Weed Beater: Dandelions

Dandelion seeds can remain viable for decades when conditions are not conducive to germination.

Dandelions Growing

Dandelions Growing

The aggressive growing dandelion has developed a reputation as the most recognized weed invading suburban lawns.

The aggressive growing dandelion has developed a reputation as the most recognized weed invading suburban lawns.

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. Dandelions were first introduced to North America from Europe, likely arriving with the earliest settlers, who carried them on board their ships for both culinary and medicinal purposes. More recently, this aggressive grower has developed a reputation as the most recognized weed invading suburban lawns. Jagged leaves growing out as much as ten inches and emerging from an anchoring taproot, the bright yellow flowers that sprout from its hollow stems make the dandelion easy to identify, but control of this well-known weed is a challenge familiar to many homeowners throughout the growing season.

Dandelions are a simple perennial and propagate through the spread of seeds. Usually triggered by frost or when daylight hours grow short, the flowers of the dandelion—each head actually a cluster of tiny flowers—dry to become the familiar white “puff ball.” Hundreds of fine hairs each hold a seed that carry readily in the wind, a single plant spreading seeds over hundreds of yards. Seeds germinate easily on or just below the surface of moist soil when temperatures remain consistently over fifty degrees. When conditions are not conducive to germination, dandelion seeds can remain viable for decades and may become active when soil is agitated by tilling or when environmental circumstances become more favorable.

The spread of dandelions can be reduced through regular lawn maintenance. Grass should be mowed regularly and to an appropriate length. Although dandelions that have been mowed down will grow back, destroying developing flowers before they are able to mature into seed distributors prevents the opportunity for new germination. Improving soil conditions through composting can also reduce dandelion growth. Although they will grow in many conditions, dandelions prefer acidic soil and adjusting the pH of acidic soil can inhibit rampant growth.

When mowing a lawn prone to weed issues, forgo bagging grass clippings. Mulched clippings left on the lawn promote grass health and also inhibit the germination of dandelion seeds on the soil surface. Mulches can also be applied to flower beds to discourage weed growth and to smother existing weeds.

Although labor intensive, hand removal of each dandelion ensures it  will not return. If the root is left intact, the plant will return, so care must be taken to withdraw each dandelion completely. Water the lawn thoroughly to loosen roots. Using a screwdriver or a forked tool designed for weeding, pry each weed from the soil, making certain to extract the entire root.

If necessary, herbicides may be employed to control an extreme or persistent dandelion infestation.  Herbicidal applications are most effective when applied in spring or fall. When using herbicides, do not mow grass for several days before or after treatment and plan to treat when conditions are dry for maximum efficiency. As with all chemical treatments, consult manufacturer documentation regarding proper use and safety concerns.

Keep Reading

Next Up

How to Combat Crabgrass

Unmanaged crabgrass can quickly overtake a lawn or appear along walkways or in pavement cracks during spring and summer months.

Natural Born Killer: Sustainable Ways to Defeat Weeds

HGTV blogger Meagan Francis offers four ways to kill weeds without chemicals.

These Natural Weed Killers Actually Work

We tested natural weed-killing solutions.

How to Handle Unexpected Weed Growth

Master gardener Paul James discusses how unexpected weeds may become residents in your yard and how to get rid of them.

Lawn Patrol: Renovate or Redo Your Lawn Landscaping?

How to decide whether to renovate a lawn or rip it out and start from bare dirt.

Weed Whacker: How to Level Pesky Plants Organically

You don't always have to break out the pesticides to tackle those trespassing dandelions.

Fast and Easy Weeding Tips

Make this garden chore fly by with these simple tricks.

How to Defeat Bermuda Grass

It's best to get the jump on this garden pest in spring.

How to Control Nutgrass and Johnsongrass

Combat persistent weeds with a creativity and simple maintenance.

How to Repair Your Lawn Sprinkler

Learn how to inspect and replace damaged risers and heads in a lawn sprinkler system.

On TV

Tiny Luxury

6:30am | 5:30c

Flea Market Flip

8:30am | 7:30c

Flea Market Flip

9:30am | 8:30c

Flea Market Flip

10:30am | 9:30c

Flea Market Flip

11:30am | 10:30c

Fixer Upper

12pm | 11c

Fixer Upper

1pm | 12c

Fixer Upper

2pm | 1c

Fixer Upper

3pm | 2c

Fixer Upper

4pm | 3c

Fixer Upper

5pm | 4c

Fixer Upper

6pm | 5c

Fixer Upper

7pm | 6c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Fixer Upper

8pm | 7c

House Hunters

9:30pm | 8:30c

House Hunters

10pm | 9c

House Hunters

11pm | 10c

House Hunters

12am | 11c

House Hunters

12:30am | 11:30c

House Hunters

1am | 12c

Fixer Upper

3am | 2c

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.