Weed-free lawns are the stuff of dreams and championship golf courses. In fact, when you consider the tenacity of weeds, it's a wonder any of us win the pitched battles we wage with these pesky invaders. Just one dandelion plant makes up to 15,000 seeds, each of which can survive six years in the soil—creating 15,000 more seeds when it sprouts and matures.
Synthetic herbicides are the usual response to chronic weed problems. But used unwisely, these chemical weed killers can be dangerous to people, pets and turf. And unless you get at the underlying problems that weaken lawns and favor weeds, you might have to apply herbicides frequently.
Read How to Get Rid of Weeds to see the most effective methods.
The best way to control dandelions and other weeds in your yard is to grow a thick, vigorous lawn. Dense grass crowds out weeds and blocks the sunlight their seeds need to germinate. If only a few weeds dot your lawn, changing your maintenance tactics might be all it takes to get rid of them. And if your efforts at hand-to-hand combat haven't worked, take heart. There really is a way to pull out even stubborn dandelions so they don't come back.
About Lawn Weeds
Lawn weeds fall under three broad categories: unwanted grasses; grasslike plants called sedges; and broadleaf plants. Most are annuals or perennials. Annuals complete their life cycle in one season and reproduce from seeds. Perennials live several years and spread underground as well as by seed, making them harder to control.
The following lawn weed guide shows examples of the different and most common types of weeds that plague lawns throughout the country. If you're still stumped about whether yellow nutsedge or yellow woodsorrel has invaded your turf, call the extension service in your area for help from experts.
What Are the Most Common Types of Lawn Weeds?
Crabgrass is an annual with branching, spreading stems. Its coarse, blue-green to purplish leaf blades can be smooth or hairy, depending on the species. Flower heads with several fingerlike spikes rise from narrow stems.
Crabgrass thrives in lawns mowed shorter than 2 inches, underfed lawns, and those watered frequently and lightly. Thick, deeply irrigated turf is the best control. Dig crabgrass before it seeds. Pre-emergence crabgrass herbicides are available; apply in spring before soil temperature reaches a steady 60 degrees F.
Dandelion is a broadleaf perennial recognized by bright-yellow flowers and a large, flat rosette of leaves rising from a long, fleshy taproot. Dandelions favor thin turf.
Pull or dig out young plants before they go to seed. Then cut any regrowth from leftover root pieces. You can also spot-treat weeds with a selective broadleaf weed killer.
3. White Clover
White clover is a broadleaf perennial that used to be included in grass seed mixes. Also called white Dutch clover, it's distinguished by three-lobed leaves with a crescent-shaped white band. The plant spreads by creeping stems and thrives in sparse, undernourished turf with excessive moisture.
Control it by watering well, applying nitrogen fertilizer and avoiding excessive applications of phosphorus. Spot-treat with a selective broadleaf weed killer; a second treatment often is needed.
4. Ground Ivy
Ground ivy is a broadleaf perennial with square stems and bright-green rounded leaves with scalloped edges. It reproduces by seed and creeping stems that root as they touch the ground.
Also called creeping Charlie, it prefers damp soil and shade. Improve drainage and water less. Pull stems and roots of young plants. Spot-treat with a broadleaf post-emergence herbicide.
What are the worst weeds?
5. Yellow Woodsorrel
Yellow woodsorrel is a broadleaf perennial, although it might act as an annual in some regions. Also known as oxalis, it has clover-like leaves and yellow flowers, each with five petals. Plants spread by roots and seed.
This weed is difficult to control, and does best in thin turf watered frequently and lightly. Water thoroughly and fertilize properly. Dig out small plants or spot-treat isolated ones with a post-emergence weed killer. Prevent new weeds with a pre-emergence herbicide with oxalis on the label.
Quackgrass is a perennial grass with flat light-green to blue-green leaves. It spreads by seeds and aggressive underground stems, called rhizomes.
Thoroughly dig out roots and pointed rhizomes—remaining pieces regenerate new plants. Spot-treat with a nonselective weed killer.
7. Yellow Nutsedge
Yellow nutsedge is a grasslike perennial sedge with triangular stems and 1/4-inch-wide leaves. Also called yellow nutgrass, it reproduces by seed and tubers that grow at the root tips. Tubers often persist in the soil, making established plants difficult to control.
Mow high in early to midsummer and water infrequently though thoroughly. Spot-treat with post-emergence herbicides labeled for nutsedge. As with most weeds, control is easiest when plants are small.
8. Spotted Surge
Spotted spurge is a broadleaf annual that grows close to the ground in a fast-spreading mat. Its small leaves are green with a brown-red spot on top. Cut stems exude a milky liquid.
Spotted spurge reseeds heavily. A high-mowed, well-fertilized and vigorous lawn provides tough competition. Pull isolated plants before they seed. Spot-treat with a post-emergence weed killer and use appropriate pre-emergence herbicides to prevent new weeds.
Where to Find Weed-Killing Products
AgrEvo Environmental Health (Product: Weed Warrior)
95 Chestnut Ridge Rd.
Montvale, NJ 07645
Fertrell (Products: WeedzSTOP and organic controlled-release fertilizers)
Bainbridge, PA 17502
Garden's Alive! (Products: WOW! and WOW! Plus controlled-release fertilizers)
5100 Schenley Pl.
Lawrenceburg, IN 47025
Monsanto Corp., The Solaris Group (Products: Herbicides, including Roundup and weed-and-feed products)
San Ramone, CA 94583
Necessary Organics, Inc. (Products: Concern Weed Prevention Plus controlled-release fertilizer and other products)
New Castle, VA 24127
Ringer (Safer brand items) (Products: Weed-Away lawn weed killer and controlled-release lawn fertilizer)
9555 James Ave. S,
Minneapolis, MN 55431
Scotts Company (Lawn care products)
14111 Scottslawn Rd.
Marysville, OH 43041
Pursell Industries, Inc. (Products: Stay-Green controlled-release fertilizers)
Sylacauga, AL 35150
Pursell Industries, Inc.