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University of Minnesota Extension

Fall clean up: Time to remove annual vines

Leafy plant on a black metal fence.
Morning glories are a good choice for softening a fence.

Vines are a great way to soften fences, and annual vines are particularly fun because you can change them every year. Scarlet runner beans, pole beans, morning glories, and black-eyed Susan vine are just a few annual vines that can be direct-seeded in spring and work in a sunny, open area of your garden.

Fast-forward to fall and clean-up time. Removing a robust annual vine like my morning glory ‘Grandpa Ott’ is a pain. However, it’s easier to remove the vine in the fall when the stems are firm. 

  1. Start by using your pruner or hedge shears to cut the main stem of the plant.
  2. Then give the vine a “buzz-cut” — in other words, prune the plant off close to the fence. Cut off as much as you can.
  3. Remember to lift up the stems that are hanging over the fence.
  4. After cutting back as much as you can, start to unwind the stems from the fence. This is the picky part of the project, but your effort will be rewarded with a clean fence, ready for planting next spring.
  5. Compost your vine cuttings.
  6. If you have a seedy vine like morning glory, consider putting down a preemergent herbicide in areas where you don’t want the plants to sprout. Remember not to apply the preemergent where you plant new seeds.


Hand with pruners cutting the stem of a plant growing on a fence.
Cut the main stem.
Gloved hand holding pruners cutting away green vine on a fence.
Give your vine a “buzz cut” using pruners or hedge shears.
Green vine on a black fence.
Remove as much of the vine as you can.
Black fence with a few green stems on it.
Unwind remaining stems from the fence.
A black metal garden fence.
A clean fence ready for new vines next spring.

Author: Julie Weisenhorn, Extension educator, horticulture

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