Cooperative Extension Service 
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Hendry County Extension P. O. Box 68 LaBelle, Florida 33975-0068 Phone (863) 674-4092

Hendry County Horticulture News

Kudzu - A Primer for Beginners

All of you beginning gardeners out there might want to consider growing kudzu as a fine way to launch out into the great adventure of gardening in the south.  Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) is native to Japan, having bean-like compound leaves and clusters of reddish purple flowers and grown for fodder and foliage.  Kudzu, for  those of  you not familiar with it, is a hardy perennial vine that can be grown quite well by the beginner who observes a  few simple procedures.

Kudzu can be grown almost anywhere, so site selection is not the problem it is with some other  finicky plants like strawberries.  Although kudzu will grow quite well on cement, for best result you should select an area having at least some dirt.  To avoid possible lawsuits, it is advisable to  plant well away from your neighbors house, unless, of course, you don't get along well with your neighbor anyway.

Soil preparation for kudzu is minimal, just go out and stomp on the soil for a while just to get its attention and to prepare it for kudzu.  Kudzu should always be planted at  night.  If  kudzu  is planted  during daylight hours, angry neighbors might see you and begin throwing rocks at you.

The best fertilizer for  kudzu  is 40 weight non-detergent motor oil.   Kudzu actually doesn't need anything to help it grow, but the motor oil helps to prevent damage and scraping the underside of the tender leaves when the vines start to grow rapidly.  It also cuts down on the friction and lessens the danger of fire when the kudzu really starts to run.  Change oil once every thousand feet or every two weeks which ever comes first. Scrap iron and old engine blocks are useful in preventing iron deficiencies from developing on mature plants.

Contrary to what may have heard, kudzu can profit from a good mulch.  I have found that a heavy mulch on young plants produces a hardier crop.  For best results, as soon as the young shoots begin to appear, cover kudzu with concrete blocks or other construction debris.  Although this will cause a temporary setback, kudzu will accept this mulch as a challenge and will reward you with redoubled determination in the long run.

Kudzu is ideal for either the organic gardener or for those who prefer to use chemicals to ward off garden pests.  Kudzu is oblivious to both chemicals and pests.  Therefore, you can grow organically and let the pests get out of the way of the kudzu as best they can, or you can spray any commercial poison directly on your crop.  Your decision depends on how much you enjoy killing bugs.  The kudzu will not mind either way.

Many gardeners are understandably concerned that growing the same crop year after year will deplete the soil.  If you desire to change from kudzu to some other plant next year, now is the time to begin preparations.  Right now, before the growing season has reached its peak, you should list your house and land with a reputable real estate agent and begin making plans to move elsewhere. Your chances of selling will be better now than they will be later in the year, when it may be difficult for a prospective buyer to see that underneath those lush green vines stands an adorable three bedroom house.

As you have probably gathered by now, this article is a demented horticulturist's idea of an April Fool' s Joke.  In reality, kudzu is a prime example of an invasive exotic plant that has gotten out of control in many parts of the south.  It is Georgia's and many other southern states' local version of Brazilian pepper, maleleuca and Australian pine rolled into one.

Fortunately, kudzu does not do very well in our area as our hot humid summers are a bit too much for it, but invasive exotic plants are a major problem locally and throughout the country.  They cost  the state of Florida and private individuals and companies millions of dollars every year in control and eradication efforts.  Homeowners and gardeners can help by educating themselves and avoiding the use of invasive plant species in landscape design and eradicating those that are present.  Contact the Hendry County Extension for more information on invasive plant identification and control.  Good luck and good gardening.

Gene McAvoy is the horticulture agent with the Hendry County Extension Service.  Direct your horticulture questions to PO Box 68, LaBelle, FL 33975,  e-mail - or phone 863-674-4092 or  863-983-1598.  You are also welcome to visit the Hendry County Extension Office at 225 Pratt Blvd., LaBelle.   Office hours are from 8:00 - 5:00.

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