No one likes to talk about weeds, but if you’re growing vegetables, fruit, herbs, or flowers, it’s important to identify and control the unwanted plants. Here are 13 of the most common weeds found in gardens and lawns—with weed identification pictures and tips on how to manage their growth.
- 13 Common Weeds
- Passiflora Incarnata Overview
- Types of Purple Passion Flower
- Purple Passion Vine Care
- Harvesting and Using
- Pale Purple Coneflower
- Weed Trees: How to Identify and Get Rid of Them
- That’s Not a Tree
- What Are Weed Trees?
- What Trees Are Weeds?
- Examples of Weed Trees
- Black Locust
- Tree of Heaven
- White Mulberry
- How to Remove Weed Trees
- Ten Weeds to Pull Now
- 10 Awful Weeds and How to Kill Them
What is a Weed?
A weed is simply a plant growing where it is not wanted—usually in competition with cultivated plants. For example, if you are intending to grow strawberries, you don’t want other plants (weeds) taking over your patch.
Understand how different plants grow and spread. A handful of weeds are naturally strong competitors; those weeds that can best compete always tend to dominate.
Of the approximately 250,000 species of plants worldwide, only about 3% behave as weeds that we don’t want in cultivated areas. These weeds have many traits in common, including:
- Abundant seed productivity—sometimes tens of thousands of seeds per plant.
- Rapid population establishment and spread.
- Long-term survival—seeds go dormant but then sprout just as soon as conditions are right.
These weeds are troublesome in many ways. Primarily, they reduce crop yield by competing for water, light, soil nutrients, and space. Some produce chemical substances which are toxic to crop plants (and often animals and humans).
“Weeds” aren’t inherently bad, though! Many weeds stabilize the soil and add organic matter. Some are edible to humans and provide habitat and food for wildlife, too. See “Eating Weeds: Why Not?”
So, there is a balance. To the agriculturist, the weeds that interfere with cultivated crops do need to be controlled, in an economical, practical and safe way, in order to produce food, feed, and fiber for humans and animals.
Top 5 Weed Control Tips
1. Never let ‘em set seed!
This is the #1 rule with weeds. Some varieties produce tens of thousands of seeds from a single plant, multiplying your weed control problems for years to come. So make certain you remove weeds around your home before they flower and produce seeds. Pigweed, purslane, Shepherd’s purse, chickweed, and lambsquarters are examples. Their seeds are very small and light enough to be blown by the wind over short distances, spreading profusely and often surviving for decades in the soil.
Remember that it may take a few years to get weed-free. Seeds of most annual weedy grasses die after two or three years, but some broadleaf weed seeds can last much longer. On average, though, the bulk of your weed seeds will be depleted in about five years if no additional seeds are added. That means diligence is the key.
For further weed suppression throughout the growing season, apply two to three inches of mulch or use landscape fabric or black plastic. Mulch not only blocks weed seeds from sunlight so they do not germinate, but also promotes better water retention, provides needed nutrients as it decomposes over time, and moderates soil temperatures. If you mow or blow leaves in the fall, be sure to get a shredder (like this one from Echo) to turn those leaves into garden mulch—and save yourself the costs of buying bags of mulch.
3. Turn to tools.
A garden hoe, tiller or even hand-weeding can work, especially if the space you’re tending is fairly small. And keep your tools (garden hoe, spade, mower, tiller) clean to keep from spreading weed seeds or plant parts that you encounter. Tillers like this one from Echo is ideal for aerating soil and keeping flower and plant beds weed-free, turning what can be a difficult job into easy, productive work.
4. Establish a perimeter.
Pay special attention to the area adjoining your flower bed, garden, natural area or lawn and establish a weed-free perimeter. Mow or mulch the area or pull or dig up weeds as they emerge. You’ll help to reduce the number of new weed seeds in the area you want to protect. Also, a good trimmer (like this one from Echo) can make it easier to reach weeds along garden beds, posts, and tight spots.
5. Pay special attention to perennial weeds.
When you deal with perennials, you need dig up any roots, underground tubers and rhizomes without leaving fragments behind. New weeds can grow from any pieces that break off and remain in the soil. It does also help to cut off the emerged green part of the weed with your hoe or mower—repeating the process quickly each time it regrows. Without leaves needed for photosynthesis, the underground plant parts will become weakened and may eventually die.
With these techniques, you’ll soon find that you won’t spend much time weeding the following years!
13 Common Weeds
Some of the below weeds are noxious and invasive, while others have more beneficial uses (and could even be harvested), but all are rated as the most troublesome weeds that compete with vegetables, fruits, and crops (source: WSSA).
1. Bindweed (Perennial Morning Glory)
Field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) is a hardy perennial vine that has been given many names, including perennial or wild morning-glory, creeping jenny, sheepbine, cornbind, and bellbine.
Bindweed is NOT the same as the ornamental annual morning-glory (in the genus Ipomea) which has a larger (2-inch wide) and more showy flower that can be white to blue or purple; it also has a thicker stem that is sometimes hairy and heart-shaped leaves that are 1 ½ inches wide and 2 inches or more long. The two species are easy to distinguish from each other.
An invasive from Eurasia, field bindweed is one of the most persistent and difficult to control weeds. It spreads from an extensive rootstock and from seed. And its roots are found to depths of 14 feet! Lateral roots becoming a secondary vertical root. A single field bindweed plant can spread radially more than 10 feet in a growing season. This extensive underground network allows for overwintering without foliage, and it can persist for many years in the soil.
Bindweed sprouts in late spring and can be seen throughout the summer. Though the plant’s flowers are attractive, field bindweed can become a big problem in warm weather, when they spread ruthlessly.
Image: Bindweed seedling
Unfortunately, tilling and cultivation seems to aide bindweed spread. Fragments of vertical roots and rhizomes as short as 2 inches can form new plants! Field bindweed also is very drought tolerant and once established is difficult to control even with herbicides.
The best control is, as with most weeds, is prevention or early intervention. Seedlings of field bindweed must be removed before they become perennial plants. However, this need to be done when they’re young—about 3 to 4 weeks after germination. After that, perennial buds are formed, and successful control is much more difficult.
Bindweed can grow through many mulches so you need to use landscape fabrics such as polypropylene and polyester or mulches such as black plastic or cardboard but also ensure that the edges of the covering overlap so that the bindweed stems can’t find their way into the light. If holes are made in the fabric or plastic for plants, bindweed will grow through these holes. A landscape fabric placed over soil then covered with bark or other plant-derived product (e.g., organic matter) or rock will likely keep field bindweed from emerging. It might take more than 3 years of light exclusion before the bindweed dies. Once landscape fabric or other mulch is removed, new bindweed plants might germinate from seed in the soil; be sure to monitor the site for new seedlings.
Lambsquarters. Photo by Michigan State University.
According to the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA), lambsquarters ranks as the most common weed in gardens.
Common lambsquarters is an annual broadleaf weed that is widely distributed across the northern half of the United States and southern Canada. So it’s not surprising that lambsquarters is a problem in gardens with sugar beets, vegetable crops and pulse crops, such as dry edible beans, lentils and chickpeas.
Lambsquarters is a very fast-growing annual with seeds that are small and light enough to be blown by the wind over short distances and can sometimes survive for decades in the soil. Under favorable conditions, these three weeds can establish themselves quickly and spread profusely.
This summer weed rapidly removes moisture from soil, so remove it as soon as possible!
Cultivate this weed out of your garden using a sharp hoe.
If you wish, you can eat lambsquarters (assuming you’re not using chemicals). The young shoots and leaves can be eaten raw in any vegetable dish, or sauteed or steamed like spinach. See our natural health blogger’s post on Anytime Salad.
3. Pigweed (Amaranth)
Image: Pigweed. Credit: United Soybean Board.
Pigweed or Amaranth wins the title of most “problematic” weed. Amaranth has evolved traits that makes it a tough competitor, especially in broadleaf crops like soybeans and cotton.
An annual weed that reproduces by seeds, pigweed is characterized by its fleshly, red taproot. This weed appears in late spring or early summer and likes warm weather.
Try to pull out this weed before it flowers!
To prevent pigweed in the future, cover your garden plot with a winter mulch, then till the garden shallowly in early spring. When you till you may bring up some pigweed seed so it’s best to mulch again. Cover the soil with five layers of wet newspaper and cover that with 3-6 inches of mulch.
Pigweed is also edible—though usually only when young and tender, and when taken from a pesticide-free area. In June, the young leaves of Amaranthus blitum or amaranth are abundant and should be eaten because of their high nutritional content. Vitamin-wise, these greens are packed like carrots and beets and can be delicious in a tossed salad. You can also cook them as you would spinach. Native Americans used the black seeds of this plant as a ground meal for baking.
4. Buckhorn Plantain
Buckhorn plantain. Photo by Oregon State University.
A hardy perennial that reproduces by seeds. This narrow-leafed weed invades meadows, pastures, and lawns. This weed appears in any season.
Hand weed this plant and destroy it to remove it from your garden.
Plantain’s also edible, especially when the leaves are young and tender. Enjoy raw, steamed, boiled, or sauteed.
Crabgrass. Photo by R. Dyer/Bugwood.org
Crabgrass is a low-growing, summer annual that spreads by seed and from rootings of nodes that lie on the soil. Unmowed, it can grow to 2 feet tall.
This weed appears from mid-spring through summer when the ground is warm. It grows well under dry, hot conditions.
As an annual, crabgrass dies at the end of each growing season, usually at the first frost in the fall, and it must produce new seeds every year.
Fortunately, crabgrass is easy to manage. Controlling crabgrass before it sets seed is important, because the seeds can remain viable for at least 3 years in soil.
In the lawn, mowing regularly is often all you need to prevent them from flowering and producing seed. Most experts recommend that you mow your lawn to a height of 2 to 4 inches and that you mow frequently enough to keep it within that range.
Also, if you keep a lawn, be sure to select grass adapted to your location so it’s a healthy, thick lawn. Because seedling crabgrass isn’t very competitive, a vigorously growing turf will crowd out new seedlings. Perennial ryegrass is the best competition for crabgrass. It also provides some insect control, as it emits a natural poison that gives some small, damaging bugs the “flu.” Fertilizing is key and must be done in the spring and in the fall. Crabgrass thrives in compacted lawns, so aeration can help. A mixture of 1 pint of hydrogen peroxide, diluted to 3 percent, per 100 square feet of lawn can help eradicate the pesky plant.
In gardens, you easily can control crabgrass by mulching, hoeing, and hand pulling when the plants are young and before they set seed. You also can control this weed with solarization. Several chemical herbicides are available but often aren’t necessary. Mulching with wood products (e.g. wood chips or nuggets), composted yard waste, or synthetic landscape fabrics covered with mulch will reduce crabgrass in shrub beds and bedding plants and around trees by blocking sunlight needed for its germination, establishment, and growth.
Organic mulches that have been on the soil for a while decomposing can provide an adequate growth medium for weeds to germinate and grow in. If crabgrass is germinating in the mulch, move it about with a rake to reduce seedling establishment. Hand pull escaped crabgrass plants before they set seed
If you’re using herbicides, apply pre-emergent herbicides before crabgrass germinates or post-emergent herbicides after it germinates. Avoid using chemical herbicides in vegetable gardens because of the variety of crops grown and planted there.
Photo: Quackgrass in strawberry garden.
A creeping, persistent perennial grass that reproduces by seeds. Its long, jointed, straw-colored rhizomes form a heavy mat in soil, from which new shoots may also appear.
Try to dig out this weed as soon as you see it in your garden.
Mouse-ear chickweed. Photo by Oregon State University.
There are two species of chickweed, common (Stellaria media) and sticky (Cerastium glomeratum), which grow easily in gardens, low-maintenance lawns, and agricultural areas. Mouseear chickweed (Cerastium fontanum ssp. vulgare) is a perennial also found in lawns.
When growing without competition from other plants, common chickweed can produce approximately 800 seeds and it takes 7 to 8 years to eradicate. Chickseed thrives in moist, cool areas so it often gets started before spring crops can become competitive and can limit vegetable harvest.
Fortunately, annual chickweed is easier to control as long as you control before it flowers. This can be difficult due to the short period between germination and flower production so you need to keep an eye out for this weed. Both types have shallow roots, so they can often be removed by hoeing or hand-pulling if done early. It is most effective if the soil is dry and plants are small.
New plants can grow from broken pieces of mouse-ear rootstock, however, so make sure you remove the entire plant when using either method. Herbicides should only avoided in the vegetable garden.
Using an organic mulch such as wood chips, at least two inches deep, will reduce the amount of weed seeds germinating by limiting light and serving as a physical barrier. Synthetic mulches such as landscape fabrics may also be used. In landscaped areas, they should be covered with an additional layer of mulch (rock or bark). Vegetable gardens also can utilize black plastic, both as mulch into which seeds or transplants are placed and also between rows.
A healthy lawn can compete against mouse-ear chickweed if the grass is not mowed too short or too frequently. Watering the lawn deeply and infrequently will encourage the grass to grow deeper roots, which also can help it compete against chickweed. Water once every seven to ten days, and apply enough water so that it soaks six to eight inches into the ground.
Chickweed is also edible. When young, the leaves, stems, and flowers can all be eaten either raw or cooked, where it adds a delicate spinach-like taste to any dish.
Ah, we love much about dandelions with their bright yellow heads in the springtime. They provide a lovely source of food for bees early in the year, and the jagged leaves of this perennial (Taraxacum officinale) are even edible, especially when young and tender. The flowers, too, can be eaten raw or fried, or used to make dandelion wine! Here are a few dandelion recipes: Dandelion Recipes
In time, however, dandelions will also take over any habitat from your garden to your ornamentals to your grasses. They have the most weedy characteristics of all the weeds. Not only do dandelions have wind-borne seed but also reproduce vegetatively thanks to large tap roots. So unless you cut the root deep into the soil, you can rest assured the plant will reemerge.
Removing dandelions by hand-pulling or hoeing is often futile, unless done repeatedly over a long period of time, because of the deep tap root system of established plants. But if you have a small area, pull young dandelions by grasping them firmly by their base and wiggling gently, as you must dislodge their deep taproot from the soil. Alternatively, use a hand trowel to dig them out. Try to remove the whole dandelion root at once, as any piece left in the ground will probably grow back.
If you keep a lawn, a vigorous (and competitive) lawn will slow down dandelion infestation. Dense turfgrass and ornamentals shade the soil surface, reducing the establishment of new dandelion seedlings. Many broadleaf weeds may be controlled with mowing but this is NOT true of dandelion. Because it grows from a basal rosette that is lower than a mower blade can reach, mowing will have no effect on control.
For a garden bed, mulches of wood chips or bark are effective if they are maintained at a depth of least 3 inches deep (and replaced over time). Mulching with landscape fabrics can be particularly effective for controlling seedlings, reducing the amount of light that is able to reach the soil. Use a polypropylene or polyester fabric or black polyethylene (plastic tarp) to block all plant growth.
Solitary new dandelion plants along fence rows, roadsides, flower beds, and in turfgrass should be grubbed out (removed by digging out the entire plant, taproot and all) before they produce seed. Dandelion knives and similar specialized tools are available for removing individual weeds and their roots while minimizing soil disturbance. Monitor the area for several months to make sure that removal of the taproot was complete.
If you’re using herbicides, consider pre-emergence herbicides such as those containing dithiopyr or isoxaben because they are applied to the soil BEFORE the seeds germinate.
Purslane is an annual succulent that reproduces by tiny black seeds and stem fragments. This weed appears in late spring or early summer and likes warm weather, fertile soil and moist garden beds.
Purslane produces over 2,000,000 seeds PER PLANT! Wow. Purslane also can reproduce vegetatively through its succulent leaves, making it especially tough to eradicate. Many a gardener hoed purslane one day only to see it growing at full strength the next.
The primary method of management for common purslane is prevention. In home landscapes and gardens, this weed is generally managed by hand-weeding. Pull out this weed as soon as you see it and destroy the plant; this weed can live in your soil for years!
Young purslane is edible, too! It’s a nutritional powerhouse and a great addition to a salad or stir-fry. See purslane’s health benefits and find a recipe here.
Mulching is also helpful, especially in garden beds. To be effective, organic mulches should be at least 3 inches thick. Synthetic mulches (plastic or fabric mulch) which screen out light and provide a physical barrier to seedling development, also work well. Fabric mulches, which are porous and allow flow of water and air to roots, are preferred over plastics. Combinations of synthetic mulches with organic or rock mulches on top are commonly used in ornamental plantings.
10. Shepherd’s Purse
Shepherd’s Purse. Photo by Oregon State University.
A flowering annual that reproduces by seeds. It likes cool weather and its yellowish-brown seeds are long-lived in the ground.
Try to pull out this weed before it seeds.
11. Nutsedge (Yellow, Purple)
Image: Yelllow Nutsedge
Nutsedges are perennial weeds that superficially resemble grasses, but they are thicker and stiffer and V-shaped. Their leaves are arranged in sets of three from their base instead of sets of two as you would find in grass leaves. They are among the most problematic weeds for vegetable crops and can greatly reduce harvest yields. Yellow nutsedge has light brown flowers and seeds, while purple nutsedge flowers have a reddish tinge and the seeds are dark brown or black.
If you have nutsedge, it’s often an indicated that your soil drainage is poor or waterlogged. However, once nutsedge is established, it’s very difficult to control.
The best approach is to prevent establishment of the weed in the first place.
Remove small plants before they develop tubers. Tubers are key to nutsedge survival. If you can limit production of tubers, you’ll eventually control the nutsedge itself. Most herbicides aren’t effective against tubers.
Also, eliminate the wet conditions that favor nutsedge growth. Use mulches in landscape beds. Landscape fabrics are the best mulch because the sharp leaves of nutsedge can pierce other mulches.
12. Canada Thistle
Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) is an aggressive, creeping perennial weed from Eurasia. It infests crops, pastures, and non-crop areas like ditch banks and roadside. Canada thistle reduces forage consumption in pastures and rangeland because cattle typically will not graze near infestations.
Introduced perennial from Eurasia. Reproduces by seeds and whitish, creeping rootstocks which send up new shoots every 8 to 12 inches. Plants 2 to 4 feet tall, It is a colony-forming weed, reproducing asexually from rhizomatous roots (any part of the root system may give rise to new plants) or sexually from wind-blown seed. The plant emerges from its roots in mid- to late spring and forms rosettes.
Then, it will send up shoots every 8 to 12 inches. The plants will grow 2 to 4 feet tall. You may spots its purple flowers are produced in July and August.
Canada Thistle is difficult to control because its extensive and deep root system allows it to recover from control attempts. Horizontal roots may extend 15 feet or more and vertical roots may grow 6 to 15 feet deep! Seeds may retain viability 4+ years in the soil.
The first plants need to be destroyed by pulling or hoeing before they become securely rooted. Look for Canada Thistle above ground in early spring.
If Canada Thistle becomes rooted, the best control is to stress the plant and force it to use stored root nutrients. It’s at its weakest during the flowering stage in summertime; this is a good time to begin cultivation and destroy the roots and rootstock. One season of cultivation followed by a season of growing competitive crops such as winter rye, will go a long way toward eradication.
An approved herbicide, applied for two years in an established in a thistle-infested area, is an effective control. Usually, a combination of techniques is needed. Consult with your cooperative extension office for an approved herbicide and suggested program.
13. Creeping Charlie
Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea), also called “ground ivy,” is a herbaceous perennial plant that enjoys moist and shady areas. Native to Europe, it has become an invasive lawn weed in North America. The plant has bright green leaves with scalloped edges on creeping stems that root at the nodes. It tends to form a dense mat over the ground.
The reason Creeping Charlie is so challenging is the way it spreads—by both seeds and by creeping stems (called stolons) that grow along the ground. If you try to dig it out and leave behind a fragment of rhizome (root), even a tiny piece can grow up as a new plant!
To control, improve soil drainage or water less frequently to dry the soil. If Creeping Charlie is invading a thin lawn, try to improve turf health and density to get weeds under control. This can be accomplished by mowing regularly (to a height of two to three and one-half inches), fertilizing and watering appropriately, and overseeding in the fall. Also, make sure to grow the most suitable type of turfgrass for the location (e.g., plant shade tolerant turfgrass varieties under trees).
Alternatively, consider removing grass and growing shade-loving plants such as vinca, English ivy, pachysandra, or hosta that compete well with weeds (though they can also become weeds themselves, so plant at your own risk!). In areas where Creeping Charlie has become established, try removing plants by hand. This is the control method of choice in vegetable or flower gardens. Try to pull the weed without breaking it and over time it may give up.
However, this may not be a viable option in heavily infested areas, as the extensive spreading stems of creeping Charlie can be difficult to completely remove. If you have mats of weed, smother with newspaper or tarp. Once plants are pulled, make sure to dispose of the plants in such a way that they cannot re-root.
Borax, once used for organic control, is not recommended for creeping Charlie (or other broadleaf weed) control. It does not provide long-term control of creeping Charlie, and can injure turf and other plants, causing stunting and yellowing.
Often, herbicide applications are a necessary last resort. Consult your local garden center or cooperative extension for the appropriate herbicides in your local area.
More on Weeding
To learn more about combating common garden weeds, see Weed Control Techniques, as well as our mulching guide.
There are hundreds of different species in the passionflower family, all of them absolutely gorgeous.
Aside from their beauty, they have a whole host of medicinal benefits that make them a double-whammy in your garden.
Read on to learn exactly how to grow, care for, and use the purple passion flower.
Passiflora Incarnata Overview
|Common Name(s)||Purple passion vine, purple passion flower, passionflower, holy trinity flower, apricot vine, may pops|
|Scientific Name||Passiflora incarnata|
|Origin||The southern united states|
|Height||Up to 25 feet long|
|Humidity||Moderate to high|
|Soil||Peat moss-based potting mix|
|Fertilizer||Feed every two weeks in the spring with a fertilizer diluted by half, and once a month in the winter|
|Propagation||Take 3-4 inch stems, cut just below where the leaf is attached to it, place in moist soil and keep sealed for the first couple of weeks|
|Pests||Root knot nematode, fungus that causes fusarium wilt, cucumber mosaic, bacterial spots|
The purple passion flower is a fast growing vine that can reach up to 20 feet or more. Both the fruits and flowers are edible on some varieties and many food items are made from the plant.
The unique flowers are about three inches wide and they have several petals accented with a purple fringe. The wonderful fragrance this plant gives off resembles that of carnations. The fruits, called may pops, are generally about two inches in size and are ripe when the fruit turns yellow. The fruits taste like a guava. To be fully ripe for eating, the fruits should fall off naturally.
The Passionflower has large leaves that can reach 5 or 6 inches long and they have serrated edges. They generally have from three to five lobes that alternate along the stem. Flowers bloom where the leaf stem is attached to the vine. Passiflora incarnata really needs something to climb on, and look great at fences or running up a trellis.
Types of Purple Passion Flower
There are numerous species of the passionflower, most of which are tender tropical vines. Passiflora incarnata is different in that it is a deciduous plant and will survive through winter freezes!
Purple Passion Vine Care
This plant grows from the roots and can quickly take over a whole area. Make sure that you plant this one in an area that won’t be affected by the plant spreading, or where you’ll still be able to mow the lawn.
Butterflies love this gorgeous flower, but keep in mind, so do bees! Although, the plant is generally pest free, you may find that the caterpillars love to eat them!
Passionflowers love full sunlight, but it don’t do very well on really hot days and needs a little shade. The plant should be planted where it will only get direct sun about half of the day.
Purple passion flower does best when it is given a lot of water and then allowed to just slightly dry out before watering again.
If you over winter the plant, gradually stop watering and trim the plant when the foliage dies. In the spring when new growth starts to appear, the normal watering schedule should be resumed.
A good quality garden or potting soil will work fine for this gorgeous vine. Just make sure that the roots have plenty of drainage. These vines have shallow roots and a thick layer of organic mulch can really help the plant flourish.
Although passionflowers prefer to be in sandy, well draining, fertile soil, they will grow in heavier soils that contain clay. Here’s a simple soil recipe for passionflowers:
- 2 parts loam
- 2 parts peat
- 1 part perlite or sand
A well balanced fertilizer can be used every four months. It should supply the plant with phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium.
Because passiflora incarnata is a vining plant and a fast grower, you may want to prune it from time to time. Here are a few good reasons to prune:
- You want to bring an older vine back to life
- You want to promote better growth next year
- You want to train a young passionflower vine
The best time to prune your purple passion flower is in late winter. The plant won’t be growing much, so any pruning won’t affect the growth of the plant or shock the plant at all.
First, prune any obviously dead plant material. Then, remove all stems except ones that have plenty of buds. As a general rule, do not remove more than 33% of the plant’s total size, otherwise you risk killing your plant.
There are three main ways to propagate the passionflower: by layering, from seed, and from cuttings.
To propagate passionflower from cuttings, take 6″ cuttings from your plants. It’s important to take them from mature plants, often in the fall.
You can root them in a variety of growing mediums, but perlite, sand, or vermiculite work well. While you can use a rooting hormone to speed up the process, it’s not absolutely necessary.
Layering is a great way to propagate passionflower, especially if you don’t have to keep track of all of your cuttings until they’re rooted and ready to transplant.
To layer, just take the leaves off of a stem section and then bury the stem under the soil. Place a stone or pin on top to keep the stem underneath the soil. If you water the stem section well, it should root in 2-3 weeks.
Take an over-ripe seed pod from an existing plant and separate the seeds from the pod. Clean thoroughly and allow the seeds to dry. All the fleshy coating on the outside of the seeds must be removed. As a sidenote, you can eat the aril, which is the gelatinous covering around the seed. It’s quite tasty.
Let the seeds dry in a dark, warm place. When spring comes, soak them for a few days and then plant them in relatively sandy soil.
Be forewarned: passionflower seeds can take almost a year to germinate.
Speeding Up Passionflower Germination
The seeds contain a chemical that naturally slows their germination. Cool, moist soil, slowly removes this chemical. But, you can pretreat them and induce faster germination. It’s best to just forget about them after you plant them and be pleasantly surprised when they do show up a year down the road.
Success has been met when the seeds were soaked for 24 hours in 5% ethanol cider, changed every 12 hours. Faster germination has also been accomplished by an overnight soaking in gibberellic acid.
Harvesting and Using
Unlike most of the ornamental plants I cover on Epic Gardening, you can actually harvest and use purple passion flowers!
Harvesting Your Passionflower
Harvesting is best done in fall. To harvest, simply strip off the leaves of the plant. You must then dry them using one of the following methods:
- Use a food dehydrator
- Use a drying screen
- Place them outside in a paper bag
Once the leaves have dried, place them in a cool, dark area in a container that is airtight.
Aside from the raw beauty of the passionflower, they confer a whole host of medicinal benefits if you use them properly.
For many years it was used in over-the-counter sleep drugs, but became less popular in the late 1970s / early 1980s. US pharmaceutical companies were less interested than their European counterparts in studying the plant.
As a sleep aid, it can work well on its own, but is best used in conjunction with a few other herbs that are well-known to promote restful sleep:
- Valerian root
According to WebMD, the generally-accepted benefits of passionflower include:
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Menopausal symptoms
- Pain relief
- …and much more
As you can see, passionflower is possibly effective for a wide variety of conditions, although there isn’t as much research into its properties as there needs to be to be fully confident in some of its effects.
That said, it’s safe for use for almost everyone if taken orally in small doses. It’s not recommended to take for longer periods of time due to some potentially toxic substances that are safe in small amounts, but not large concentrations.
Goal: Outline the different problems that can occur when growing this plant and how to combat them. Can be broken into three subsections: growing problems, pests, and diseases. revent and/or combat them.
Open with a few sentences on how prone this plant is to pests, diseases, and problems. Then, go into the specifics:
Overall, passionflower is resistant to most diseases and pests, but there are a few that can give it some trouble.
Aphids are the most troublesome pest for passionflower vines.
Aside from the common diseases that affect most plants, your passiflora incarnata may suffer from root knot nematode. This causes the roots to thicken to the point of killing the plant entirely.
To avoid root knot nematode, it’s best to avoid the purple-fruited subspecies and opt for the yellow-fruited subspecies…these ones are more acidic and resistant to this affliction.
Goal: To answer common problems and questions about planting, caring for, harvesting, or storing this plant.
Q. There are so many varieties of passionflower, which should I choose?
A. Some good varieties to choose are P. mooreana, P. karwinskii, and P. ‘Guglielmo Betto’.
Q. What is the history of the passionflower?
A. The name “passionflower” comes from the passion of the Christ. Missionaries named it as such because the three stamens of the flower represent the wounds of Christ, and the 12 petals represent the 12 apostles. The corona of the plant also is symbolic of the crown of thorns.
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Pale Purple Coneflower
Give your garden a dose of pure flower power by planting pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida). This native North American wildflower pumps out the blossoms from early to late summer in most of the country. Flowers have a wild meadow look that blends gracefully into perennial plantings or naturalized prairie gardens.
Pale purple coneflower is a cousin to purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), the most well-known member of the coneflower family. Like its purple relative, pale purple coneflower opens blooms with a spiky center in shades of copper, orange and bronze. The cone stands above petals that dangle downward, just like purple coneflower petals do.
Unlike purple coneflower, the petals on pale purple coneflower have varying width, with some being narrow and almost stringy in appearance, while others are twice as wide. All told, pale purple coneflower petals are much narrower than those of purple coneflower. The narrow petals create a fringe effect. In a mass planting, it’s charming and gives blooms a sense of movement when breezes blow.
The petals also display some color differences from purple coneflower. In pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida), flower petals may be deep rose-purple to pale pink. In a mass planting, the color shading gives the scene the feel of an Impressionist painting, with subtle variations in hue.
Pale purple coneflower starts flowering two to four weeks earlier than purple coneflower. In the garden, with consistent deadheading, a single plant may produce up to two dozen flowers over the course of eight weeks. This is the coneflower for cutting gardens. It yields more than enough stems to grace indoor settings with bouquets. The flowers also have a light fragrance.
In the garden, pale purple coneflower grows 24 to 36 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches wide. The narrow clump it forms works well in both smaller garden areas and traditional perennial borders. For best effect and impact, plant pale purple coneflower in clumps of three. Like other coneflowers, Echincaea pallida prefers full sun but does flower—although not as prolifically—in part shade.
The flower stems extend from 24 to 36 inches, but are quite sturdy and don’t need staking. They stand up to summer storms without missing a blooming beat. Count on pale purple coneflower to thrive in tough growing conditions, like where soil is rocky or shallow. They also grow in clay soil. Plants are drought-tolerant once established.
Choose this coneflower for rain gardens, wildflower gardens or cutting gardens. Pale purple coneflower also makes a great addition to wildlife gardens. The blooms attract butterflies and other pollinators, while seedheads lure flocks of birds. One critter that won’t mess with pale purple coneflower is deer.
One problem gardeners are constantly struggling with is weeds growing in their flower gardens. A weed is essentially a plant growing where you don’t want it. There are a number of plants that pretty much always fall into the category of weeds, either for thier vigorous growth and ability to take over or the ability to keep regrowing.
Fortunately daylilies are strong vigorous growing plants that compete well with most weeds. That being said, even daylilies can struggle with weeds growing around and even into the clumps.
Weeds can be divided pretty much into Annuals or Perennials. The management of them is based on this growth habit.
Annuals usually seed in heavily and grow quickly. Killing the young plants and preventing them from going to seed is the best approach.
Perennial weeds on the other hand typically are slow to bloom and seed and start growing a bit more slowly. Regular pulling of the plants is the best approach with attention to removal of all the roots.
Tip: All things being equal, most grasses are weeds, if you focus on the grasses, that will most likely be the majority of your weeds.
On Lawn Management
Our lawns are a hodge-podge of plants including grass (of course), Clovers, Dandelions, Plantain, Violets, Vetches and more.
While on one level we are happy to accept that as that is the easiest and simplest approach, we also enjoy the amazing plant diversity that our lawns exhibit.
Additionally a diverse plant ecosystem (even in a lawn) may result in an planting that is more resilient to adverse conditions like drought, flooding or pest problems.
Here is a list of some of the most common weeds you may find
This is the noxious weed variant of Amaranth
There is a couple of wonderful ornamental types, but this Amaranth is a monster.
Even tiny plants can flower and drop seed. It doesn’t run so that makes it a little easier to control.
Bindweed: (Convolvulus arvensis) Perennial
A member of the Morning glory family (Convolvulacea). Bindweed is a climber, and as such it wraps around and “binds” other plants
It produce small Blue or White trumpet shaped Morning Glory-like blooms
Once established it’s hard to eliminate as it will have wrapped itself all around other plants. Small pieces of roots can re-grow too.
Catnip: (Mentha cataria) Annual
Not really weed per se, but can be a frequent volunteer which can become weed-like in the wrong situation
It is a short lived perennial that reseeds but does not run!
Easily controlled and identified but it’s distinctive smell and square stems (which all mints exhibit)
Chickweed: (Stellaria media) Annual
This weed is very low growing and as such will not really bother Daylilies and Iris much.
It is kind of unsightly running rampantly over open ground. Easy to remove as it
just pulls up nicely. It tolerates cool temperatures well and produces thousands of seeds
early control is important to keep it from spreading via seeds.
Potentilla or Cinquefoil: perennial
is easily identified by it’s five part leaf. Growing up to 2 feet tall it
Grows from seed and is slow to multiply compared to many weeds. It has a somewhat
attractive yellow flower and as such might be left ialone in the right spot.
Dandelion (Taraxacum) perennial
is probably the best known weed around. While not particularly invasive, it’s persistence and it’s resilience make it a real problem plant.
Typically if the crown is cut off a new plant will grow. And even flowers that are cut may end up going to seed.
Dandelion does seed in vigorously. The best approach is regular cutting of the crown until the plant wears out (or you do!).
Ground Ivy or Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea) perennial
This plant is easily identified by it’s creeping habit and tiny blue flowers. As it is low it is not a major
competitoor to Daylilies and Iris. however it roots regularly from its growing nodes, so though it’s easy to pull out it can re-root from tiny pieces.
regular pulling and hoeing can help control it.
Horsetail (Equisetum) perennial
Horsetail is a tough weed to eliminate. An ancient relic it is well adapted to survive.
It spreads by runners and seems almost impossible to eliminate without regular removal.
It can grow to 2 feet so it does interfere with the daylilies but not so much that it chokes them out.
Lambsquarters (Chenopdium album): Annual
While definately a weed growing over 5 feet tall, Lambsquarters
also know as Goosefoot and Pigweed is considered by many to be a wonderful food
According to Joan Richardson’s Wild Edible Plants of New England, “Lambsquarters
even outclasses spinach as a storehouse of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin C
, and great amounts of vitamin A, not to mention all the minerals pulled out of the earth
by its strong taproot. It also lacks the puckishness of spinach, although lambsquarters, too, contains oxalic acid.”
It can produce thousands and thousands of seeds so pulling before it blooms and seeds in is crucial!
Lamium (Lamium purpureum) Annual
Dead Nettle as it is called is a low growing, spreading member of the mint family.
Not too competitive with Daylilies and Iris, it will spread in quite vigorously.
the best approach is regular pulling of the plants.
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) Perennial
Mugwort is one of the most pernicious weeds there is! It is a strong spreader that spreads via underground runners.
Tiny pieces of root will regrow and spread quickly. Easily identified by it’s characteristic Marigold smell and silvery undersides, Mugwort is best controlled by constant pulling or ideally smothering with some sort of impermeable material. Grwinf to 3 feet it will grow in amongst your Daylilies and be very hard to eradicate.
Nutsedge (Juncus) Perennial
Nutsedge is another one of those horrible spreading weeds. Growing to 3 feet tall and spreading by tubers, Nutsedge is very difficult to eradicate.
The best approach we have found is to smother it with plastic or some other weed barrier. Easily recognized by it’s 3 sided shape (Sedges have edges)
Pulling will make you feel better but won’t eliminate it.
Evening Primrose: (Oenothera biennis) biennial
Evening Primrose is a biennial weed that grows up to 4 feet tall.
Large and imposing it can compete with Daylilies and Iris a bit
but it is not a rampant grower and as such is relatively easy to live with. Cutting it at the crown will kill it too.
It might be worth leaving as it seems to be a Japanese Beetle magnet drawing them away from other plants.
Creeping Sorrel (Oxalis): Perennial
Sorrell is sometimes called Lemon Grass and is a favorite of kids to munch on because of it’s lemony taste.
Small and not too invasive it is easy to pull but seems to pop up everywhere!
Tip: Using smell is a good way to help identify certain weeds/plants. Catnip, Lamium, Mugwort and Mints all have very distinctive smells
While considered a weed, Purslane is not a bad plant, just misunderstood. It only appears in late summer here in Vermont.
Purslane thrives in hot dry conditions. Very low growing, it is never a problem for Daylilies and Iris.
Purslane is considered good eating and very good for you.
From Mother Earth News
“Purslane may be a common plant, but it is uncommonly good for you.
It tops the list of plants high in vitamin E and an essential omega-3
fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Purslane provides
six times more vitamin E than spinach and seven times more beta carotene
than carrots. It’s also rich in vitamin C, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium and phosphorus.”
Probably just letting it be is the best approach.
Queen Annes Lace: (Daucus carrota) biennial
Queen Annes Lace is not considered a weed by many. It has wonderful weed airy flowers.
The ancestor of the Carrot, Queen Annes Lace has a deep taproot. Cutting the taproot should control it.
Not too rambunctious we almost always leave Queen Annes Lace be to grow.
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) perennial
Red Clover is not really a weed. Clovers help add nitrogen to the soil and are excellent bee forage.
But lets face it if it’s growing in the wrong place it’s a weed. Cutting at the crown will control it.
Growing to almost 2 feet tall it could compete with Daylilies and Iris but it is usually not too
overbearing and as such we leave it when we can.
White Clover: (Trifolium pratense) perennial
White Clover is the smaller cousin of Red Clover. We have it in all our lawns and love it!
As a Clover it also adds nitrogen to the soil. Low growing to not compete with Daylilies and Iris we
leave it be most of the time.
Annual Black Eyed Susan: (Rudbeckia annua) annual
Annual Black Eyed Susan is not really a weed either but sometimes it’s in the wrong
place. Easily identified by it’s hairy leaves it starts as a low rosette and then grows to about 2 feet in hieght.
Easily controlled by cutting the crown. In fact trying to transplant it in bloom is a surefire way to kill it!
Smartweed; (Polygonum) Annual
Sometimes called Mile A Minute plant! This low growing weed can really spread and seeds in like crazy.
Pulling the plants early and often is the best approach. Thier shallow root system makes them easy to pull.
Velvet Leaf: (Abutilon theophrasti) Annual
Velvet leaf is an invader from from India! Growing up to 5 feet tall.
It’s characteristic velvety leaves make it easy to identify. Persistent and tall we always pull it out
as it will grow taller than the Daylilies and Iris. The seed capsule are fascinating, with a gear like appearance.
Vetch: (Vicia sativa) perennial
Another legume Vetch will also add Nitrogen to the soil. not really a too terrible weed in our experience,
but because it’s a creeper and climber it’s not much fun finding it growing all over your Daylilies and Iris.
Easily pulled from the tops, Vetch will come back but not particularly strongly.
Violet (Viola odorata) Perennial
Definitely not a weed in our opinion, Violets our low growing with wonderful blue-violet or white flowers.
At least when one is assessing ones flower garden, it’s nice to recognize this as a good “weed”
Wild Lettuce: (Lactuca serriola) Annual
Growing to over 5 feet tall, this weed while not particularly invasive is large and imposing.
Cutting the crown before it seeds is the key to easy control.
Quackgrass or Creeping Quackgrass: (Agropyron repens) perennial
We’ve saved the worst for last. Quackgrass is a horrible pernicious weed that runs like crazy.
We have found it growing right through Daylily roots. Constant pulling of the plants and roots is the best control. We’ve found heavily mulched beds make pulling the Quackgrass much easier.
Nature abhors a vacuum.
Allowing certain low growing weeds to remain can be beneficial as these plants will occupy space and act as a green mulch, helping to prevent certain other less desirable /more invasive weeds from growing.
Read more at Gardening Know How: How To Kill Creeping Charlie Plant http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/plant-problems/weeds/kill-creeping-charlie.htm Glechoma hederacea
Read more at Gardening Know How: How To Kill Creeping Charlie Plant http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/plant-problems/weeds/kill-creeping-charlie.htm Glechoma hederacea
Read more at Gardening Know How: How To Kill Creeping Charlie Plant http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/plant-problems/weeds/kill-creeping-charlie.htm Glechoma hederacea
Read more at Gardening Know How: How To Kill Creeping Charlie Plant http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/plant-problems/weeds/kill-creeping-charlie.htm
Weed Trees: How to Identify and Get Rid of Them
Weed trees. Have you ever had one? I bet you remember if you have.
I will never forget the sweaty weekday I spent weeding the overgrown flower beds at a rental house I lived in with three other people. None of us had grown up taking care of our own flower beds or even doing very much weeding with our parents.
We had full-time jobs. We didn’t pay much attention to those flower beds other than to give them a glance when we had parties in the backyard or to pick the lovely peonies on the back walkway that someone else had planted ages before we lived in that house.
So, one day I took advantage of my unusual work schedule and dug in. I remember not getting very far before my back was burned and my legs and back were thoroughly tired. I thought to myself, “This is why you weed more regularly.” I just hated seeing someone’s beautifully planned-out garden getting choked because I was too lazy.
Then the neighbor lady from the house whose yard backed up to ours came back and thanked me for weeding. She was so nice about it, but she couldn’t help but tell me that the garden had indeed been the pride and joy of the owner who had planted it long before.
That’s Not a Tree
One other thing the neighbor lady mentioned. The tree growing in the front bed, right under my bedroom window?
“That’s not a tree,” she said. “It’s a weed.”
I don’t remember how we got that thing out. However, we did it because we knew if it was left to grow much longer it would be even harder to take out. We didn’t want to be responsible for ruining the foundation of our rental house.
So yes, a weed tree is a very big deal – potentially. You should have an idea of how to identify them and get rid of them before they ruin your property. Don’t learn the hard way like I did.
What Are Weed Trees?
Weed trees are definitely trees, just to clear that up. They are a species of trees or varieties with high seed germination rates, which grow rapidly and colonize quickly.
They tend to choke out other tree species which are slower growing if you’re not careful. These guys come to your flower beds, lawns, and tucked-away corners via nearby trees, wind, birds, and animals. They are usually planted as ornamental trees and are not native to the areas in which they grow.
The problem is what causes them to be chosen as ornamental trees are their biggest drawbacks: they are hardy and hard to kill.
What Trees Are Weeds?
Any tree that is unwanted can be a weed. If you have a tree starting up too near the foundation of your home, you want to get rid of it even if it is a tree. Ultimately it’s not good for your home or the tree to be planted there.
However, there are a few notorious examples of weed trees to watch out for:
Examples of Weed Trees
Norway maple trees were planted as street or park trees when Dutch elm disease wiped out our country’s elms in the 1960s and 70s. They adapt well, they like shade, and they grow to a huge size – 40 to 50 feet.
They have winged seeds that spread over a large area. Norway maples will take over wooded areas and hedgerows if you let them. Norway maples are very pretty – they turn yellow in the fall.
By all means, keep one around if you want one. Just be aware that you will have to watch out for volunteer seedlings all over your property.
Young thin branch of black locust tree
The black locust is native to the Appalachian region and the Ozarks of North America. It is a medium-size tree that has fragrant white flowers in clusters in the spring and feathery leaves in clusters in summer.
They grow up to 50 feet with a narrow canopy. They self-seed easily and therefore have become an invasive species even in their native areas. Once established, black locust is difficult to control.
Tree of Heaven
Young tree of heaven
The tree of heaven is native to China. It was first introduced to the United States from England as an exotic, fast growing, ornamental shade tree in Philadelphia, PA in 1784.
It has groups of leaves, gray bark, and a spreading canopy. It can grow up to five feet per season and grow as tall as 60 feet. It has an unpleasant odor when you cut it down.
This tree multiplies by root suckers which spring up around the base of the trunk.
White mulberry tree
The white mulberry tree is also native to China. They have orange-brown bark and sweet, edible berries which birds will spread far and wide.
White mulberries adapt and grow well in a wide range of conditions and stubbornly grow wherever – even springing new shoots from trunks or roots of felled trees.
Sound like a great attribute? It is, but that makes a mulberry very difficult to eliminate from your yard.
How to Remove Weed Trees
The number one easiest way to remove a weed tree is to pull it up as a seedling. Therefore, it makes sense to walk your yard – especially if you have hidden little nooks and crannies – when the ground is damp and pick out any possible seedlings you find. Even the end of the summer may be too late for this job to be easy.
If you have waited too long or just didn’t discover your weed tree until it has become too large, there are a few different methods.
- Paint. You can cut down the canopy and paint the cut part with regular paint to kill the rest of the weed.
- Bark Peeling. A tree gets its nutrients to and from the root system right under the bark. If you peel away its bark, this will eventually kill the tree. But it might be too slow or arduous a way to get rid of a pesky tree.
- Chemicals. There are chemicals you can buy specifically for this purpose, but I’ve also heard of household bleach doing the trick when painted directly onto the cut surface of the tree – without killing the surrounding vegetation.
However, with any chemical, there is always the chance of either killing surrounding vegetation and/or making the ground infertile for some time afterward. Salt will definitely kill your tree. Unfortunately, it will also make the ground infertile. Sometimes you have no other choice.
- Pickup Truck and Chains. If you have friends and a good pickup truck, it is possible you could pull the trunk right out of the ground. However, if it is growing close to the foundation of your house, this is not the right method.
Weed trees are any kind of tree that is growing in the wrong place at the wrong time or invasive species that can choke out other native vegetation. If you have a weed tree in your yard, pull it up while it’s still a seedling. Learn to recognize the signs that you have weed trees sprouting and you will save yourself a huge hassle later on.
On the other hand, if you have a tree that you would like to flourish, consider installing Rootwell’s Pro-318 Deep Root System. Pro-318s are porous cylinders provide the distribution of air, water, and nutrients throughout the root zone.
Ten Weeds to Pull Now
Ask any of our horticulturists to name the most important job in their gardens right now and they’ll all answer the same way:
In this month’s Smart Gardener, we take on the topic that gardeners love to hate, focusing on the top ten weeds most commonly found in gardens in the Chicago area.
What is a weed? Essentially, it’s a plant that’s growing where you don’t want it to be. Weeds are opportunistic, springing up where there’s a void in the landscape, where the soil has been disturbed, or where birds and mammals have eliminated the seeds of the fruits they’ve eaten.
Weed ruthlessly in spring and early summer, rather than waiting for weeds to grow—they’ll be easier to remove, less likely to have spread, and won’t use up the precious nutrients and water from the soil that you want your other garden plants to have. Cultivate a love of weeding—smart gardeners know it’s worth it.
Every gardener knows the horror of bindweed: the perennial, twisting, vine-like weed that climbs up the stems of other plants, defying attempts to unwind or pull its counterclockwise cling. If neglected, bindweed forms a thick mat and an extensive root system that overwhelms any garden bed—or even farm field.
Get familiar with bindweed’s arrow-shaped leaf and search for the first tendrils at ground level while weeding. If the weed is already established, pull and clip the plant repeatedly to exhaust its roots. Our plant healthcare manager recommends this trick if you’ve spotted an established vine: set up wooden stakes for it to cling to (rather than other plants); then remove the plant stake.
North Shore residents know buckthorn well. It is the shrubby tree that pops up in a hedge or wooded area, then chokes out every other plant, cutting off sunlight as it spreads. As its name warns, buckthorn has thorns, adding injury to insult for those who forget to wear gloves and goggles while removing it.
Like all weeds, buckthorn is best removed when small. Dig the plant up entirely. Not sure if that sapling is a buckthorn? Identify it in fall, as its leaves stay green on the branches much longer than most other trees’ branches.
#3: Canada thistle
Canada thistle looks like a weed, with tufty seedheads and spiny, pointed leaves that stick out like a sore thumb (wear gloves while pulling it) in your garden bed.
One reason that Canada thistle is so common: its root system spreads by runners, allowing it to produce many new plants and return year after year. To eradicate it, pull all running roots.
Some weeds are indicators of soil health and condition; crabgrass indicates compacted soil, which is one reason you’ll find it in lawns and at the edges of sidewalks.
Unlike lawn grass, crabgrass grows in a rosette of leaves, spreading by both seeds and creeping stems. Its seedheads name it, as they resemble crab claws.
Because crabgrass is an annual, the efficient way to prevent it from spreading is to prevent it from flowering. Cut the rosette off with a knife so it won’t self-sow. (Mowing doesn’t work, as the low-growing plant is below blade height.)
#5: Creeping Charlie
The name says it all: insidiously creeping stems allow this weed to spread like a ground cover. A perennial, creeping Charlie can thread its way through, above, below, and around other plants, making it difficult to remove.
Identify it by its scalloped leaves and those square, creeping stems. To remove: trace it back to its root nodes, then dig those up repeatedly throughout the season.
It’s the poster child of weeds, yet dandelion has undeniable value, too. Its young leaves are vitamin-rich edible greens, and its bright yellow flowers are one of the earliest and best sources of nectar for emerging insects, especially bees. And who among us hasn’t delighted in picking a posy of dandelions or blowing clouds of fluffy seedheads?
But it’s the dandelion’s taproot that’s the real issue for gardeners. To remove it, wait until after a rain, then dig the taproot out completely, or that same dandelion will return next year. An old-fashioned dandelion fork is a great tool for the job.
And if you don’t quite get all the roots this year, let the survivors bloom for the bees next year before you tackle that taproot again.
#7: Garlic mustard
So invasive is garlic mustard that just one plant can spread by seed quickly, forming colonies that choke out native plants in woodlands and shady gardens.
Garlic mustard is a biennial that grows into a clumping rosette of toothy leaves in its first year, then flowers and sets seeds in its second year. The key is to pull it in its first year—a task that our ecologists and volunteers repeat each spring here in the McDonald Woods. As its name declares, the plant smells strongly of garlic when crushed.
Nightshade can be crafty in a garden bed, vining and climbing and camouflaging its wavy-edged leaves through other plants. Most gardeners don’t notice it until it has already flowered and set its distinctive clusters of mostly black berries, which are both numerous and potentially poisonous.
Nightshade grows where the ground has been disturbed; keep your garden beds healthy and uncompacted to prevent this weed. Pull or dig it out completely at the root.
#9: Poison ivy
Even children learn the phrase “Leaves of three, let them be,” the apt descriptor of poison ivy.
The perennial plant can be a trickster, growing low and shrubby or high and vining. But it’s the allergic reaction that some humans have that’s the real risk—touching the shiny leaves or burning the plant can release the chemicals that cause rash and uncomfortable itching.
Always wear rubber gloves to pull or dig the plant, and dispose of immediately.
#10: Yellow nutsedge
Indicative of wet conditions, and often found in lawns, yellow nutsedge can look like regular lawn grass until it grows taller, powering up to a potential 8- to 36-inch height. Check the leaves for identification—they feel stiffer than lawn grass, and the stem is triangular (it’s a sedge, not a grass).
Pull this weed as soon as you spot it—if left unchecked, it develops underground tubers and nutlets that make it difficult to control later. Feathery, golden flowers can produce seeds too.
Karen Zaworski is a garden writer and photographer who lives and gardens in Oak Park, Illinois.
10 Awful Weeds and How to Kill Them
Wisteria in bloom. Photo: Steve Bender
What is a weed? A weed is any plant that’s growing where you don’t want it. Some weeds are ugly. Some are pretty. But nearly all share the nasty habit of growing out of control, coming up everywhere, and making you want to shut yourself in a dark room watching Wendy Williams trash Hollywood celebrities. That’s bad. How can you kill and prevent weeds and save your sanity? As always, ask Grumpy.
But be warned — if any of you are philosophically and intractably opposed to the use of garden chemicals no matter the situation, stop reading now. Because while Grumpy advocates minimal use of “chemicals” (which is kind of a dumb thing to say since everything in the garden contains chemicals) and recommends natural solutions whenever possible, some weeds cannot be controlled organically. I’m going to tell you what works, organic or not, and let you make the choice.
Awful Weed #1 — Wisteria
Japanese and Chinese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda and sinensis) are absolutely gorgeous in flower. So why do Southerners hate them so? Because these rampant vines smother, strangle, crush, and destroy everything around them. They spread by runners, seed, and suckers.
How to kill it: If it’s a small vine, spray it according to label directions with Roundup. If it’s a big one spraying won’t reach, cut through the trunk a foot from the ground and immediately paint the cut surface with Roundup or Brush Killer. Pouring 20% vinegar over the roots may kill a small one, but won’t work on a big one.
Awful Weed #2 — Chinese Privet
Image zoom emChinese privet. Photo: Steve Bender/em
Why oh why did some numskull bring this awful plant from China and sick it on us about a century ago? Now billions of these evergreen shrubs dot the South like poppy seeds on a roll. Birds eat the blue-black berries and poop out the seeds wherever they fly or sit. Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) grows anywhere it’s cold-hardy — in sun, shade, wet soil, dry soil, woods, fields, and cracks in the road. I hate it.
How to kill it: Follow same procedure as for wisteria. Be ruthless.
Awful Weed #3 — Kudzu
Image zoom emKudzu in bloom. Photo: Steve Bender/em
You may know that kudzu vine (Pueraria montana lobata) was brought to the South from China as an ornamental plant, as forage for cattle, and for erosion control on highway banks. It has its good points, really. Every bit of it — leaves, flowers, tuners — is edible. Deep-fried leaves are delicious. But that doesn’t make up for the fact that it grows up to a foot a year and would cover the Eiffel Tower if planted next to it.
How to kill it: Cattle love it, so if you have cows, let them graze it to the ground for three years in a row and that will pretty much do it. Lacking cows (or goats), spray it according to label directions with Roundup.
Awful Weed #4 — Water Hyacinth
Image zoom emWater hyacinth in bloom. Photo: Steve Bender/em
Native to South America and released in the South around the same time as kudzu, water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is to Southern waterways what kudzu is to fields and forests. I imagine this plague started when some dope growing a single plant in his aquarium dumped it into a pond, bayou, or lake — not knowing that it reproduces incredibly fast by seeds and floating plantlets (its population doubles every 6 days). It completely hides the surface of still water in short order, making fishing and boating impossible.
How to kill it: The best control is climate. Tender to cold and frozen waterways, it won’t survive drops in temperature much below 20 degrees. Some biological controls have been introduced, but they aren’t available to average homeowners and success has been modest anyway. Boats with machines that skim water hyacinths off the water and chop them up can clear water, but again, you’re not likely to have one. Some herbicides, such as these, are registered for use against water hyacinth and do kill it. But they can be toxic to fish and wildlife, kill untargeted plants, and rob the water of oxygen and kill fish as water hyacinths die. I don’t feel comfortable recommending them. Instead, never release water hyacinth into the wild!
Awful Weed #5 — Field Bindweed
Image zoom emField bindweed in bloom. Photo: imgkid.com/em
Looking like a wild morning glory, field bindweed (Convovulus arvensis) is a vigorous perennial vine that often snakes its way up, over, and through your garden plants. It spreads by seeds that can sprout after 50 years and roots that can grow 10 feet deep. You can try digging it out, but any bit of root left in the ground eventually sprout as a new plant.
How to kill it: Not gonna sugar-coat it for you — getting rid of this sucker is tough and often takes years. If it’s growing by itself, spray it with Roundup. If it’s tangled in other plants that Roundup would kill, you’ll have to carefully paint the chemical onto only the field bindweed leaves. You’ll miss lots of leaves, so repeat applications will be necessary. You also need to prevent seeds from sprouting. You can do this by applying Preen to the soil in affected areas.
Awful Weed #6 — Nutgrass (Nutsedge)
Image zoom emNutgrass. Photo: flickr.com/em
If you have lots of nutgrass in your lawn, blame yourself. Nutgrass (not true grass, but a sedge) thrives in sickly lawns that are underfed, poorly drained, watered too much, and mowed too short. Stop all that. Grow a thick lawn mowed no shorter than two inches and let the good grass crowd out the nutgrass. In the flower and veggie garden, pull any plants as soon as they sprout and spread a two-inch thick layer of mulch over the top. Pulling plants early keeps them from spreading by seeds, roots, and tubers (nuts) left in the ground.
How to kill it: In the garden, suck it up and pull it. Pull some every day. Hoe out seedlings before they get three inches tall. Stick to it. Persistence works. In the lawn, treat according to label directions with Image containing imazaquin. Make sure it’s labeled for your type of grass.
Awful Weed #7 — Grass in Your Flower Beds
Image zoom emBermuda grass. Photo: sunset.com/em
Grass works fine for lawns, but when it invades flower beds, it’s a royal pain. Doesn’t matter if it’s bluegrass, Bermuda grass, crabgrass, goosegrass, or dallis grass. The question you face is: Once it has infested the bed, how can I get rid of it without harming my flowers? Just about any weed-killer you spray on the grass will kill your flowers too.
How to kill it: Spray the grass according to label directions with Ortho Grass-B-Gon. It kills only grasses and will not harm broadleaf plants.
Awful Weed #8 — Chameleon Plant
Image zoom emChameleon plant. Photo: visoflora.com/em
How could a plant so pretty be a problem? Plant it in your garden and you’ll find out. A perennial ground cover that flourishes in warm, wet climates, chameleon plant (Houttynia cordata ‘Chameleon’) spreads aggressively by roots and seeds. Plant just one in your garden one spring and soon you’ll discover it coming up everywhere. Pulling it does no good because any root left in the ground sends up another plant.
How to kill it: Spray it according to label directions with Roundup. If it has insinuated itself into all of your other plants, mix up some Roundup and carefully paint it on the leaves, avoiding the foliage of your good plants.
Awful Weed #9 — Cudweed
Image zoom emCudweed. Photo: flickr.com/em
As with nutgrass, if you find this squat, woolly perennial with dinky, yellow flowers taking over your lawn, it’s your own fault. It means your lawn is sparse and patchy due to mowing too short and not enough fertilizer. A thick lawn leaves no empty spots for cudweed to colonize.
How to kill it: Apply a broadleaf weedkiller like Ortho Weed-B-Gon or Spectracide Weed-Stop according to label directions.
Awful Weed #10 — Common Violet
Image zoom emCommon violet in bloom. Photo: missouriplants/em
Ooooh, I can already hear all those catcalls and epithets! “You spiteful assassin! How can you want to kill pretty, little violets? Do you kick puppies too?”
Look, I don’t want to kill violets. They’re native and they’re cute. The problem is one violet produces hundreds of seedlings in a single year. That’s too much of a good thing.
How to kill it: You’re gonna hate this, but no weedkiller will touch it. The only way to kill violets is to dig them out, making sure you get all of the tuberous roots. Give yourself an incentive. Every day, dig out as many as you can in the time it takes to consume an adult beverage. Sounds like it’s gonna take years.