How to Identify Common Lawn Weeds - dummies

How to Identify Common Lawn Weeds

By Lance Walheim, The National Gardening Association

No one likes a weedy lawn. Following are 16 of the most troublesome lawn weeds, with information to help you identify and control them, so you can have the nicest most weed-free lawn on the block:

  • Annual bluegrass: Annual bluegrass is a bright green annual grass with grain-like seedheads that give the lawn a whitish, speckled look. Annual bluegrass is sometimes called winter grass in mild-winter climates where it shows up in dormant Bermuda grass lawns. (The dormant grass is brown.)


    Aerate compacted soil. Mow higher to shade out seedlings. Mow more frequently, so seedheads don’t mature. Water only when necessary. Apply pre-emergence herbicide in late summer to early fall. Spot-treat with a selective herbicide in dormant Bermuda grass lawns.

  • Bermuda grass: Bermuda grass is a light green, perennial grass with fine textured leaves. It spreads rapidly by seed, stolons (creeping, above-ground stems), and rhizomes (below-ground stems). Seedheads are arranged like helicopter blades.


    Tough to control without herbicides, eventually Bermuda grass takes over and becomes the lawn in many mild winter areas. Pre-emergences can prevent seeds from germinating. You can spot-treat existing plants with glyphosate and then replant (glyphosate kills everything) or renovate the entire lawn. Otherwise, if you’re trying to keep your cool-season grass, make sure that it grows vigorously by caring for it properly.

  • Broadleaf plantain: Broadleaf plantain has bright green leaves that are often scalloped.


    Aerate compacted soil. Avoid overwatering. This weed is easy to pull by hand when the plant is young. Control with appropriate, labeled weed-and-feed products.

  • Burclover: Burclover is easy to identify by its light green, cloverlike leaves, yellow flowers, and spiny seed pod (the bur).


    Take better care of the lawn. Aerate soil to improve water penetration. Water more efficiently and fertilize at recommended levels.

  • Crabgrass: Crabgrass leaves are blue-green, often tinged purple, and form a tight, compact, crab-like circle (hence the name). Stems are spreading. Seedheads form in summer and fall and can reach several feet high if not mowed.


    Growing a dense, healthy lawn is the best prevention. So step up your maintenance and water, fertilize, and mow properly. Hand pull individual plants before they set seed. Appropriate, labeled weed-and-feed products are also effective.

  • Dallis grass: Dallis grass has leaves are light green and seedheads look a little like the tail of a rattlesnake.


    Aerate to improve drainage. Adjust sprinklers to allow wet areas to dry partially between waterings. Dig out individual plants (make sure that you get as much of the short rhizomes as possible) and reseed. Weed-and-feed products provide pre- or post-emergence control.

  • Dandelion: This perennial broadleaf weed has with yellow flowers and puffball seedheads has leaves that are dark green and scalloped.


    Pull individual plants whenever you see them. Cut off flowers before they form seeds. Use an appropriate, labeled weed-and-feed product.

  • Dock: Dock grows as a tight rosette of dark green leaves with a tall flower stalk that turns rusty brown as it dries.


    Aerate to improve drainage. Allow the lawn to dry out between waterings. Dig out individual plants by hand. Reduce shade by pruning trees. Cut off any seed heads that form.

  • English daisy: This low-growing broadleaf perennial sports pretty, white with a yellow center, daisy-like flowers and dark green leaves.


    Some people just leave this weed alone — they like the flowers. Otherwise, pull by hand and water and fertilize more efficiently. Appropriate, labeled weed-and-feed products are also effective.

  • Ground ivy: Leaves are dark green, round with scalloped edges. Small, purplish flowers appear in spring.


    Take better care of your lawn with appropriate watering and fertilizer. Pull young plants out by hand. Spot-treat small invasions with a broadleaf herbicide and then replant. Apply an appropriate, labeled weed-and-feed product.

  • Henbit: Small, roundish, scalloped leaves appear in pairs along square stems and are hairy. Pink to purple flowers form on the top of upright stems in fall and spring.


    This weed is easy to pull by hand. Keep the lawn growing vigorously and mow properly. Apply appropriate, labeled weed-and-feed product.

  • Mallow: Mallow has dark green, roundish, heavily crinkled, leaves.


    Mallow is hard to control. Hand-pull in new lawns. Keep the lawn growing vigorously and mow at the proper height. Apply an appropriate, labeled weed-and-feed product.

  • Oxalis: Oxalis has bright green cloverlike leaves and small, yellow flowers.


    Oxalis is hard to control, even with herbicides. Keep the lawn growing vigorously with appropriate water and fertilizer. Spot-treat small areas with a broadleaf herbicide. Carefully time applications of weed-and-feed products. You may need to repeat applications to provide control. Follow label instructions carefully.

  • Prostrate knotweed: Prostrate knotweed has small, pointed, blue-green leaves. Tiny, white to yellow flowers form on stems during summer to fall.


    Pull individual plants by hand, making sure that you get the crown and roots. Aerate compacted areas. Use an appropriate, labeled weed-and-feed product.

  • Spotted spurge: Spotted spurge has tiny green leaves, each with a red spot.


    Keep the lawn growing vigorously and mow at the correct height. Pull individual plants. Apply an appropriate, labeled weed-and-feed product.

  • Yellow nutsedge: This perennial sedge has three-sided stems and yellow- green, grasslike leaves. A tall, brownish-yellow flower spike appears in summer.


    This weed is hard to control. Aerate to improve drainage. Let the lawn dry out partially between waterings. Pull weeds by hand when very young. Spot-treat plants with appropriate, labeled herbicides. Replant if necessary.