My battle with wisteria

My battle with wisteria - Or "How do you kill wisteria anyway?"


   My story begins with my wife (now Ex) planting wisteria along a fence row that used to have grapes growing on it.   For years, we would prune it back and it would grow like crazy the next year.

   If you cut it back in the summer, there were swarms of bees, wasps, even hornets  and bumble bees (black ones that I'd never seen before.) that would be all over it.  Now, I don't mind bees - after all, without them, we wouldn't be here would we?  As they make almost all plants reproduce and account for all the fruit that is produced.

   None the less, I had little desire to fight this stuff in the summer.  I would hack it back in the winter.  However, in the winter the buds for the next year's growth make little sharp barbs that will slice the crud out of you when you cut it back.  Using gloves and a leather coat I would go and commence the battle.   Even armed as best I could, I always ended up getting cut and would be bleeding from somewhere.

   So, a couple years after I got divorced, I decided to terminate the wisteria.  I cut 100% of it back and cleared the fence of it "for good"   This, was of course, in the winter months.

   Next spring I paid little attention to it until I noticed that the fence was green, and it wasn't the grapes.  It was back!  AND it was back with a vengeance!   The ENTIRE fence from end to end regrew in a single year!  6' high, 40' long.   The were a few grapes left, but they were getting choked out.  I didn't do anything with it for the rest of that year.

   The next year, I noticed it had grown INTO the house, AROUND the house - it was growing 50' away at my french doors that lead out to the deck.  WTF?  It was growing now over the top of my house, into the eves, and was pushing out 4-5' from the fence.  There was a bike parked there that was totally obscured by them.

    It was time to get rough.   So I did some online research in how to kill it.  I found out:

  • "Wisteria, especially Wisteria sinensis, is very hardy and fast-growing. It can grow in fairly poor-quality soils, but prefers fertile, moist, well-drained soil. They thrive in full sun.Wisteria can be propagated via hardwood cutting, softwood cuttings, or seed."  -  From the WIki on it.  Yeah, it can grow from a piece you chopped off - of either the hardwood or the softwood.  Very Hardy - they ain't kidding.
  • Do NOT burn it - it can grow back from the ashes, and wherever you burn it you could just spread it.  This won't help the roots die either.
  • the Total Vegetation killer - that will kill EVERYTHING for a FULL YEAR will NOT kill this stuff!  (Holy crud!)
  • Roundup that you get in the store (2%) will not phase it either.  (My dad used that when I was a kid on his nursery and one drop would kill a plant!)
  • It is one of the hardest plants to kill - as it can come back up from the roots - YEARS after you think it has been killed.  It goes dormant if you fight it long enough.

So, I thought about some options: 
  • Trying the Total vegetation killer anyway.
  • Using RoundUp - but at 43% strength 21.5 times stronger than the normal.
  • Using RoundUp full strength, drilling holes in the trunks and pouring it in - and repeating 24 hours later (was told this works)
  • Using Roundup in baggies - with the leaves / branches put in it and letting them soak for 48+ hours.
  • Burying pipes in the ground with holes in them and forcing STEAM through them to Steam Sterilize the soil (Dad did this to kills stuff for planting plants in the nursery.)   Thought about raising the ground temp to over 200 degrees to "kill the soil" as dad would call it - it makes it so nothing grows in it until it is mixed with 'living' soil.
  • A Nuke?
  • Selling the house?
  • Renting a back hoe and digging up the entire fence, and getting rid of the entire amount of soil it was growing in.  Then building the fence back.

I decided on trying the Roundup and baggies route.  I couldn't really sell the house, and didn't have a nuke handy.

I cut down most of the wisteria and the stubs/sprouts from the ground I took every one of them and put them in a baggie and added about 1/2 oz. of roundup.  That should kill it!

No.  It came back.  It came back in spades.

I started spraying the area with 43% Roundup (used 1 gallon of 18% at one point)  and sprayed EVERYTHING that was the SLIGHTEST bit Green.
That knocked it back.

Every day for the next few months I made it a habit of checking both sides of the fence for sprouts - and hitting them with the 43% Roundup.

I had sprayed 13 times before today, it had killed all the grass, the grapes, everything for 2' in front of both sides of the fence.  I created a 4' wide dead zone.
Yet, it still shot up little shoots from time to time.

Today (5/30/2014), I looked again and there was almost no life on the fence.  Looking MUCH better... But wait!  about 2' from the fence was a nice little bush about 4" high starting to grow from the ground.  I sprayed it. And started to look around my yard.

I found 10-15 MORE of them.  I also noticed that my peach tree had died - apparently, it got hit bit a bit of the mist from the spray.  AND at the base of the tree was a wisteria plant growing - about 8-10" high!!!  WTF that is 20-30' away from the fence!

I took the round up and went after them all, and sprayed them again.

I am hoping to deprive it of energy/fuel - And sooner or later it will simply have to die.

I was reading something someone wrote about pruning wisteria.  They said to just cut it back "most likely you won't kill it."  - Yeah, ya think??

I did find some 51% Roundup.  However, so far I've dropped about $200 fighting this stuff, so maybe the backhoe idea is the right one - just dig down about 5-6' and scrape everything off and get rid of it.


PS:    There ought to be a law against planting this stuff.   It can spread to a whole neighborhood.  And be impossible to kill.  At least, it should require a warning label.  If it had one, maybe my Ex wouldn't have planted it.

6/1/2014 - I went to look to see if any more sprouts had popped up in the last 24 hours.  And check out if the ones that had were dead yet.  Well, they are mostly wilted.  However, I noticed about 30 shoots had come up 50-60' from the fence!!  All over my lawn!!  I sprayed them too - but may end up killing one or more of the trees near there in addition to the peach tree that is nearly dead now.

6/1/14 -- Latest Suggestion on how to kill it:

There is apparently something about the way wisteria grows (ie when it translocates nutrients) and the way roundup works which renders roundup mostly ineffective. I'm betting there may be a few magic days in the fall when it might work better. But of course we mortals cannot know when those days are. 

A Dow product called Grazon, which is a mix of Picloram and 2,4-D will kill it. Its specialty is eliminating invasive woody perennial broadleaf species from pastures. Warning: using enough grazon to kill wisteria may keep anything except grass from growing there for a few years. 

If you can't buy Grazon go to a farm supply store and buy 2,4-D and Tordon. Put some basic H or Dawn dish soap in the mix as a surfactant. 

If that doesn't kill it mix up the same stuff with diesel fuel instead of water.

Well, I may have to try that to kill it...

Finally killed it in 2018... Yeah, 4 more years battling it... In 2016, I cut it all off and it ran runners out 60' straight away from the fence... a line of them - you saw nothing until 60' away and then there was a straight line of the plants popping up... I sprayed them all with 43% Round-up - (not the 2% stuff you normally use), that doesn't really work any better, and Round-Up isn't a good thing to spray around (mom died from Cancer from it, sister got it as well - Dad own a nursery and sprayed round-up all the time - thinking it was safe.)

How did I kill it?  I used one of Dad's ideas..  At the suggestion of my brother.  I put trash can lids over the plants.  This kept them from getting an light, so they couldn't rebuild their underground food stores.. But, didn't stop them from using that stored food to grow.. After 2 years, they finally gave up and died...  However, be aware, this plant can stay dormant for a long time before it starts coming back again...

And although, I've not seen it since 2018, I've seen a bunch of plants pop up 100' from where this was planted that looks similar, and I'm not sure if that is it or not... Lord, I hope not.  I've been mowing those plants off and so far, not seen anything that I've been able to confirm is Wisteria... but, yeah, my recommendation:  Do NOT plant this weed! It maybe pretty, and it may grow 'fast' and that all sounds good...but I had this stuff growing inside my house, and through the house (out the other side) and thankfully, it seems to spread by runners that need to go across the ground to get somewhere, so the driveway stopped it on one side..

If you get this going, good luck getting rid of it...