How to Kill and Remove Kudzu

Kudzu originated in CHINA where it was used for medicines and paper for thousands of years and did not make it to the United States in the late 1800’s when it brought to several national expositions.   It is uncommonly “hearty” which is why it was thought to be ideal in the prevention of hillside erosion and feed for growing numbers of cattle.   Thousands of acres of the plant were planted during America’s great depression.  It grows quickly, roots deeply, and seems to be able to survive in almost any environment.  Winter freezes will kill the leaves, but the plant’s roots typically survive until temperatures are more favorable, leaves return, and the vine begins to grow again.  If the Kudzu in question is beginning to damage nearby plants, or you just want to see it gone, prepare yourself for a battle.  The plant is not easily removed, and may require a lengthy and multi-faceted approach.  Fear not, for if the last 100 years have taught us anything it is that in the battle between man and plants, man wins.  If you are determined to rid yourself of Kudzu, some of the approaches in this guide are sure to work for you.

How to Use Chemicals to Kill Kudzu

Depending on the size of the area that this invader plant is covering, and because an affected area can consist of many individual plants it may be difficult to isolate any one root system for a direct attack.  Start with readily available chemicals to weaken the plant for the steps to follow.   Handle all chemicals with care and wear appropriate eye and face protection along with gloves and any other recommended gear as directed by the manufacturer or supplier of the chemicals you choose to employ.

  • Wait until the end of a growth season to attack.  Colder temperatures will weaken the plant and will make chemical attacks even more devastating.
  • Choose SYSTEMIC HERBICIDES (meaning chemicals that starts the attack at the leaves and works its way back through the rest of the plant).  This can often kill the entire plant.
  • This link will take you take you a highly effective and specialized mixture for killing kudzu and other troublesome plants that was developed at North Carolina State University
  • If possible, make sure EVERY leaf is sprayed for maximum effectiveness.
  • After waiting the prescribed number of days, recheck for surviving, green leaves and spray them again.

Clearing the area of Kudzu

The following steps can be conducted on their own or in conjunction with the chemical applications listed above.  It stands to reason that a dead or dying plant is easier to remove so if you are short on elbow grease or patience then try using the methods above first to soften your enemy’s defenses before taking up arms (your arms) in a hand to hand assault.

  • Depending on the size of the area, use a saw, an axe, or implement of your choice to cut the plants as near to the ground as possible.  Despite the fact that kudzu can crawl up trees and buildings it is still rooted in the ground.
  • If all the roots are successfully cut, you will kill the plant above ground leaving you to deal with killing the plant under the ground.
  • Chemical application, in and around root cuts and exposed root crowns, is an effective way to kill the roots.
  • Remove the dead vines from the project area.   This can be done with a shovel, steel rake or hoe.   This is done so that you can be certain that all the root crowns have been dug up or destroyed.  If you fail to sever or poison root crowns in the cutting or chemical attacks your kudzu can recover and start to grow again.  Clearing out the affected area can also by done by burning dead plants after the chemicals have killed them off.*****USE EXTREME CAUTION and CHECK WITH YOUR LOCAL FIRE DEPARTMENT BEFORE DOING SO IF YOU PLAN TO USE FIRE AS A MEANS TO CLEAR AWAY DEAD VINES*****
  • Make sure to remove or destroy any and all parts of the root you expose or dig up as this determined plant may spring forth again if any parts of the root end up covered with soil after their initial removal.

Finishing & Following Up

If, when following the steps above, you applied chemicals thoroughly,  and searched for and destroyed root crowns diligently.  If you removed and destroyed the remains that you dug up, pulled down, cut or burned, you may have actually killed off the kudzu in your project area.   Even If you were not careful and even if your plant was exceptionally crafty you will have at least put a serious dent in enemy’s defenses making follow up attacks easier.  If you continue to see kudzu coming back in same area, you may need to dig further below the surface and manually remove any remaining pieces of the root system that have survived.  Or if your assaults fail, you can always enlist the aid of professionals with heavy equipment and chemicals not available to the general public

  • Once kudzu is confirmed dead, consider a program of remediation to help the soil recover from exposure to chemicals.  Your kudzu is dead, but so might be anything you try to plant there if large amounts plant killing chemicals are present on or in the soil.  Please read over our article on How to Create Healthy Soil.
  • If dead, brown vines were not discarded, compost them for fertilizer in other planting projects.
  • If you plan on building in the newly cleared area or simply do not wish for plants to grow there, considering tilling rock salt into the ground where the kudzu once flourished.  Salt is destructive to almost all plants and acts to sterilize the soil while you decide what you want to do with the area in question.

If you prefer an “earth friendly” approach to removing kudzu, though difficult, it is possible.  A hard working team or individual ( or a person with access to the right equipment ) can simply dig the roots of the plant up and cut and pull the vines from the project area.    Using many of the same steps listed in the CLEARING THE AREA and FOLLOW UP sections you will be able to work towards preventing regrowth.  There are also environmentally friendly, chemical-free, plant killers that can be purchased or made at home to serve the same basic purpose as the more aggressive and potentially hazardous chemical varieties.   Kudzu can grow up to a foot a day so if you see that your efforts have not been successful, follow up quickly and enlist additional aid to prevent your work from going to waste.

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