Dandelion Removal: How To Kill Dandelions
While children may make wishes on the fuzzy heads of dandelions, gardeners and lawn enthusiasts tend to curse the cheery yellow flowers of dandelions when they appear. And for good reason. Dandelions will push out grass and other plants, as well as sapping water and nutrients away from surrounding plants. Dandelion control also tends to be difficult due to their fluffy and far floating seeds. But the answer to the question of how to get rid of dandelions is simply a matter of thoroughness and patience.
How to Get Rid of Dandelions
There are several methods for dandelion control. All methods for dandelion removal must be performed every year. Due to the fact that dandelion seeds can travel several miles on the wind, it is difficult, if not impossible, to have permanent removal of this weed from a garden or lawn.
How to Kill Dandelions with Herbicide
There are two basic types of herbicide that can be used on dandelions. The first is a selective broadleaf herbicide. A broadleaf herbicide will only kill broadleaf weeds, such as dandelions. A broadleaf herbicide is good for killing dandelions in lawns, as the herbicide will kill the dandelions and not the grass.
The other kind of effective dandelion herbicide is a non-selective herbicide. Non-selective means that the herbicide will kill any plant that it comes in contact with. Non-selective herbicide is effective for spot dandelion removal, such as killing dandelions in flower beds and in walkways.
When using any herbicide for dandelion control, it will work best to apply the herbicide before the dandelion has developed flowers. Once dandelion flowers have emerged, the dandelion is far more resistant to herbicides and the herbicide, broadleaf or non-selective, will not be as effective.
Hand Digging for Dandelion Removal
The most effective, but also the most time consuming, method for dandelion control is hand digging them. Hand digging should be done in the spring, right when the first dandelion seedlings appear. Special “dandelion pullers” or similar tools can be bought to help with hand digging.
When hand digging as a way of how to kill dandelions, it is important to remember that you must remove the entire taproot of the dandelion. Dandelion taproots can run deep.
Because dandelion taproots grow deep, it is unlikely that you will kill every dandelion in your yard during the first round of hand digging. Every few weeks, hand dig any dandelions that re-emerge from their taproots.
Using a Pre-Emergent for Dandelion Control
A pre-emergent is a chemical that can be applied your lawn or flower bed to prevent seeds from germinating. When using a pre-emergent for dandelion control, it must be applied in late winter in order to be effective. The pre-emergent will prevent the dandelion seeds from germinating and is only effective if used before the dandelion seeds have had a chance to germinate.
With all of the types of ways for controlling dandelions, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you need to prevent the dandelions from going to seed. Once the fluffy seed heads appear, the number of dandelions in your yard (and your neighbor’s) will multiply.
But now that you know how to get rid of dandelions, you can be confident that with some time and effort, you can have a dandelion free yard.
Note: Chemical control should only be used as a last resort, as organic approaches are more environmentally friendly.
Love For Dandelion “Weeds” – Dandelion Flowers Belong In The Garden
Ahh, the dandy dandelion! This European native is probably one of the most well-known weeds to have a love-hate relationship with gardeners everywhere. Some love the plant. Others hate it. For me, seeing those first yellow blooms popping up across the lawn (and in the garden) each spring brings happiness.
Why you might want to leave those dandelions alone
Credit: CC0 Public Domain
Nothing can threaten a velvety green lawn like vagabond dandelions—but it isn't all bad, says a University of Alberta gardening expert.
In fact, people may want to actually welcome the fluffy yellow blooms into their yards, said Ken Willis, head of horticulture at the U of A Botanic Garden.
"There's starting to be a lot more argument that they should be kept because of what they can do for pollinators. Ecologically they are becoming very important as a food source for domestic and wild species of bees, particularly in early spring because they grow so soon. Butterflies and moths also feed on them as a source of sugar, and some species of birds feed on dandelion seeds," said Willis, who leaves room for the hardy plant in natural areas in the botanic garden.
Though classed as a weed, the dandelion, a member of the daisy family, isn't noxious—defined as causing a threat ecologically, economically or to public health. Instead, the plant's biggest fault is that it spreads easily through the seeds carried on the wind by its trademark gray fluff.
"They take over the space that other plants would move into and they're also very effective at germinating in areas where other plants can't grow because of poor soil compaction or dryness. That's why they are so prevalent on the landscape—they're tough," Willis said.
Gardeners either want them in the yard or they don't, and "both sides are correct," he added.
"I think psychologically, in areas like parks and playgrounds, people want to see big fields of green and that's their idea of a perfect landscape, and if it's your yard, and you want that, go ahead and do it."
To get rid of them, either hoe them out or pull them by hand for areas smaller than a half-acre, being sure to also dig out the plant's large taproot. For infestations larger than that, call in a lawn care company, Willis advised.
If you're making dandelions part of the summer landscape, consider the idea of "playability"—managing the level of dandelions to the intended use of your yard and garden, Willis advised.
"With municipal sports fields and parks, you want to prevent injuries to increase the playability, so dandelion control would be important for that purpose."
The best way to use them in a yard, without squeezing out flower beds and infesting lawns, is in the vegetable garden, where they belong, he said.
"Dandelions were brought to North America from Europe and Asia as a vegetable, so they have many culinary uses. They're high in vitamins and the leaves are good in salads, the taproot can be ground into a coffee substitute and the flowers make wine. Grow it like lettuce and harvest it before the flowers bloom," Willis suggested.
Weeds to watch out for
There are noxious weeds property owners should be on the lookout for, including two locally common ones: scentless chamomile and creeping bellflower.
"As both species are prolific seed producers, it is critical to control these weeds before they form seeds. Both spread easily, can choke out crops and are hard to eradicate," Willis said.
The best way to deal with them is to have a lawn care company control them, he advised.
Best Way To Get Rid Of Dandelions Permanently
Got dandelions? Learn how to eliminate this common weed once and for all.
Win the War on Dandelions
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 5 to 10 years, growing up to 20 inches across. Because they spread by wind-blown seed, no lawn or planting bed is immune to a parachuting invasion of dandelion seeds. Dandelions have some weedy superpowers, but if you understand how they grow, you can beat ‘em.
The Tap Root Is A Big Problem
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. When you dig or pull a dandelion, try to get at least 2 to 3 inches of the taproot. It comes up easiest when soil is moist, like after rain or watering. Any part of the taproot left in soil can sprout, growing a whole new plant.
Dig ‘Em Out
You have several options for getting rid of dandelions permanently. The first is hand pulling or digging. When digging a dandelion, use a special dandelion fork 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 pull.
Yank That Tap Root
Hand digging or pulling dandelions 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. Weed puller tools like this one take the back-breaking labor out of weeding. Always try to dig dandelions when soil is moist. If you have to, before weeding, water the area where you’ll be working.
Dandelion Double Header
The upper section of a dandelion taproot is full of buds. When you dig a dandelion and the leafy part breaks off above soil, the remaining taproot regrows, producing two plants. This regrowth comes from buds on the taproot, which sprout when the root is broken. 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.
Get The Young Ones
Young dandelion seedlings are the most vulnerable stage of the plant when it comes to digging, herbicide applications or homebrew weed killer. At this stage, seedlings have a thin taproot that’s easy to pull, and leaves haven’t yet developed a tough, 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 percent) doesn’t kill dandelion roots according to extension specialists.
Target Your Weed Sprays
The best sprays to use on dandelions are ones that kill the leaf and the root (it should say that on the bottle). If you’re spraying dandelions that are located in other planting beds, 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.
Old Ones Are Tough
As dandelions mature, leaves develop a waxy coating that sheds water and weedkiller sprays. This is why it’s best to try and treat dandelions when they’re young. 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. This dandelion and the one in the next photo were sprayed at the same time. This dandelion wasn’t scuffed prior to spraying. It never did die from the weedkiller, which was the kind that kills dandelions, not lawn.
Scuff And Spray Works
This dandelion was scuffed just prior to spraying a weedkiller. It died quickly and completely, never to return. The best time to spray dandelions is in the fall, because this is 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. Avoid using lawn weed and feed products in fall to kill dandelions, though, because if your lawn goes dormant for winter, it won't absorb the fertilizer. Instead, any weeds present take up the fertilizer and grow stronger.
Don’t Let Seeds Sprout
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. To do this, use a pre-emergent herbicide like corn gluten meal or Preen. This type of weedkiller interferes 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). Another technique to make your yard unfriendly to dandelion seeds is to mulch planting beds, and don’t cut your lawn shorter than 2 to 3 inches. Taller grass grows thicker, shading soil so dandelion seeds can’t sprout.
After you have successfully eliminated the dandelion, you want to make sure the weed doesn't return. The best defense against dandelion is a thick lawn that is well fertilized and maintained. Here are a few cultural practices we suggest to keep dandelion from returning.
- Implement proper cultural practices such as watering, mowing and feeding to make your yard less conducive to dandelion making a return and invading your yard.
- In particular, mowing your grass high at a height of 3 to 4 can help to fight off dandelion development because the weed seeds will not get the sunlight to be able to germinate and thrive if you were to mow your lawn low.
- Keep up with a fertilizer application, even during fall. Use a fall fertilizer high in potassium to keep your turf strong over winter so they can choke out weed development in the spring
- Water your lawn deeply yet infrequently at a rate of 1 to 1.5 inches per week.
Dandelions are edible flowering plants with yellow leaves that are common in most parts of the world. They are commonly found in gardens and lawns where they grow in the midst of other plants. We have outlined some of the best ways you can get rid of dandelions permanently from your garden by following any of the tips above.
If you have any questions or would like to share your dandelion experience with us, feel free to let us know in the comment section. We also encourage readers to share our article if they find it helpful.