Hedge Bindweed

Hedge bindweed is a rhizomatous and stoloniferous perennial with long climbing stems that clamber up and over hedges. It is often a weed of gardens where it climbs over fruit trees, vegetable crops and herbaceous plants. It twines anti-clockwise.

Three subspecies are recognised in Britain. Subspecies sepium is widespread and native in hedges, the edge of woods and in gardens. Subspecies roseata occurs locally near the coast and ssp. spectabilis was formerly naturalised at one site in Wales.

Two closely related species, previously regarded as subspecies also occur in Britain. Large bindweed (C. sylvatica) was introduced but is now widely naturalised in hedges and waste places. Hairy bindweed (C. pulchra) was also introduced but is less common.

The plant exudes a milky sap if damaged. Hedge bindweed has medicinal uses as a laxative.

This blog post will provide an in-depth guide on what Hedge Bindweed are, how they grow, and how to eradicate them from your garden.

Quick Facts

Common names: field bindweed, bellbind, bearbine, greater bindweed, larger bindweed, ropewind, withywind, devil’s shoestring, elephant ears
Scientific name: Calystegia sepium (L.) R.Br. (Convolvulus sepium L.)
Family: Convolvulaceae
Origin: native
Flowering season: June to September
Habitat: woodlands, hedgerows, riverbanks, gardens, waste ground, beds, borders, paths, drives and lawns.

Hedge Bindweed Identification

Climbing and twisting through hedgerows, woodlands, ditches and riverbanks, the white flowers of Hedge bindweed are a familiar sight for many of us.

Twining itself around other plants to assist its progress, this aggressive plant is often considered to be a weed in gardens, although it can provide excellent cover for fences and derelict buildings in towns and waste grounds.

Calystegia sepium (bellbind or hedge bindweed) climbs with strong twining stems, has large heart-shaped leaves and large white trumpet flowers. It is most often seen as a hedgerow plant or weed, scrambling over and often smothering hedges and shrubs of all sizes and even smaller ornamental trees.

Convolvulus arvensis (field bindweed) is a weaker-stemmed plant, with smaller white or pink trumpet-shaped flowers, but otherwise similar in appearance to bellbind.

The trumpet like heads of the hedge bindweed plant
The trumpet-like heads of the hedge bindweed plant

What does Hedge Bindweed look like?

Characteristics that make up the Hedge Bindweed leaf, stem, root and flower are detailed below.

It can be commonly mistaken for Japanese knotweed with its heart-shaped leaves but that is where the difference ends as its counterpart does not wrap itself around other plants or shrubs, whereas Hedge Bindweed does.

Hedge bindweed displays large, white flowers that look like the end of a trumpet. Its large leaves are arrow-shaped with long stalks. Its climbing nature and larger flowers can help to distinguish it from Field bindweed.

The pointy leaf of the Hedge bindweed
The pointy leaf of the Hedge bindweed

Leaves: The leaves are oval-shaped with pointed tips and long slender petioles at their base along with having a rough surface on top of them where they attach themselves to other plants for support.

This invasive weed can be identified by its large, heart-shaped leaves that grow up to 2 feet long on a vine stem.

Leaves are typically 5 cm to 10 cm long and 3 cm to 7 cm broad.

Stems: The stems that lay on the ground act as stolons that enter the soil and root at their tips. These aerial runners can grow 3-4 m in length. Shoots can develop from fragments of root, rhizome or stem.

Can grow up to 10 feet tall with vines and stems reaching out as far as 12 feet away from the original root.

Roots: The roots run deeply and spread in all directions. Hedge bindweed spreads by underground stems called rhizomes and self-sows readily, especially where there is plenty of moisture.

Vegetative spread is by a network of rhizomes. The rhizomes are far creeping but seldom more than 30 cm deep. 

The Hedge bindweed flower with its petals
The Hedge bindweed flower with its petals

Flowers: The flowers are insect-pollinated, self-incompatible and produce few seeds. 

Seeds: Seed is set from September to October. The seed is contained in a dehiscent 4-seeded capsule.

Seeds will germinate in the autumn and in spring. Seedlings grow roots that extend rapidly within a few weeks of germination. 

Hedge Bindweed Seasonal Changes

Hedge bindweed is a resilient weed that learns to grow in many different habitats, one of which is the extreme seasonal changes. Some years it thrives more than others and this affects its growth rate from year to year.

The plant can withstand both humid summers as well as cold winters with high levels of snowfall but struggles in drought conditions or periods without rain for extended lengths of time.

Hedge Bindweed in Spring

Hedge bindweed is a perennial that thrives in moist, shaded areas and is found on roadsides, forest edges, stream banks and along the borders of cultivated fields. It blooms from April through June with clusters of white flowers that bloom from leaf axils. The foliage emerges later than other broadleaf weeds so it can be easier to spot as it has a more distinctive appearance when not covered by vegetation.

Hedge Bindweed in Summer

The flowers bloom from May through June and have five white petals with yellow centres.

Hedge Bindweed in Autumn

During autumn it begins to change colours and lose its leaves as they decay on top of each other until all that remains are bare branches with green vines intertwined amongst them.

The leaves turn red-orange before dying back for winter. This weed can grow up to 12 inches tall but usually remains closer to three feet high making it easy to spot among taller plants nearby.

The transformation from lush greenery in the summer months to barren browns and dreary yellows can take up most of October depending on where you live.

Hedge Bindweed in Winter

The climbing stems die back during the winter only to re-emerge in the spring;

Hedge bindweed growing wildly on waste ground
Hedge bindweed growing wildly on waste ground

How to get rid of Hedge Bindweed

Hedge bindweed is a persistent weed. It lays dormant during the winter and begins to grow in early spring when there are long periods of warm, moist weather.

These weeds can be difficult to pull up because they have deep roots that reach down into the soil for water and nutrients; this makes it even more important not to leave any pieces behind if you do manage to get them out.

Method One – Herbicide Treatment

To kill your pesky pest, cut down any visible parts at ground level. Be sure to wear gloves and then apply glyphosate herbicide mixed according to directions onto the remaining root fragments for best results.

As the stems of bindweed typically weave their way around other plants, unfortunately, it’s often difficult to apply spray weed killer or you would kill off your plant.

A spot weed killer such as Round-Up Gel can be used. Dab it onto as many leaves as you can then leave it to be taken down to the root system.

If you’ve treated the bindweed with glyphosate or another weed killer, wait about 3 weeks before removing the plants. This gives the chemicals a chance to penetrate the roots and allows the bindweed to die down to ground level, making it easier to remove. Don’t forget to dig up the roots as well.

Method Two – Digging it out

If the bindweed is growing around the borders of your garden or in small groupings, you can pull it out. Use a pitchfork to gently turn over the dirt or soil underneath the plant so you can pull out the roots, which can grow to 10 ft (3.0 m) deep.

It’s important that you remove the roots to discourage new shoots from growing. Dispose of both the roots and the plant immediately in the trash.

If you can’t dig out the roots because of other plants nearby, use a hoe to cut off the bindweed at ground level. Repeat the process as new growth appears.

Best to undertake this in spring before new growth occurs or in autumn through to winter as it dies back.

Do not compost this weed as it will grow back. Best to burn it or bag it up and put it in the trash.

Hedge Bindweed Management

Before gathering and burning rootstock and rhizomes, it is a good idea to fork out and remove all portions. Desiccation of rhizome pieces for at least 48 hours is required to limit their regeneration ability.

Frequent hoeing might deplete the food reserves in the vegetative organs. When shoots are 38 to 50 cm long, mechanical control is most effective.

To prevent regrowth, the body must be buried to a depth of at least 25 cm. It takes longer for shorter rhizome segments to emerge above ground.

Controlling bindweed can be a long and difficult process, but it can be done if you are willing to take the time.

Method One – Weed preventer

To prevent bindweed seeds from spreading, spray a weed preventer, like Preen, on the soil. You can treat soil where you’ve removed bindweed already as well as soil beneath existing plants. Repeat the application every 3 to 4 months to ensure the bindweed doesn’t grow back.

Method Two – Mulching

Put down a heavy layer of mulch to discourage new growth. Even though you may have removed all the visible bindweed, any leftover seeds or roots can begin another infestation. Lay down several inches of bark, wood chips, or another heavy mulch to prevent sunlight from reaching the remnants of bindweed.

In Conclusion

The identification and removal of hedge bindweed can be difficult, but with the information provided in this guide, you should have no trouble identifying it and getting rid of it.

If you are in doubt as to your capability to undertake this task, especially if you have a large infestation, then do not hesitate to contact a landscape professional to obtain the results you want.