Ortho Grass B Gone work on nut sedge grass in a flowerbed?

    June 8, 2015 at 10:13 am
  26. Kathleen

    Poison ivy??

    June 8, 2015 at 10:09 am
  27. Betsy

    Please don’t recommend using Roundup. Studies have shown that it is hazardous to our health and to the ground water.

    June 8, 2015 at 9:01 am
  28. Brynn

    Definitely agree with adding honeysuckle to the list. It’s one of the things we’re currently clearing out (wisteria and privet being the others), and we’ve come across some that are an inch or more in diameter. Didn’t think about painting the wisteria cuts with Roundup; definitely going to start doing that this morning!

    June 8, 2015 at 7:47 am
  29. Jeanette O’Meara

    How come no one mentioned mint? I planted a 4″ pot because I was told rabbits love it and it would keep them from eating my verbenas, sweet potato vine, etc. The stuff covered two thirds of a flower bed, choking all in its path. Took the better part of 2 years, but I think it’s finally gone.

    June 8, 2015 at 6:53 am
  30. Laura Gee

    Kudzu blossoms smell like grape Kool-aide.πŸ˜‰

    June 7, 2015 at 7:56 pm
  31. James

    Kudzu only grows a foot a year?

    June 7, 2015 at 7:24 pm
  32. Charlene Brooks

    I find that Mexican Petunia could be added to your list. Once you have it is sends out shoots everywhere.

    June 7, 2015 at 5:56 pm
  33. kim elko

    Have my Honeysuckle in a large container. I have had it for years, Love the honey bees
    and the smell.

    June 7, 2015 at 2:19 pm
  34. Jody

    I’m with Betty Masters, though I love honeysuckle under control. I would add to this list the pernicious groundcover VINCA. It’s taken over — everywhere.

    June 7, 2015 at 12:36 pm
  35. Betty Masters

    I think honeysuckle should have been included. I never knew how invasive it is until I bought a 3 acre farm. It has almost killed a while azalea, several rose bushes and taken over my fences. I found a brush killer to use on the fences but have to constantly hand pull it from my blooming plants. Hate it!

    June 7, 2015 at 10:12 am

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