Best Way to Get Rid of Dandelions Permanently

Learn the best methods of killing dandelions so you won't spend your weekends weeding dandelions again and again.

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Massive Dandelion Infestation

Dandelions By Entry Walk

Any part of the taproot left behind in the soil after weeding can sprout, growing a whole new plant.

Photo by: Julie Martens Forney

Julie Martens Forney

Any part of the taproot left behind in the soil after weeding can sprout, growing a whole new plant.

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The first step in winning any war, including the one against dandelions, is to know your opponent. Equal parts perky and pesky, dandelion plants can live for five to 10 years, growing up to 20 inches wide. Because they spread by wind-blown seed, no lawn or planting bed is immune to a parachuting invasion of dandelion seeds.

Dandelion Flowers

Dandelions In Gravel

The dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), also known as puffball, lion’s head and monk’s head is a broad-leafed flowering weed commonly found growing in areas with good drainage and direct sunlight. Weeding dandelions by digging or pulling them out of the ground is the method to use when your lawn has just a few dandelions.

Photo by: Julie Martens Forney

Julie Martens Forney

The dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), also known as puffball, lion’s head and monk’s head is a broad-leafed flowering weed commonly found growing in areas with good drainage and direct sunlight. Weeding dandelions by digging or pulling them out of the ground is the method to use when your lawn has just a few dandelions.

Dandelions are perennial weeds (they come back each year) with fleshy taproots. Typically, the taproot is 6 to 18 inches long, but on older plants, it can extend even deeper into soil.

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Best Ways to Get Rid of Dandelions

Weeding Dandelions by Hand

Weeding dandelions by digging or pulling them out of the ground is the method to use when your lawn has just a few dandelions or you’re working in planting beds where weedkillers could damage other plants.

When you dig or pull a dandelion, try to get at least 2 to 3 inches of the taproot. Any part of the taproot left in soil can sprout, growing a whole new plant.

Tips on Hand Weeding Dandelions:

  • Always try to dig dandelions when soil is moist, like after a rain. If you have to, water the area where you’ll be working before weeding.

  • When digging a dandelion, it's best to use a special weeding fork, dandelion digger or weeding knife, inserting it into soil along the plant.

  • The taproot typically extends straight down from the tuft of leaves, so aim to place your tool alongside that root.

  • Wiggle the tool a bit to loosen the soil around the taproot, grab all of the leaves in your hand and then pull.

Remember: When digging or pulling dandelions, do your best to remove all of the plant with as much of the root still attached as possible. Any part of the taproot left in soil will regenerate and produce a new plant. Pull that new plant as soon as it appears so it can’t help feed (and grow) the taproot. Keep doing that, and eventually the taproot will have used all its food reserves and will stop sprouting.

Killing Dandelions by Spraying With an Herbicide

The best sprays to use on dandelions are ones that kill the leaf and the root (it should say that on the bottle).

Tips on Spraying Dandelions:

  • If you’re spraying dandelions that are located in beds with other plantings, create a spray collar by removing the top and bottom of a can or plastic bottle. Slip the container over the dandelion and spray the weed inside the can.

  • The best time to spray dandelions is in late summer or fall when plants are naturally shifting materials from leaves to roots for winter storage. Weedkiller applied in fall moves directly to roots, which helps get rid of dandelions permanently.

  • As dandelions mature, leaves develop a waxy coating that sheds water and weedkiller sprays. There is a way to overcome that, though: Injure the plant just before spraying it. To do that, simply scuff your foot over the plant a few times. This breaks up the leaf tissue, creating openings for the weedkiller to enter.
Controlled Weed Spray

Spraying Weeds

Place a spray collar, which could be a can with the bottom removed, around the weed being sprayed to protect nearby plantings.

Photo by: Julie Martens Forney

Julie Martens Forney

Place a spray collar, which could be a can with the bottom removed, around the weed being sprayed to protect nearby plantings.

As with all chemical treatments, consult manufacturer documentation regarding proper use and safety concerns.

Get Dandelions When They're Young

Young dandelion seedlings are the most vulnerable stage of the plant when it comes to digging or spraying. At this stage, seedlings have a thin taproot that’s easy to pull and leaves haven’t yet developed that waxy outer layer that’s impervious to weedkiller sprays.

Watch for young dandelions to appear in spring and fall. This is the size dandelion that you can effectively kill with the newer organic weedkillers, which contain things like botanically based oils (clove oil, eugenol and d-limonene), fatty acid soaps or acetic acid. Household vinegar (5%) doesn’t kill dandelion roots according to extension specialists.

Controlling Dandelions

Killing actual dandelion plants is one tactic in the war on this weed. Another is creating an environment where dandelion seeds can’t successfully germinate.

There are several ways to do this:

  • Use a pre-emergent herbicide like corn gluten meal or Preen. These interfere with seed germination, which means seeds can’t produce a plant. Use corn gluten meal in fall and early spring (about the time forsythia flowers). If you plan to seed your lawn, you shouldn't use these products.

  • Don’t cut your lawn shorter than 2 to 3 inches. Taller grass grows thicker, shading soil so dandelion seeds can’t sprout.

  • Mulch planting beds. It's much easier to pull young dandelion seedlings from a mulch layer than bare soil.

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