You know Kudzu (Pueraria montana)—that vine that engulfs anything in its path with a shroud of green leaves? In winter those leaves brown up after frost, but the vines aren’t killed off by the cold. If you think this is only a problem for those caring for highway rights-of-way, be aware that Kudzu is finding new ways to expand its hold and may be growing on a property near you! Don’t worry, though, Kudzu is easiest to control when you literally nip it in the bud (or crown). And after killing frosts is a great time to start the process!
What is the scope of the problem?
Although kudzu was introduced to the United States in the 1800s and recognized as a common weed in the south in 1970, it is now spreading faster and further than
expected. Kudzu is not only a fast grower, adaptable to many environments, but it has amazing defenses against pests and diseases, as well as containing several allelochemicals—substances that can suppress seed germination as well as regrowth of native plants. More recently, the potential range of kudzu is increasing—in part due to climate change—especially in the Pacific northwest and the Great Lakes region. It is very visible in Buncombe County, along I-40, many back roads, as well as on residential properties in densely populated areas.
How to control kudzu
The good news is there are many ways to control kudzu and they work best on new or small infestations.
First, positively identify the plants—links below show photos of seedlings, leaves, flowers, seedpods, and seedlings.
– Existing kudzu infestations spread rapidly into adjacent areas from root crowns.
– New infestations may begin from a plant or a few plants that start from seed that matures during autumn months.
– Seed pods contain only 3 to 10 seeds, and only a few are viable.
– Viable seeds often germinate years later when the hard seed coat becomes water permeable so be sure to remove any seedpods you find in your landscape when you identify the plants!
– Dig any seedlings or plants as soon as you see them. Don’t hesitate—kudzu can grow a foot a day under favorable conditions!
– If you find established vines:
– Cut the vines at the soil level to keep the top growth from climbing further.
– Mow or cut back all new growth. This may take a concerted effort over months or years!
– For large areas you may be able to borrow or rent goats and fencing to concentrate grazing on the vines.
– Although you can dig and remove root crowns during any season—no need to remove the entire root—during the dormant season it is easier to find the root crowns and you can dig in cooler weather! See the short video clip below for more details.
There are several herbicides recommended for kudzu control in the North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual. It is important to follow the label! You will need to identify chemicals approved for use in NC, the recommended concentration, and the appropriate time for treatment—most chemicals are recommended for use when vines are actively growing—timing within the growing season may be more targeted, such as before or after flowering. Some chemicals are sprayed, which may be a concern when desirable plants may be at risk from chemical drift. Treating cut stumps of vines immediately after cutting the fresh vines is a technique that can minimize chemical drift and help kill the roots if the infestation is well-established.
Kudzu is a formidable opponent—by sharing information about identifying and controlling this vine, you can help! If your neighborhood or locality is infested, stop the spread!
Article written by Debbie Green, Extension Master GardenerSM Volunteer.
For more information on identifying and controlling kudzu:
Details for identification:
Name that Plant: http://www.namethatplant.net/plantdetail.shtml?plant=1171
Weed Id – UMissouri: https://weedid.missouri.edu/weedinfo.cfm?weed_id=236
NCSU Plant Toolbox: https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/pueraria-montana/
Controlling kudzu in residential landscapes:
Conserving Carolina article – Get Rid of Kudzu: https://conservingcarolina.org/get-rid-of-kudzu/
Alabama Extension – Kudzu Control in Residential Areas: https://www.aces.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/ANR-2168.REV_.Lg_.pd
Missouri DC – Kudzu Control: https://mdc.mo.gov/trees-plants/invasive-plants/kudzu-control
NC Cooperative Extension – Kudzu Invasive and Exotic: https://surry.ces.ncsu.edu/2020/09/kudzu-invasive-and-exotic/
Piedmont EMGs – Controlling Kudzu: https://piedmontmastergardeners.org/controlling-kudzu/
Cornell University Cooperative Extension- Kudzu: https://nyis.info/invasive_species/kudzu/
Using Goats to Control Kudzu in NC: https://youtu.be/1XtYE3E7pJw