En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - July 07, 2008

From: St. Matthews, SC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Vines
Title: Invasive vines in azaleas in South Carolina
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I have saw briars and wild jasmine, and cow itch vine that has invaded my azaleas, and would like your input on how to get rid of them without completely destroying my azaleas. Thanks


You have a real problem, and no mistake. These are all native vines, all pretty aggressive and all are going to be difficult to remove.

Smilax bona-nox (saw greenbrier) - difficult to eradicate because of its underground rhizomes, making it very resistant to herbicides.

Gelsemium sempervirens (evening trumpetflower) - also called yellow jasmine. All parts are poisonous.

Campsis radicans (trumpet creeper) - also sometimes called "cow-itch vine"

Getting undesirable vines out of desirable plants is a huge challenge. You don't dare spray a herbicide because it would take down the azaleas, probably faster than the vines. If you try to pull out the vines, it will result in damaging the azaleas, pulling off leaves and flowers. Likely your only chance is perseverence and stubborness. With gloves on, begin to clip off the vines wherever you can get at them. Clip them into small enough pieces that they can be unwound without unnecessary violence to the plants you are trying to save. Keep working back to close to the soil, and then try to work the root or rhizome out of the ground, again without damaging azalea roots. You can, of course, start by cutting every vine stalk as close to the root as you can get, and then waiting for a while until the vines without roots start to turn brown, making them a little easier to find, identify and remove. You can also try painting that cut root surface with an herbicide, using a disposable foam brush. If and when you get the bed cleaned out, you will have to be constantly vigilant. All of these vines are very persistent and they will come back from underground roots, rhizomes and seeds. It's much easier to pull them out when they're very young than after they grow up-but you already know that. And dispose of the cuttings in such a way that seeds will not have a chance to resprout.


From the Image Gallery

Saw greenbrier
Smilax bona-nox

Carolina jessamine
Gelsemium sempervirens

Trumpet creeper
Campsis radicans

More Vines Questions

Restoring the woods in Central Austin.
May 08, 2012 - I live in Austin, south central between Red Bud trail close to the low water bridge and Bee Caves road. My question: I want to make the wooded sections of my yard attractive. They have filtered sun...
view the full question and answer

Control of invasive vine in North Carolina
November 18, 2009 - Hi, I live in Piedmont NC, have vines that twine around my shrubbery and are impossible to pull out of the ground w/o breaking because they are so thin/delicate. The leaves are maple-like (3 lobes), ...
view the full question and answer

Germination of Purple Clematis from Junction TX
October 31, 2013 - I have some Purple Leather Vine seeds I want to share and want help learning to germinate. Can anyone there help me find interested recipients?
view the full question and answer

Recognizing poison ivy
June 20, 2007 - I am having a difficult time identifying poison ivy. It seems so many plants look like poison ivy can you help me I don't want to kill everything but on the same hand I don't want to itch. Thanks f...
view the full question and answer

Problems with recently planted trumpet vine from Worcester MA
October 20, 2012 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have a question about my recently planted Trumpet Vines. First of all, I live in Massachusetts, zone 6. The soil is perfect for the two vines, which I bought from a local nur...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center