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Hello-

I have a trumpet vine in my back yard that someone planted years ago.  Instead of putting up a standard trellis for it, they stupidly used a piece of chain link fencing, and now the trumpet vine's trunk has grown into, and has become embedded in, the fence.  I am not fond of the trumpet vine.  Further, it is only about 2 feet from my back fence line, which is in need of serious repairs (has large gaps and my dog is escaping) AND a possum is now residing somewhere in my back yard.  I am trying to remove the trumpet vine from my yard.  I know that I will have to cut it down and remove the trunk and chain link fence.  We have cut it back to only what's on the fence, but it was like the vine viewed it as a 'breath of fresh air' and it went nuts and started growing like crazy again.

My question is about the runners it sends out.  I find runners all over my yard.  Up to thirty feet away from the plant, and they are not above ground, I am having to clip them at ground level and attempt to dig them out of the ground.

What is the best way to deal with these runners, and kill them off?  Will they die off when I deal with mother plant?  Or will I need to do more?  Or is it like ivy, and I will be battling them for eternity?  My oldest daughter and I laughingly (sometimes in irritation) call it the vampire plant.

What do you suggest?  We live in Illinois if that helps, so zone 5.

Answer
Hello, Holly!
Man, oh, man, you have my sympathies. Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) is incredibly invasive. Yes, you are correct that you're going to need to get somebody in there with a backhoe or something to take the fence and its "tenant" - the vine - out completely. I recommend that you do this AFTER you've cut off all the blooms, so the disruption doesn't inadvertently spread any seed heads into the landscape, which is the last thing you want. Once that's done, attacking the runners is Job 2. Unfortunately, killing the "mother plant" will do very little to harm the runners. Trumpet vine reproduces three ways: seeds dropping off into the soil (once the bloom goes to seed, which is why clipping every bloom is so important!), rooting (when the vine touches the ground, it will root at the point of contact), and underground runners. It's easy to manage the first two, as they occur above ground, but the runners are something else entirely.

This is going to take time and time's twin - patience.

There are several ways to approach this. (1) You can treat the runners as you would English ivy or any other unwanted vine - digging them up and pulling them out as you find them, and eventually you will have it under control (though probably never really and truly eradicated). (2) You can get more aggressive, and apply eco-friendly substances (boiling water and salt, or white vinegar) to every spot that seems to have a trumpet vine "infestation." Get rid of as much vegetation as possible, and then apply the boiling water/salt or vinegar mixture to an area three feet around the base of any main root clusters. OR (3)You can apply a really frowned-upon herbicide like Round-Up (or anything that contains glyphosate) to as much of the plant as you can get at. Now, these herbicides can damage nearby plants (especially if you spray), which is why most people "paint" them on the leaves and stems. There is also a lot of concern that these herbicides can harm the environment and cause certain cancers. Unfortunately, they are very, very, effective and that's why so many gardeners continue to use them. The choice is yours.

Holly, this is going to take a few years of diligent, persistent warfare. You sound like a warrior, so I think you can do this. I wish I had an easier (magic!) solution, but I don't. Keep me posted, and thanks for writing.

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Kathleen Franklin

Expertise

I can answer all kinds of questions about vines that thrive in most U.S. soils/climates, though I am more knowledgeable about Zones 4-8. I am a huge fan of vines (even the sort of "Look out, Martha, here it comes again" varieties), especially wisteria, climbing hydrangea, Carolina jessamine, and (invasive though it is) English Ivy. I grow them all, and would love to share what I've learned with you!

Experience

I am a certified, active Master Gardener in Maryland (Montgomery County) and have six+ years experience working at a local garden nursery. I've been gardening for more than 20 years and have done consulting work for many residential homeowners on all aspects of gardening and garden design.

Organizations
Maryland Master Gardeners Friends of Brookside Gardens Nature Conservancy

Publications
I have authored numerous nature and gardening-related articles for publications ranging from Audubon Naturalist News to Washington Gardener magazine.

Education/Credentials
I have taken courses in Integrated Pest Management, perennials, shrubs, and vines.

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