While it is not yet spring, pesky weeds are actively growing in lawns and gardens. This winter’s warm temperatures have given them a boost. They are quickly reaching obnoxious proportions.
It is important to know that many perennials are also showing growth. Before you dig and discard weeds, learn to properly identify them lest you dig up a much-beloved flower. Common weeds and their traits include:
This tough, perennial grass forms clumps of tall (2’-8’) bright green foliage that has white mid-veins. Overall, it has a coarse, leafy appearance with leaf blades up to an inch wide. Similar to some ornamental grasses, Johnsongrass forms plume-like, reddish-purple flower spikes. A well-tended lawn tends to crowd and doom Johnsongrass. If the clumps are mowed regularly, they will eventually perish. This grass reproduces from seed or from its thick fleshy underground rhizomes.
This aggressive perennial weed reproduces by underground rhizomes and seed. Its flowers are attractive — thus the common name “wild morning glory.” It produces 1’-4’ vines that crawl and twine to cover landscape plants. The vine’s seeding leaves are large and rounded with a notch on each leaf end. The leaves are heart-shaped when mature. Flowers are white, pink or lavender and funnel shaped.
This perennial grass forms very large, dense clumps. It has dark green foliage that grows from a hard, knotty base. Tall seed stalks with tiny black seeds rise above the clumps. Stalks form only a few days after mowing. This weed has coarse, flat stalks that are obvious in lawn grass. Dallisgrass reproduces by seed and by rhizomes. If not mowed, clumps can grow up to 5’ high. Seeds mature in fall.
This annual broadleaf weed, also known as deadnettle, has scalloped rounded leaves. It produces numerous small tubular, pink or purple flowers in spring. Henbit reproduces by seed and rooting stems. Mature plants grow to about a foot tall. Stems are square, hairy and often branch hear the base of the plant. Leaves are hairy and round to heart-shaped. Leaf margins have rounded teeth. Henbit is in the mint family, which accounts for its ability to rapidly spread in the landscape.
While in flower, dandelions are pretty. Both flowers and foliage are edible. However, like ther pesky plants, dandelions tend to get out of control. These perennial broadleaf weeds produce bright yellow flowers in early spring. The flowers are followed by fluffy white seedheads. Seeds are widely distributed by wind. Dandelions also produce a deep taproot. The plant’s medium-green narrow leaves end in sharp points. Both leaves and flower stems exude a milky, bitter-tasting juice when broken.
This weed is a broadleaf annual or perennial that germinates in fall and grows in winter to become obvious in spring. The plants generally die in hot weather. Clover has shamrock-shaped leaves and forms thick patches that can choke out turfgrass. It reproduces by seed and underground roots. It can root at the nodes on creeping stems. Clusters of white or pink pea-shaped flowers are held slightly above the foliage.
This annual broadleaf weed has small bright green, succulent leaves. It is low growing and spreads to form many small clumps. Chickweed is most prevalent in cool weather, then sets seed and dies in hot weather. It has slender stems with many branches and white hairs on one side of each branch. The leaves are smooth and pointed, up to an inch long. Small star-shaped white flowers appear from midwinter to early spring on slender stalks.
A summer annual, crabgrass forms loose clumps. The plant has outward spreading runners with yellow-green, coarse-textured foliage. The abundant purple seedheads are conspicuous and similar to those of Bermuda grass.
If you want to rid yourself of these weeds, the fastest route to eradication is digging. Unfortunately, the weeds that appear in spring have been growing since last fall. You may spot treat weeds in landscape beds with a glyphosate product or a water and vinegar 50-50 mixture. Neither product will travel through the soil to affect other plants, but you must apply them carefully so as not to spray nearby plant foliage and cause harm.
In lawns, mow weeds to prevent them from going to seed. Spot treat them if they are not widespread. You may use an appropriately labeled herbicide. However, the best eradication is achieved by applying herbicide in fall to prevent spring weeds. Also, apply corn gluten meal in fall or early winter to help prevent spring weed seed germination.
Resources: AgriLife Extension, Neil Sperry Texas Gardening, Southern Living
For answers to horticulture questions, please call the Texas AgriLife Extension, Hood County at 817-579-3280 and ask to speak to a Master Gardener or visit the website at hoodcountymastergardeners.org.