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

Vines for an arbor
November 02, 2012 - We're building an arbor in a 9 1/2 x 12-ft area on the south side of an urban lot. It's bordered by two-story buildings on the south and west and has a tall,sparsely leaved pecan tree on its northea...
view the full question and answer

Non-native Hyacinth Bean vine dying
June 17, 2008 - I live in Missouri and have tried to grow hyacinth bean. Mine drop leaves (after some yellow appears on on them)and the vine turns yellow, then withers to brown. Other places near me grow them beautif...
view the full question and answer

Native plants with little sun and northern exposure for New York
April 26, 2006 - I live in a co-op and want to fix up the backyard. The backyard area has a west area to plant with a northern exposure and little sun and I am looking to plant something to cover the area. I would lik...
view the full question and answer

Native perennials for Missouri City, TX
March 19, 2014 - I checked all the questions for my area and still need help. What are some native perennials for southeast Texas
view the full question and answer

Identification of vine with green flowers
May 23, 2012 - Trying to identify a vine with 5-petaled ~1 cm dia green flowers (w/ barely perceptible white & black speckles). I have 3 photos I can send (showing flowers & leaves). The flower petals are almost...
view the full question and answer

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