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How to Kill Smilax Rotundifolia

By Wendy Anderson ; Updated September 21, 2017

Smilax rotundifolia, or greenbrier, is an invasive weed and often the bane of gardeners and landscape designers alike. If it has a handy place to climb, Smilax can easily grow to 30 feet tall. If it cannot find anything to climb, it will form a dense, bushy mass of thorns and foliage. While the Smilax species can be attractive and provide a food source for wildlife, most gardeners don't want it growing in their flowerbeds. Unfortunately, because Smilax roots are tenacious, eliminating it from your garden can be an ongoing challenge.

Step 1

Unravel the vine from any plants you want to keep. Use pruning shears to cut the vine as needed, but don't pull the vine off the desirable plants, as doing so may damage the plants you want to keep. Be sure to wear gardening gloves to protect your hands from the sharp thorns.

Step 2

Spray or paint the leaves and stems with a non-selective herbicide. Be sure to protect the plants you wish to keep from any overspray, as non-selective herbicides kill any vegetation they contact.

Step 3

Allow the herbicide to dry on the plant for one to two days.

Step 4

Fill floral water tubes with undiluted herbicide. Wear gloves and eye protection to protect yourself from any splashes.

Step 5

Cut back the Smilax stems, leaving only 8 to 10 inches above the ground.

Step 6

Peel the bark from the stems and cut each stem at a 45-degree angle.

Step 7

Place each stem into one of the herbicide-filled floral picks. You can leave them hanging on the plant or drive the pointed end of the water tubes into the ground to anchor them. Leave them in place until the plant is clearly dead or the herbicide disappears from the tubes.

Step 8

Carefully dig or pull up the dead plants, removing as much of the root system and attached tubers as possible.

Step 9

Repeat as needed. It may take several tries to completely eliminate Smilax vines from your garden.


Things You Will Need

  • Non-selective herbicide or brush killer
  • Herbicide sprayer or small paintbrush
  • Pruning shears
  • Gardening gloves
  • Floral water tubes with caps (optional)
  • Rubber gloves (optional)
  • Protective goggles (optional)


  • Smilax rotundifolia is extremely difficult to eradicate. Remove seedlings as soon as you see them to control them before they become established.


  • Read the instructions on the herbicide carefully and follow any recommended safety precautions.
  • Always wear thick gardening gloves when handling Smilax species. The thorns are extremely sharp and can cause painful scratches and punctures.

About the Author


Wendy Anderson has been writing professionally since 2006, and has had poems, short stories and essays published in several local literary magazines. She has also been copy-editing for more than 15 years, and has worked with local and national authors and publishing houses. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Lambuth College.