invasive kudzu growing over a barn in rural setting
Photo: Gilbert S Grant/Getty
Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) grows over a barn.
Get to the root of the problem. Digging is an effective way to remove invasive shrubs, but beware: These are tenacious plants with root systems to match. Digging up a mature burning bush can mean a whole afternoon of backbreaking labor. Recruit a group of friends to help, or consider buying a Weed Wrench—a manual tool especially designed for pulling out shrubs. Removal at the root is key, or plants may grow back.

Be vigilant. In spite of your best efforts, you may discover new suckers growing from leftover roots, or a legacy of seedlings come spring. Fortunately, suckers and seedlings are far easier to remove than their full-grown parents. Learn to recognize these young plants so that you can rip them out before they get established.

Replant and mulch. Whether you're removing one shrub or a whole hedge, odds are you'll disturb the soil. Disturbed sites are prime real estate for weeds, including invasive ones. Replant your site with something new as soon as possible and mulch well to prevent unwanted seedlings.

Use chemicals, in a pinch. Herbicides can serve as backup, although they're generally more effective on perennials than shrubs. To treat a small, clumping shrub, chop down the plant a few inches above ground level and paint the freshly cut stems with a glyphosate-based herbicide. Use the same method for large, multitrunked shrubs, but drill holes into the stumps for additional infiltration. For best results, apply chemicals in late summer to early winter, when shrubs are pulling nutrients into their roots to prep for dormancy, and quickly take action if stragglers pop up later.
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