The Q&A Archives: Eliminating Volunteer Plants

Question: I have nothing but ugly volunteer plants growing in a ring around a Magnolia tree. I want to plant something colorful and organized, but am unsure how to permanently rid myself of the volunteer plants without harming the Magnolia. I've pulled the bedding plants by hand, but am sure roots remain and know, from experience, the pesky plants will be back. If I use Round Up (or something similar) will it hurt the tree or the flowers I will eventually plant?

Answer: Round-Up's main ingredient is called glyphosate, which is a systemic. This means when it is sprayed on a plant, the plant absorbs and distributes it throughout its system. Eventually, it kills the entire plant, including the roots. The spray can drift to other plants, particularly if there is any breeze. It's possible the magnolia roots can absorb some of it, also, although it is not supposed to last in the soil. If the volunteers are bedding plants, you should be able to eliminate by pulling. Soak the soil area slowly and deeply to make it easier to pull them out by the roots. They may also be coming back from seed; pull them as soon as possible before roots get established.

Another nontoxic way to get rid of them would be to apply a thick layer of mulch to preclude them from sprouting. I hope this info helps!

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