Killing a Bird of Paradise?

jplee3June 30, 2012

Hey guys,

I'm trying to get rid of several Birds of Paradise plants that have claimed too much space in my small yard. I want to wipe out everything in the yard to make way for things I'd like to plant. The BOPs have been in this yard probably for at least 10 years or more. Anyway, I tried digging out a couple of the smaller ones but it seemed pretty impossible. They were planted right next to the wall too, so digging a ditch around it would be pretty hard.

I ended up cutting down to the stumps on a couple and trying to cut as many roots down as possible underneath. Then I gave up and covered them back up with dirt. Do you guys think this will work? The thought is that [hopefully] no sunlight can get to them and cause them to re-grow. I guess if it does work, the root ball will take a long time to break up...

Any thoughts on this?

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How thick is the dirt on them. Most probably they will just push their way through. Some plants are just tough. I put a black plastic cover over a Bougainvillea stump but it took about 4 years before it died off. If you're not adverse to poisons, you could drill holes down into it and pour in some glyphosate (Roundup). You'd still have to wait for the plants remains to rot away but the longer they stay alive, the longer it will take before they're decayed.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 1:41AM
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I'd say probably no more than 3-5" of dirt? If I mound more dirt on top, do you think would that help? I guess I'm not opposed to poisoning them either - would Roundup work on the stump though? And if so, what % concentrate would I need for that? I have the classic spray-on RoundUp that I was trying to use and all it would do is rot the leaves and shoots, but they'd still come up.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 11:06AM
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What Round-up does is it interferes with the plants internal processes/metabolism. The poison shouldn't be too strong a concentration because that immediately kills in the vicinity of contact but doesn't allow the poison to be transported throughout the plant. Also, when you cut into the plant to get poison further inside, you have to apply the Round-up within about 30 seconds. When cut the plant starts to block off that area and that will prevent the poison being transported further if the application is late.

But to cover with just soil won't be enough. You'd need to put some sort of plastic over the clump and put the dirt on that. That prevents any shoots reaching light and start feeding the plant.

With the Bougainvillea I used to uncover it during the night every few weeks or month or so and break off any shoots. That starved the roots by taking away the stored nutrients they used to produce the shoots. Eventually they ran out, and as they say in the classics, the rest was history.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 2:10AM
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Thanks for the info! I guess if it starts shooting back up through the dirt maybe I'll think about digging and drilling in to apply some Roundup. I noticed Roundup offers a stump killer as well - would that be pretty effective?

BTW: Did you use a combination of Roundup and covering the plant with dirt/tarp for killing off the Bougainvillea?

I'll look into getting something to cover it up - would landscaping fabric be effective? Before I buried the plant, 90% of it was browned from when I tried killing it off beforehand. There were a few green shoots and leaves that grew back out though.

I'm just wondering if it'll take a long time to get rid of these since they're probably closer to 15 years old at least...

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 1:16PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Try pouring a big pot of boiling water on the stump and roots. That should kill it, especially if you dig a little moat around it first, so the heat really gets to it.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 4:08PM
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Thanks for the suggestion! I think I read about pouring hot water on from searching around on the web. I was actually thinking about that after I covered up the stumps with dirt. I guess if I notice more stumps popping up, I'll give that a try. I still have two BOPs left to handle as well as a giant BOP stump (I cut down it down to 2-3 feet high but there are some shoots starting to come up from the side of the base now).

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 4:19PM
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The main ingredient in Round-up is Glyphosate, but the stump killer might have some other additives such as 2,4D. That ups the ante a bit because that's more toxic than just the Glyphosate. The Glyphosate is broken down in the soil by micro-organisms and in fact breaks down into a fertiliser after a short while. Some of these other compounds last a lot longer. But be mindful that before any of these things do actually break down they can be very harmful to other creatures, especially frogs and fish.

For covering up, anything which prevents light from getting through would be okay. Letting water in is good because it encourages growth which makes the plant use up its stored reserves. The sooner the reserves are depleted the sooner it dies.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 12:07AM
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Interesting, I knew Glyphosate breaks down but didn't realized it would break down into a fertilizer. My in-laws came yesterday for the 4th and my father-in-law ended up helping me start digging out the other BOPs. the yard is a crazy mess right now. There's a couple large Jacaranda trees right outside the yard wall and we discovered, while digging trenches around the BOPs and rose bushes, that the Jacaranda roots have invaded the yard! They're relatively shallow but some are thicker and required using a saw to remove. It seems like there's an endless rabbit-hole of landscaping obstacles in our yard!

I think I'm going to a need a new shovel and spade soon too...

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 12:17PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

Good luck with this! I'm so on your side. My late mother in law had 6, 5' wide clumps of these invasive things, and they were so shaggy and ugly! The flowers were few and the clumps so large, you couldn't hardly reach them to pick them. We sold the house, so it's the new owner's problem!

I got rid of a bouganvilla too by using roundup on it's green leaves. Never dug it up, and it never came back. Every time it would put out new leaves, they got the Round-up treatment. That was two years ago. It's gone!

Now, I'm doing the same thing with invasive mint! Talk about tough!! Never again, in-ground. Love mint, but not how it creeps everywhere...

Good luck with your bird of Paradise!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 10:03AM
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Man it's been a hot summer here in SoCal! Anyway, I've slowly grown my garden tool collection over the past several months and ended up getting a 5lb pick-axe/mattock from Harbor Freight tools for under $15 after coupons, etc.

Over the weekend, I went at the BOPs next to the AC condenser and removed pretty much all the stems. The mattock works wonders! My only concern now is if the BOP will keep sprouting back up. I'm pretty sure I got the pick deep enough in so that it penetrated the crown - I've heard that if you can damage the crown, that might be enough to kill it off... I only hope in as much. Anyway, now that the stems are at least cleared out, it gives a much greater sense of relief and accomplishment. And definitely a better visualization of how we'll ultimately end up utilizing the space. There's still a couple rose bushes and other plants I'm hesitant to uproot at this point. Of course, I've noticed there are multiple rose bush shoots that have sprung up in random places all over the yard.

Oh and the giant BOP stump is still there from when my father-in-law came. I think I'll be able to get that out with the pick-axe eventually. But it was hard work getting the normal BOP stems out - I was sweating like crazy and drenched afterwards.

I'm glad I picked up this tool - it really works wonders! I'm just hoping it doesn't break on me anytime soon! Actually, there's one 5-star review on Harbor Freight's site where the guy bought one and also got one from Home Depot. He said the Home Depot one broke after using it a few times but the HF mattock was still going strong after pretty strenuous use.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 6:07PM
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I find mattocks are great, but just don't let your feet get in the way .......OUCH!!!!!

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 12:53AM
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LOL I know what you mean. When I think about using mine, I always envision the worst-case scenario and the pick/cutter landing wrong and hitting my foot. That would really be horrible. I'm not a tall guy though and found that the length of the mattock is pretty substantial, so I figure there's not much room for error. Of course, anything can happen!

    Bookmark   September 27, 2012 at 1:56PM
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Just a quick update. I've been making a lot of progress with the mattock I got from Harbor Freight reciprocating saw I'm borrowing (also from HF... I may just go buy one - they're only $20 right now w/ a coupon and work reasonably well). The pruning blades I picked up for it really do the trick on smallish roots; just make sure you wear safety goggles/glasses!

I pretty much hacked out most of the BOPs - I'm pretty certain I pierced the crowns on all of them too but I'll have to do some double-checking. That and I guess I'll know in a few months if I don't see any shoots coming out of the ground. *crossing fingers*

I also took the mattock and reciprocating saw to the giant BOP stump yesterday. Those tools are lifesavers - the mattock worked really well with splitting the stump down and loosening the packed soil and roots. And the reciprocating saw cut through parts of the stump and roots in the ground almost like butter.

There's such a feeling of accomplishment and relief getting [most of] it out of the ground. I still need to go back and get rid of as many extraneous roots that I can though.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 6:47PM
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Looks like you're well on your way to being rid of them. Any bits of shoot that may turn up should be easy to control.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 11:37PM
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I sure hope so! These things have been a thorn in my side for the longest time...

I attended a SFG workshop this past Saturday and ended up buying the book by Mel Bartholomew. So I'm thinking/planning towards setting up at least 1-2 4x4s to get started, hopefully. I guess that means I won't need to worry much about amending the existing soil too much but it's good to clear all the plants out since I think I'll end up just laying some pavers or bricks around parts of the yard.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 12:55PM
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