How To Care For The Field Bindweed Plant: Growing Ground Morning Glory

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Convolvulus arvensis (kon-VOLV-yoo-lus ar-VEN-sis) originally came to the United States from Europe and Asia in the late 1800s. It is speculated that its seeds arrived as a contaminant in garden and farm seeds. 

Initially, this perennial member of the Convolvulaceae (Morning Glory) family was treated in a manner similar to its domestic cousin.

Flowering Convolvulus PlantPin

This perennial vine is often planted as a ground cover, climbing plant or hanging basket denizen; however, by the early 20th century, it had gained widespread notoriety as the worst weed in the west! 

From its small starting point in California, it rapidly spread across the state and into many other western states where it can be found growing rampant in a wide variety of settings.

You may hear the plant referred to by a number of common names, including:



  • Small Flowered Morning Glory
  • Perennial Morning Glory
  • Ground Morning Glory
  • European Bindweed
  • Wild Morning Glory
  • Field Morning Glory
  • Small Bindweed
  • Field Bindweed
  • Creeping Jenny
  • Morning Glory
  • Devil’s Guts
  • Sheepbine
  • Cornbind
  • Bellbine

The plants’ botanical name, Convolvulus arvensis, is a combination of the Latin words, convolvo (to twine) and arvense (of the field), and it does, indeed, twine very enthusiastically in the fields.

Convolvulus Arvensis Care

FIELD Bindweed (Convolvulus Arvensis)

Size and Growth

Devil’s Guts is a rambling plant that can cover a lot of ground unless it encounters an upright plant, tree, fence or building to climb. It typically grows from 10’ to 15’ feet tall and 3’ to 6’ feet wide. 

Because it has an extensive and aggressive root system, if left to ramble, a single plant can densely cover a ten foot radius of ground in a single season.

If the plant finds a support structure, it will quickly cover it. In the case of upright plants, trees and bushes, this action will block the sun and kill the support plant.

Flowering and Fragrance

Wild Morning Glories’ flowers are very much like those of domestic Morning Glories. They are a bit smaller (1” to 1.5” inches across) and only come in white or pale pink. Some blooms are entirely white; some are entirely pink, and some are pink with a white star-shaped center.

The trumpet shaped blooms are made up of five fused petals borne in leaf axils and are attractive to bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators (just as are those of their non-invasive domestic cousins.)

Foliage

Bellbine has arrowhead-shaped green leaves that range in size from a ½” to 2” inches in length. New morning glory leaves at the tips of the vines are smaller than mature leaves at the base.

The leaf size also depends upon the conditions. In times of drought, the plant diverts resources to its extensive root system, so leaf size is sacrificed. In times of plenty, the leaves are large, lush, and thick.

Moreover, its slender stem grows to over 4′ feet long and moves in a counter-clockwise direction.

Light and Temperature

Bindweed will grow and flourish in bright, direct sunlight but may also grow in a wide range of conditions, such as mesic to dry conditions.

Morning glory seed will germinate at temperatures ranging from 41° to 104° degrees Fahrenheit.

The plant is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 4 and above.

Watering and Feeding

Wild Morning Glory is remarkably drought tolerant. In fact, the plant is likely to do very well in times of drought and will quickly overrun less drought tolerant native and garden plants. The plant has no need for fertilizer and will thrive in very inhospitable settings.

Soil and Transplanting

European Bindweed flourishes in all sorts of soil type, though it does seem to prefer more fertile, clay based soils to sandy soil. It also thrives well in warm, well-drained soil.

In addition, it runs riot in good garden soil with ample moisture and fertility. Even so, it can be found growing and spreading with wild abandon in hot, dry field soil and along gravelly roadsides.

If any part of the field bindweed roots or stems are present in potting or garden soil, it is difficult to avoid transplanting Small Bindweed. The plant can take hold and grow quickly from very small trimmings.

Grooming and Maintenance

Devil’s Guts must be sharply controlled. Frequent, repeated, dramatic pruning or mowing can discourage the plant and prevent it from taking over. If you are diligent with this method, the plant will eventually use up its resources and may die completely.

Keep in mind that the deep roots can reach as far as twenty feet deep, though. They may very well just travel underground to a more welcoming area.

Non-selective herbicides, such as Round-Up may be effective against large stands of Bindweed. Heavy, repeated applications may be necessary. Because this is a systemic herbicide, it will eventually kill off the plants’ roots as well as the foliage.

In areas where a few plants are growing up between pavers or in other small, limited, isolated instances, pouring boiling water on young Cornbind plants can be effective.

Planting very aggressive, dense ground covers may deter Creeping Jenny. For example, if you find it springing up in your lawn, dethatching and fertilizing to help your grass grow in a more dense and compact manner may choke out the Bindweed. 

How To Propagate Field Bindweed

If any part of Field Morning Glory is present, it is difficult not to propagate the plant. Most parts of it are able to produce buds, roots, and shoots. 

Small pieces (less than 2” inches) of the plants’ rhizomes and vertical roots are capable of growing into new plants. Additionally, lateral roots travel away from the parent plant in all directions, turn downwards and form new vertical roots (i.e., new plants) every couple of feet.

Roots survive underground, even in fairly cold winters, and commence producing new plants as soon as the weather warms up.

Additionally, each plant produces more than 500 seeds per season. As the field bindweed seedlings mature, they develop smooth, hard seed coats that protect them against decomposition. These seeds are swallowed whole by birds and animals and distributed far and wide.

Because of the hard coat, seeds can essentially lie in wait until the conditions are just right to germinate. Seed that is more than 50 years old has been found viable.

When the hard seed coat has been scarified (broken, nicked, or weakened), the germination of field bindweed seed will occur in temperatures ranging from 41° to 104° degrees Fahrenheit.

Field Bindweed Main Pest or Diseases

Perennial Morning Glory is fairly impervious to all pest and disease problems; however, there is some hope of controlling it through the use of a Bindweed mite (Aceria malherbae). 

These microscopic mites are active during the plants’ growing season and cause damage to the leaves, stems and flowers. Heavy infestation can cause inhibition of flower bud formation and may stunt root growth. 

Is the plant considered toxic or poisonous to people, kids, and pets?

All parts of Sheepbine contain toxic Tropane alkaloids (pseudotropine), which affect the autonomic nervous system as atropine. The seeds are particularly toxic when consumed and chewed. 

If Bindweed is consumed by horses, cattle, and other livestock regularly, it causes a generalized digestive disturbance, weight loss, colic, and many other health complications.

Stop Bindweed From Taking Over

Studies conducted on laboratory mice found that the animals ate the plant readily and then displayed a wide variety of abnormal clinical signs.

Is European Bindweed considered invasive?

Wild Morning Glory is not actually a wildflower in the United States. It is listed as a noxious, invasive weed in 35 states ranging from the west coast to the Midwest to Michigan. 

Anecdotal sightings have placed it as far north as northern Minnesota.

Field Bindweed is an invasive plant that invades in a robust and persistent manner. The plants’ roots are able to grow through barriers such as plastic and landscape fabric. It sucks moisture and nutrients from the soil and literally overwhelms native plants, garden plants, and crops.

Field Morning Glory has a vastly negative impact on agricultural crops. About 70% percent of its massive root structure can be found in the top two feet of soil where it grows. 

This can mean that in an acre of cropland where Bindweed is present, its roots and rhizomes may amount to as much as five tons per acre. The result is that the vast majority of resources intended for crops are gobbled up by Bindweed. The presence of Devil’s Guts in farmland actually devalues the land.

Ways for effective control of field bindweed is using black plastic, landscape fabrics, or cardboard so that no light can reach the soil and the plant.

Field Bindweed Noxious Weed

Suggested Field Bindweed Uses

There simply are no suggested uses for Field Morning Glory. Even though it is said to only be winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 4 and higher, it is important to understand that this is a highly adaptable plant. 

Planting it as an annual in colder settings could very well lead to it adapting and naturalizing to those settings.

The plants’ aggressive vining habit combined with its deep, traveling root system makes it difficult, if not impossible, to control. If you introduce it to your garden, it will soon be your only plant. 

To avoid having it invade your yard and garden, follow these tips:

  • Weed out any unfamiliar seedlings before they have a chance to establish themselves.
  • Be sure any new topsoil is free of seeds, roots, and rhizomes.
  • Don’t allow Bindweed plants to go to seed.
  • Buy only clean, weed free seeds.

Because it does look and behave quite a bit like its domesticated cousin, Morning Glory, genus Ipomoea (family Convolvulaceae), people have used Wild Morning Glory as a ground cover, in pots and hanging baskets, and as a climber, but this is not recommended.

If you want the look of Wild Morning Glory, use domesticated Morning Glory. You will get more colors, bigger Field bindweed flowers, and all of the positives of Wild Morning Glory without the aggressive, invasive, destructive growth habits.

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