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Maintaining a healthy lawn starts with proper nutrition, but it also requires careful weed control. Learn to identify your weeds and use proper weed control. Your access to this site has been limited by the site owner If you think you have been blocked in error, contact the owner of this site for assistance. If you are a WordPress user with Hoary Cress BACKGROUND: Hoary cress (also known as whitetop) was introduced to the U.S. from Europe in the late 19th century. It was first noted around seaports on the east and west coasts,

Weed Identification Guide | Which Weeds Have Infiltrated Your Lawn?

Maintaining a healthy lawn starts with proper nutrition, but it also requires careful weed control. Sure, you can buy a generic weed killer and throw it on your yard with some success. If you want to increase your success at killing every weed in your lawn, being able to identify them and using the proper weed control formulas is critical.

Our weed identification guide will give you a leg up in eradicating those nutrient-draining eyesores for good and getting the lush lawn you crave.

Wild Violet

Wild violet is a perennial weed that is relatively easy to identify thanks to the bright violet or blue flower it produces and its heart-shaped leaves. It is a low-growing weed that is generally less than a foot off the ground.

Where Wild Violet Thrives

Wild violet grows the strongest in moist, shady areas and spots where grass coverage is thin. Though it prefers moist soil, wild violet can survive drought once it’s established.

How to Control Wild Violet

The best way to control wild violet is by creating a thick, healthy lawn. As mentioned above, wild violet prefers areas with minimal grass coverage, and a thick carpet will present a challenge to fledgling sprouts. Pre-emergent weed treatments are not effective on wild violet.

If your lawn has existing wild violet weeds in it, you can remove them through manual pulling. Simply moisten the soil and pull upward sharply until the weed and its root release from the soil.

If you prefer to go the chemical route to rid your yard of wild violet, you can use a post-emergent herbicide containing 2,4-D; MCPP; dicamba; or triclopyr.

Wild Onion and Garlic

Wild onion and garlic are perennial weeds with a grasslike appearance, making them harder to spot. But you can identify them by their distinct upright stance and small, white flowers in more mature weeds. They are also easy to identify by their strong onion and garlic odor.

While they have the same basic characteristics, you can identify distinguish wild garlic by its cylindrical and hollow leaves. Wild onion’s leaves are flat and not hollow.

Where Wild Onion and Garlic Thrives

Wild onion and garlic are hardy weeds that can grow in a wide range of soil types and conditions. They can also survive cold and drought, making them a particularly frustrating weed.

How to Control Wild Onion and Garlic

Unfortunately, pre-emergent herbicides don’t affect wild onion and garlic. A thick lawn is the best preventative measure, but it doesn’t guarantee you won’t have a few patches crop up.

Manual removal is possible, but do not attempt to pull wild onion or garlic by hand. The bulb at the base of the plant will break off when you try to pull it by hand, and it will grow back quickly. Instead, use a small shovel or spade to dig up the bulbs, which are generally at least 6 inches deep.

You can also take the chemical approach by using post-emergent herbicides like 2,4-D, MCPP and dicamba; metsulfuron; sulfentrazone and metsulfuron; sulfosulfuron; or glyphosate.


Dandelions are some of the most common perennial weeds in the U.S. They crop up in the spring and seem to spread like… well… wildflowers. They are relatively easy to identify with their 1- to 2-inch-wide bright-yellow flower, semi-hard 6- to 24-inch stem and toothed leaves.

Unlike many lookalike weeds, dandelions only have one stem and one flower per plant – if it has multiple offshoots, it isn’t a dandelion.

Where Dandelions Thrives

Dandelions are a hardy weed that grow in various conditions, but they thrive in moist, sunny areas.

How to Control Dandelions

To prevent dandelions before they ever grow, you can apply a pre-emergent herbicide in the late winter. Applying it then prevents the seed from germinating. If you apply it any later, the dandelion will still break the surface and take over your yard.

If you already have a dandelion problem, you can use a selective post-emergent broadleaf herbicide to kill each plant individually.

Prefer to go the chemical-free route? You can also remove dandelions by hand using a dandelion removal tool or by simply digging up the taproot. Dandelion taproots are very long, so make certain you get it all. Leaving just one piece of the root intact can lead to even more dandelions.

Garlic Mustard

Garlic mustard is a biennial weed that generally grows 2-3 feet tall but can reach 6 feet in some cases. You can identify garlic mustard by its kidney-shaped hairless leaves with scalloped edges, its S- or L-shaped root, four-petal white flowers in the spring and distinct garlic smell.

Where Garlic Mustard Thrives

Garlic mustard prefers disturbed soil with plenty of shade but will sometimes invade areas of full sun.

How to Control Garlic Mustard

There is no known pre-emergent weed control for garlic mustard, but it is otherwise relatively easy to control manually or chemically.

You can manually remove garlic mustard by gripping it firmly at the base and pulling upward sharply until the plant and root are free of the soil. Because its seeds spread easily, immediately put the pulled weed in a bag or trash container.

If you prefer the chemical route, you can apply a post-emergent herbicide containing glyphosate; triclopyr; 2,4-D; metsulfuron or oryzalin. Use care around other grasses, as some post-emergent herbicides can kill it.

Canada Thistle

There are many varieties of thistle, but one of the more common types that invade our lawns is Canada thistle. You can identify this 3- to 5-foot-tall perennial weed by its deep-lobed lower leaves, more toothed upper leaves and lavender, pink or white flowers.

Where Canada Thistle Thrives

Canada thistle prefers wetter, disturbed grounds like ditch banks, pastures and tilled fields, but is no stranger to backyards.

How to Control Canada Thistle

Canada thistle is an invasive species that can create havoc in your yard, so it’s key to eradicate it as soon as you identify it.

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There is no known pre-emergent herbicide for this weed, and the control process requires several seasons’ worth of treatment. In the late spring, you must apply one treatment of glyphosate and one treatment of dicamba and 2,4-D. In the fall, you will make five treatments, including one of each of the following herbicides:

  • Aminopyralid
  • Aminopyralid and 2,4-D
  • Chlorsulfuron
  • Glyphosate
  • Dicamba

Do not attempt to pull Canada thistle, as this can cause a split root, which can sprout two new plants.

Broad-Leaved Dock

The broad-leaved dock is a tall perennial weed that grows up to 3 feet tall from a rosette base. You can identify it by its long, broad leaves with pointed tips and wavy edges. The leaves near the base of the weed are significantly larger than those near the top and generally grow in an alternating pattern up the stalk.

As you near the top of the plant, the broad-leaved dock features a series of seed pods that are about a tenth of an inch long and light brown.

Where Broad-Leaved Dock Thrives

Broad-leaved dock can thrive in many types of soils, but it’s best suited for disturbed soil that’s been neglected, including drainage areas and pastures. They are also no strangers to backyards with low-lying wet areas.

How to Control Broad-Leaved Dock

There are two options when looking to control broad-leaved dock: manual removal or herbicidal.

When removing broad-leaved dock manually, don’t simply pull it, as its long taproot will likely beak off in the ground and result in a new plant growing in its place. Instead, use a spade or other sharp-tipped shovel to dig up as much of the root as you can. At the very least, you want to cut off the root at least 2 inches below the surface of the soil.

Herbicidally, you have two options. You can use a chemical weed killer that contains glyphosate or clopyralid, or you can go the organic route with insecticidal soap. The organic route works on younger plants by drying out the leaves and killing the plant before it can establish a root system.


Bindweed, a perennial weed with creeping stems that grow on the ground and through other plants, is easily identified by its bell- or funnel-shaped flower that’s about an inch in diameter and white or pinkish colored. It also features alternating, arrowhead-shaped leaves on its stem.

Where Bindweed Thrives

Bindweed is a hardy plant found in many conditions, including farmland, fields and residential yards. Pretty much anywhere there is sufficient soil, water, sun exposure and other plants for it to climb, bindweed will grow.

How to Control Bindweed

You can kill bindweed seeds before they germinate using a pre-emergent weed control containing dithiopyr, pendimethalin or prodiamine. Another great way to keep bindweed from growing altogether it a thick lawn, as it does not compete well in shady areas.

If you already have a bindweed issue, selective post-emergent herbicides like 2,4-D; dicamba; and quinclorac will do the trick without killing your lawn.

Pulling bindweed is generally ineffective, as its root system can stretch up to 20 feet deep, so it will almost certainly return.

Broadleaf Plantain

The broadleaf plantain is a perennial weed that features oval- or egg-shaped leaves that grow in a rosette. When you break a leaf off at its stem, there are long fibers, much like in a celery stalk. From the base of the rosette, long, pointed, green flowers grow upward and contain small seed pods. This weed can grow to about 5 inches tall.

Where Broadleaf Plantain Thrives

Broadleaf plantain weeds prefer areas where other plants don’t grow, including areas where the soil is compact and soggy. If the conditions are right, though, it can also crop up in your landscaping and lawn.

How to Control Broadleaf Plantain

Broadleaf plantain is challenging to control, but not impossible. The best bet is creating a thick and healthy lawn that drowns out seedings. You can also prevent the seeds from germinating by applying a pre-emergent herbicide containing atrazine, indaziflam, isoxaben or mesotrione.

You may still see a few new seedlings crop up. When you see them, immediately pull them to keep them from maturing and spreading seeds.

To eliminate established broadleaf plantain, you want to dig up the weed, but you may need to do this several years in a row before the weed is eradicated.

Post-emergent herbicides containing bromoxynil, carfentrazone, dicamba, mesotrione, penoxsulam or sulfentrazone have proven effective on broadleaf plantain weeds.


Nutsedge is a perennial weed that can be difficult to identify due to its grasslike appearance. Nutsedge is it is generally taller than the rest of the grass, even just a few days after mowing. It also has a triangular stem and, when allowed to grow, will develop flowers that are generally yellow or dark red (nearly purple).

Where Nutsedge Thrives

Nutsedge thrives in moist soil, but it has shown the ability to grow in virtually any type of soil – established nutsedge plants can even thrive in overly dry areas. You can find nutsedge virtually anywhere grass grows.

How to Control Nutsedge

Nutsedge is particularly difficult to control, but it’s far from impossible. Mechanical removal is possible, but not through simple pulling. Instead, you must dig 8-10 inches around a nutsedge cluster and at least 10 inches deep to get all the roots.

Because nutsedge grows from more than just seeds, pre-emergent herbicides are largely ineffective. You can, however, use a post-emergent herbicide containing halosulfuron or sulfentrazone to kill existing growth. These products are generally labeled for use on nutsedge.


Chickweed is a low-lying annual weed that intertwines with other plants. You can easily identify chickweed by its small, white five-petal flowers and oval-shaped leaves with pointed tips and light hair. While chickweed may seem endless, each plant is only 6 to 10 inches long.

Where Chickweed Thrives

Chickweed is especially frustrating because it can grow virtually anywhere, though it prefers cooler, moisture-rich areas.

How to Control Chickweed

Chickweed control is not overly difficult, but experts strongly recommend attempting manual control first by simply pulling it out of the ground. The only time you must resort to chemical control is when you’re dealing with a large area.

If you must switch to chemical control, you can use any product containing dicamba. You can also perform spot treatment with products containing diquat, glufosinate, glyphosate or triclopyr, but spray carefully, as these can kill surrounding grass and plants.

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To prevent chickweed from ever cropping up, you can apply a pre-emergent in the late fall or early winter. Pre-emergent weed controls that’ll work on turf contain benefin, dithiopyr, oryzalin, pendimethalin or prodiamine.

Yellow Wood Sorrel

Commonly mistaken for a shamrock, the yellow wood sorrel’s key features include heart-shaped compound leaves that are no more than 1 inch across, a delicate stem and yellow flowers with five petals. It’s generally about 6 inches tall.

Where Yellow Wood Sorrel Thrives

Yellow sorrel is a perennial weed that grows across the U.S. but thrives in the most fertile of soil. That said, it can grow in nearly any conditions, but unfavorable soils will result in a smaller, weaker plant.

How to Control Yellow Wood Sorrel

As with many low-growing weeds, a healthy lawn is the first step in preventing yellow wood sorrel. You can also apply a pre-emergent herbicide containing benefin, oryzaline, pendimethalin, dithiopyr, isoxaben or prodiamine to kill off the seeds before they germinate.

If you have existing issues, you can pull or dig the weed out as soon as you see it. Make sure to get as much of the root as possible so it doesn’t return.

Alternatively, you can go the post-emergent chemical route using products containing atrazine; 2, 4-D, dicamba and mecoprop; sulfentrazone and quinclorac; triclopyr; or MCPA, dicamba and triclopyr.


Lambsquarters is an annual weed that can grow up to 5 feet tall. You can identify it by its 2-inch-long dull- or pale-gray leaves that are triangular-, egg- or lance-shaped. The leaves are also often covered in a powdery substance, especially on the newest growth.

Where Lambsquarters Thrives

Lambsquarters thrives in low, wet areas and prefers disturbed areas like a large field where animals frequently graze or play.

How to Control Lambsquarters

You can prevent lambsquarters through a healthy lawn that is too thick for its seedlings to survive or with pre-emergent weed control containing trifluralin.

Lambsquarters is simple enough to remove by pulling, but make sure to do so before it produces seeds, as you risk spreading the seeds if you pull a mature plant.

If you go the chemical route, any post-emergent herbicide containing glyphosate will do the trick.


Pigweed is an annual weed you can easily identify by its stem, which is erect and can be from 4 inches to 7 feet tall, though they usually fall in the 1.6- to 3-foot range. The lower part of the stem is generally a reddish color with a thick and smooth texture, while the top section is rough and features short hairs.

The diamond- to oval-shaped leaves run up the stem in an alternating fashion and are generally a dull green to a shiny red-green hue. These leaves usually have pointed tips and smooth margins.

Where Pigweed Thrives

Pigweed generally finds its home in a garden bed or a large field that doesn’t get a ton of foot traffic.

How to Control Pigweed

There is no notable pre-emergent herbicide to manage pigweed before it breaks the soil’s surface. If you catch it in its early phases, you can easily pull it from the ground to prevent its spread.

Killing established pigweed is a little trickier, especially those over 4 inches tall. The best herbicide for the job is nonselective glyphosate. It may take several attempts to kill the weed entirely, but it will eventually wither and die.


Crabgrass is a frustrating weed because it’s so easily confused with your existing turf, but there are a few key ways to identify it.

First, new crabgrass sprouts are a lighter green than your turf and eventually darken as they age. Crabgrass also grows in clusters low to the ground, and the blades are broader than your regular grass. Finally, crabgrass stems horizontally instead of upward.

Where Crabgrass Thrives

Crabgrass is a prolific weed in the U.S., growing in virtually any soil type. That said, it thrives in thinning lawns and bare spots, as it requires as much sun as possible to survive.

How to Control Crabgrass

Initial crabgrass control starts with a thick lawn cut at the proper height, as this weed thrives in sunlight and doesn’t compete well in shady areas.

If your lawn isn’t up to the task of preventing its growth, you can also apply a pre-emergent herbicide containing bensulide, oryzalin, pendimethalin or trifluralin.

If you have existing crabgrass, you can use several post-emergent herbicides, including those containing quinclorac, fluazifop or sethoxydim plus oil. Please note, the latter two are not recommended for lawns – only spot treatment on sidewalks, driveways, landscaping beds, etc.


Quackgrass is easily confused with ryegrass, but there are a few distinguishing characteristics, including rhizomes (horizontally growing underground stems) and clasping auricles (ear-like attachments). Other key features of quackgrass include rolled vernation, a membranous ligule, hairy lower sheaths and smooth upper sheaths, hollow stems, and broad blue-green leaves.

Where Quackgrass Thrives

Quackgrass thrives in many types of soil, but it prefers moist, disturbed sites. It is a hardy weed that can survive in acidic or alkaline soil.

How to Control Quackgrass

Increasing the vigor of your lawn is the No. 1 way to prevent quackgrass, as it does not compete well in lush lawns with plenty of soil-level shade.

Attempting to pull quackgrass is usually unsuccessful, as its underground root system can be 6-8 feet underground.

Adding to the frustration of quackgrass is its immunity to selective herbicides. The only recommended herbicide to control it is glyphosate, which is a nonselective herbicide that will kill the quackgrass and the surrounding grass.

Fortunately, you can regrow grass in the area knowing the quackgrass is eradicated.


Purslane is a low-growing creeping weed that is a perennial in the warmer regions and annual in areas that experience cold winters. It’s identifiable by its thick red or green stem with a reddish tint and jade-colored oval leaves.

Where Purslane Thrives

Purslane is a hardy weed that can grow in virtually any soil but frequently crops up in the cracks of a sidewalk or driveway or in your yard.

How to Control Purslane

Purslane is not overly difficult to control, especially if you’re dealing with just one plant, as you can simply pull it out. Keep in mind, you must get the entire root system, or it will return.

Chemical control is generally not necessary, but you can prevent purslane with a pre-emergent herbicide containing dithiopyr, pendimethalin, or combinations of benefin and trifluralin or benefin and oryzalin.

If you’ve already got an outbreak of purslane, you can go with a post-emergent herbicide containing Dicamba, MCPP, MSMA or 2,4-D.

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Shepherd’s Purse

Shepherd’s purse can be an annual or biennial weed, depending on the area. This weed begins life as a basal rosette with deeply toothed alternating leaves that are 1.5-4.75 inches long and 0.4-1.2 inches wide. As it matures, long stems with white or green flowers grow from the rosette and produce triangular- or heart-shaped fruits.

Where Shepherd’s Purse Thrives

Shepherd’s purse grows across the U.S. and in many types of conditions. It thrives in gardens, fields and yards.

How to Control Shepherd’s Purse

Shepherd’s purse is relatively simple to control through manual pulling.

If you prefer to chemically eradicate it, you can also use a post-emergent weed control containing bentazon, diquat dibromide, flumioxazin, glufosinate-ammonium or glyphosate.

To prevent shepherd’s purse from returning, use a pre-emergent weed control containing dithiopyr; flumioxazin; oryzalin; oxadiazon; oxyfluorfen and oryzalin; oxyfluorfen and pendimethalin, pendimethalin or prodiamine.

Creeping Charlie

Creeping Charlie is a perennial ground ivy that can be quite difficult to control, especially in established lawns.

Creeping Charlie is a low-growing weed that creates almost a mat-like cover over the soil. Its long stems grow horizontally and sprout kidney-shaped leaves that are shiny green with scalloped edges.

Other key identifiers of creeping Charlie are its purple or blue five-petal flowers that are less than a half-inch long.

Where Creeping Charlie Thrives

Creeping Charlie weeds prefer moist, fertile soil and thrive in shady areas, which is why they are so difficult to control. They are also known to survive in sunny areas, making them even more common.

How to Control Creeping Charlie

The first step to preventing creeping Charlie is to grow a thick lawn. Yes, it thrives in the shade but will struggle to compete with lush grass coverage.

If you have an outbreak of creeping Charlie and are struggling to control it, the best option is a post-emergent herbicide containing triclopyr.

Unfortunately, there is no noted pre-emergent herbicide to prevent creeping Charlie, so you must spot-treat any weeds that crop up.


Velvetleaf is a summer annual weed that grows 2-7 feet tall and features alternating leaves on its stem that are up to 8 inches long. It also features hairy, heart-shaped leaves with prominent veins and orangish-yellow five-petal flowers that are less than an inch in diameter.

Where Velvetleaf Thrives

Velvetleaf prefers disturbed areas, like roadsides, but it is not uncommon to also see them in larger fields and gardens.

How to Control Velvetleaf

The best method for handling existing velvetleaf weeds is to pull them manually. Because you don’t want to leave any roots behind, pull it when the soil is moist or dig the weed out.

If you prefer to use a chemical weed control, you can choose any product containing 2,4-D; dicamba; atrazine; or mesotrione.

Once you have the current growth under control, you can prevent future growth by applying a pre-emergency herbicide containing atrazine. Take note, there have been reports of atrazine-resistant velvetleaf plants, so you may still see some plants emerge.

White Clover

White clover is a perennial weed that grows to 4-10 inches at full maturity. You can identify it by its rounded leaves with white bands and their rounded white flower heads that are less than an inch wide and contain 40-100 florets.

Where White Clover Thrives

White clover is best suited for cool, moist areas and thrives in clay and silt soils. It can, however, survive in sandy soils if the water table is high enough.

How to Control White Clover

The best way to prevent white clover growth is by having a healthy, thick lawn that drowns out the weed. If your lawn can’t hold off a white clover invasion, the second-best option is hand-pulling the weed.

If you choose to go the chemical route, you can use glyphosate, but the issue is this nonselective herbicide may kill the surrounding grass.

Once you rectify your white clover issues, you can prevent future outbreaks using a pre-emergent herbicide containing isoxaben. There is one issue, though. Isoxaben-containing herbicides are sold for professional use only.

With the ability to identify some of the most common weeds you’ll see in your yard and how to control them, it’s time to act. Get out there, figure out the types of weeds you’re dealing with and establish a plan to eradicate them for good. Your lawn will reward you with the green carpet you desire.

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Hoary Cress

BACKGROUND: Hoary cress (also known as whitetop) was introduced to the U.S. from Europe in the late 19th century. It was first noted around seaports on the east and west coasts, indicating seed may have been in the soil that was used as ballast for sailing ships. Hoary cress spreads both by seed and creeping roots, living in a wide variety of environmental conditions.

DESCRIPTION: Hoary cress is a perennial that grows up to 3 feet tall. Leaves are grayish green, clasping, lightly pubescent, up to 4 inches long, and are shaped like arrowheads. Flowers are white with 4 petals, 1/4-inch across, and bloom in April and May; these dense flower clusters give the weed a flat-topped appearance early in the season, but this is lost as the stem elongates. Two small, flat, reddish brown seeds are contained in each of the heart-shaped seed pods.

DISTRIBUTION: Hoary cress is found throughout the U.S. except from southernmost California across to the southernmost Mississippi, and is extensive in Idaho.

CONTROL: Some herbicides are registered for and effective on hoary cress. There are no biological control agents for this weed.

© 1999 University of Idaho: Text and photographs for these pages from Idaho’s Noxious Weeds, by Robert H. Callihan and Timothy W. Miller (revised by Don W. Morishita and Larry W. Lass).

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