Kudzu vines can often be a problem in residential settings, especially along wooded edges near homes and along property lines. It can seem uncontrollable due to its prolific growth and ability to engulf entire trees.
However, if you have a kudzu problem on your property, there is hope. With a little bit of knowledge and a healthy dose of hard work, you can get your kudzu infestation under control.
First, let us examine the structure of kudzu vines and how they grow. There are three main parts of a kudzu plant- tubers, root crowns and vines.
Tubers are the true “root” and underground storage structure of kudzu plants. Attached to tubers are root crowns, which are where vine growth sprouts from. These root crowns are the key in controlling kudzu infestations. The vine structures are the long, thin top growth of the plant, which often root and lay down more root crowns.
Kudzu plants spread mainly through seeds and expansion of root crowns. Root crowns can be found when you pull a vine up and find where it is attached to the ground. To stop new growth from this part of the pant, dig up the root crown structure, cut it just below the soil surface and remove it from the ground. You don’t have to remove the entire root structure below the root crown, as the plant cannot technically regrow from below the root crown.
Beware that some vines may grow just below the surface of leaf litter or organic matter buildup, giving them the appearance of sideways, or lateral, roots. You may initially miss these vines and later find that new shoots have emerged from these hidden structures.
To physically remove root crowns, use a shovel or pickaxe to expose the base of the crown. Then use an axe or hatchet to cut the roots off below the crown.
To aid with large-scale infestations, homeowners do have access to a few chemicals to help control kudzu. Chemicals containing the active ingredients triclopyr and glyphosate can be used for foliar sprays and cut-stump treatments as needed. Please contact the extension office for advice on concentrations and treatment rates.
Optimal timing for foliar sprays are late summer and early fall. Kudzu is extremely persistent and will require multiple foliar sprays in a multi-year cycle for good control. Hitting the vines as they are preparing for winter dormancy can help disrupt their nutrient storage mechanisms, which will hopefully weaken the plants. You should plan to continue treatments next spring/summer when kudzu leaves begin to emerge, and on through next summer.
You may also utilize a cut-stump treatment to control larger kudzu vines, especially those vines attached to trees. Cut the vine off, and apply a small amount of undiluted chemical concentrate to the remaining stem, which is easily done with a foam paint brush. This will send chemical directly to the root system of the kudzu plant.
None of these physical or herbicide treatments will completely kill kudzu with one application. Younger root crown can be controlled with one or two sprays, but mature crowns may take several years of repeated sprays for good control.
For more information, please contact the Dawson County Extension Office at (706) 265-2442.