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Lawn Weeds

Common Lawn Weeds


Grassy weeds are true grasses or monocots. A grass seed germinates and emerges as one single leaf. It develops hollow, rounded stems and nodes (joints) that are closed and hard. The leaf blades alternate on each side of the stem, are much longer than they are wide and have parallel veins.


Most broadleaf weeds have netlike veins in their leaves and nodes containing one or more leaves. They may have showy flowers. Broadleaf weed seedlings emerge with two leaves. Because of differences in their leaf structure and growth habits, they are easy to distinguish from grasses.


Proper identification of weeds targeted for control is necessary in order to select effective control measures, whether cultural or chemical. Further assistance with weed identification is available from your local cooperative extension office or the Healthy Lawn Center.


A weed’s life cycle has great impact on the selection and success of a given control procedure, so it is important to learn the life cycle characteristics of a weed when you first learn its identity.


Annual weeds germinate from seeds, grow, flower, produce seeds and die in 12 months or less. Winter annuals sprout in the fall, thrive during the winter and die in late spring or early summer. Summer or warm-season grasses such as crabgrass and goosegrass sprout in the spring and thrive in summer and early fall.
Perennial weeds are weeds that live more than two years. They reproduce from vegetative (non-seed) parts such as tubers, bulbs, rhizomes (underground stems) or stolons (above-ground stems), although some also produce seed. Perennial weeds are the most difficult to control because of their great reproductive potential and persistence.

 

Grassy Weeds


Annual Bluegrass

Description: Annual bluegrass produces a white-colored, pyramid-shaped seedhead in the spring. It dies in the summer with the onset of high temperatures and/or dry conditions.


Life Cycle: Annual bluegrass (Poa annua) is a winter annual weed that emerges in early fall, persists through the winter, produces seed in early spring and then dies in late spring or early summer. Annual bluegrass reproduces by seed.

 

Control: Preemergence herbicides are available depending on the kind of turfgrass and ornamental plants grown. Apply preemergence herbicides to established lawns before the annual bluegrass seeds germinate. Once annual bluegrass emerges, preemergence herbicides are generally ineffective.

 

Selective postemergence herbicides are available for annual bluegrass control. These are best applied in November or early December when the weed is small, thus most susceptible to control. Apply all chemicals according to directions on the label.


Crabgrass & Goosegrass


Description: Crabgrass can be identified by its tufted or prostrate growth habit, hairy stems, broad leaves and flower spikes with two to nine finger-like branches. This weed appears in disturbed areas, weak or thin turf areas and in edges of the lawn next to sidewalks and drives.


Goosegrass is a tough, clump-forming summer annual with white to silver coloring near its base. Unlike crabgrass, goosegrass has flat stems and does not root at the lower nodes.


Life Cycle: Crabgrasses are summer annuals that germinate in the spring at about the time crabapple and forsythia bloom, when the air temperature is warm enough to promote crabgrass seed germination. They produce seed from midsummer to fall and are then killed by the first freeze in autumn. Crabgrass reproduces by seed.


Goosegrass germinates a few weeks after crabgrass in late spring and produces seed from summer to early fall. The flowers and seeds are produced in two rows like a zipper on two to 13 finger-like branches at the top of the stem. Goosegrass is killed at the first freeze, and reproduces entirely from seed.
Control: Preemergence and postemergence herbicides are available depending on the kind of turfgrass in your lawn. Preemergence herbicides provide about 2 to 2 1/4 months of control. Repeat applications would be required 60 days later for season-long control. Apply preemergence herbicides early spring when Forsythia or dogwoods begin to bloom. Fall-seeded turfgrasses should not be treated with a preemergence herbicide until the following spring. Apply all chemicals according to directions on the label.

 

Nutsedges


Description: Nutsedges are often called "nutgrass" because they closely resemble grasses. Correct identification is very important, as most herbicides for grass control are not effective on sedges. Nutsedges can be distinguished from grasses by their stems, which are triangular or V-shaped in cross section, while grass stems are hollow and round. Their leaves are thicker and stiffer than most grasses and are arranged in groups of three at the base. Nutsedge leaves appear creased with prominent mid-veins.


Purple nutsedge and yellow nutsedge are the most common nutsedges in South Carolina. Yellow nutsedge is more widespread than purple nutsedge due to its greater cold tolerance. However, where purple nutsedge is adapted, it can be even more vigorous than yellow nutsedge. The two species often grow together. Because purple and yellow nutsedge differ in herbicide susceptibility, correct identification is critical to successful control.


Life Cycle: Most nutsedges are perennials whose leaves die back in the fall when temperatures decrease. Tubers (often called "nutlets") and rhizomes (underground stems) survive in the soil and sprout the following spring. The tubers and rhizomes can grow eight to 14 inches below the soil surface.
Nutsedges thrive in almost any kind of soil. While they prefer moist soil, established nutsedge plants will thrive even in dry soil. They spread by small tubers, by creeping rhizomes or by seed. New tubers begin forming four to six weeks after a new shoot emerges. Individual nutsedge plants may eventually form patches 10 feet or more in diameter.


Control: SedgeHammer can be used as a spot treatment for purple nutsedge near ornamental trees and shrubs. Unlike Basagran T/O, contact of SedgeHammer with foliage of any ornamental plant should be avoided.


Image Nutsedge Killer damages many popular landscape plants such as viburnum, pieris, azalea, birch, abelia, ligustrum and many hollies through root and foliar contact. Use Image Nutsedge Killer with caution in most landscapes.


RECOMMEND: BASAGRAN, IMAGE, & SEDGEHAMMER

 

 

Sandbur


Description: The name "sandspur" describes the sandpapery feel of their leaves and the spurs or burs that are produced from July until the first frost. Both reproduce by seeds. Sandspur tends to be more of a problem on sandy soils from the Coastal Plain westward to the Sandhills.


Life Cycle: Southern sandbur, or sandspur and field or coast sandspur are summer annuals that germinate in the spring, grow during the summer and early fall and die with the first heavy frost.


Control: This annual weed can be controlled with a preemergence herbicide applied in early spring (when Forsythia or Dogwoods begin to Bloom). Repeat in 60 days. Select a herbicide that can be safely used on your lawn. Apply all chemicals according to directions on the label.


Broadleaf Weeds


Chickweed


Description: You can identify common chickweed by its flat, mat-forming growth habit and small egg- to football-shaped leaves that are arranged in pairs. The stems have a single line of hairs running along their length. Small clusters of white, five-petaled flowers occur at the ends of stems in the spring. Common chickweed reproduces by seed and creeping stems.


Life Cycle: Common chickweed (Stellaria media) is a winter annual broadleaf weed that commonly infests thin or dormant lawn areas. It germinates in the fall, grows during the winter and produces seed from spring to early summer, then dies. Common chickweed reproduces by seed and creeping stems.


Control: Preemergence herbicides are available depending on the kind of turfgrass and ornamental plants grown. Optimum timing of postemergence herbicides is midautumn. Apply all chemicals according to directions on the label.

 


Dandelion


Description: Dandelion is a deep-rooted, stemless perennial weed that is probably one of the most widely recognized weeds.


Life Cycle: It has a long taproot and a basal rosette (circular cluster of leaves radiating from the stem of a plant at ground level) of slightly to deeply cut leaves with lobes that point back towards the base. The rosette remains green year-round. Yellow flowers appear mainly in the spring on long, smooth, hollow stalks. A second bloom occurs in the fall. The leaves and flower stalks exude a milky juice when broken. The flowers give rise to a "puff" ball or globe of parachute-like brown seeds. Seedlings emerge from late spring to early fall, with most emerging in early summer, several weeks after the seeds are shed. Dandelion will grow in almost any soil type and is most commonly found in sunny areas. It reproduces by seed and from new plants that develop from pieces of broken taproots


Control: There are many herbicides available depending on the kind of turfgrass in your lawn. Optimum timing of postemergence herbicide use is mid-fall. Apply all chemicals according to directions on the label.

 

Florida Betony


Description: Florida betony is a fast-spreading nuisance of lawns and landscaped beds. It grows in full sun to partial shade and tolerates a wide variety of soil conditions ranging from wet to dry. Florida betony is often called "rattlesnake weed" because it produces white, segmented tubers that resemble a rattlesnake’s tail.


Life Cycle: This cool-season perennial weed emerges from seeds and tubers during the cool, moist months of fall. Throughout the winter months, the plants grow and spread rapidly, often reaching heights of less than 2 feet. Florida betony has square stems and lance-shaped leaves with slightly toothed or serrated edges arranged oppositely on the stems. From late spring to early summer the weeds bear white to pink trumpet-shaped flowers occurring in whorls of three to nine in the leaf axils (the upper angle formed where the leaf joins the stem). In response to the onset of high summer temperatures or cold winter temperatures, Florida betony growth stops and the plant becomes nearly dormant. Florida betony reproduces primarily from tubers but also from seeds and rhizomes.

 

Control: Spot-treat with herbicides when Florida betony is actively growing during the cool fall months. Preemergence and postemergence herbicides are available depending on the kind of turfgrass and ornamental plants grown. Apply all chemicals according to directions on the label.

 

Japanese Clover


Description: Japanese clover or common lespedeza is a wiry, ground-hugging summer annual that has oblong leaflets that occur in triplets, or threes. A noticeable midvein runs down the center of each leaflet.


Life Cycle: A parallel arrangement of veins is attached at 90-degree angles to the midvein. The pink to purple single flowers appear in mid- to late-summer along the branching stems. Japanese clover reproduces by seed.

 

Control: Postemergence herbicides are available depending on the kind of turfgrass in your lawn. Optimum timing of postemergence herbicide use is early summer. Apply all chemicals according to directions on the label.


Plantain


Description: Both buckhorn, or narrow-leaved plantain, and broadleaf plantain.


Life Cycle: Both buckhorn, or narrow-leaved plantain, and broadleaf plantain are perennial weeds that reproduce by seeds. Both produce a rosette or cluster of leaves at ground level and have fibrous root systems. The leaves of buckhorn plantain are narrow and lance-shaped (2 to 10 inches long – about five times as long as wide), often twisted or curled. Raised, parallel veins can be found on the underside of the leaf


Control: Postemergence herbicides are available depending on the kind of turfgrass in your lawn. Optimum timing of postemergence herbicides is midautumn. Apply all chemicals according to directions on the label.

 


Chamberbitter

Description: Chamberbitter (Phyllanthus urinaria) is also known as gripeweed, leafflower or little mimosa.


Life Cycle: It is a warm-season, annual, broadleaf weed that emerges from warm soils beginning in early summer. It reproduces by seeds, which are found in the green, warty-like fruit attached to the underside of the branch.


Control: Preemergence Herbicides: Because preemergence herbicides prevent seedlings from developing, they are an effective tool against annual weeds. However, they will not affect established weeds. Timing is critical. They must be applied prior to seed germination.


Atrazine is effective for preemergence control of chamberbitter in centipedegrass and in St. Augustinegrass lawns. Be careful not to apply on turf during the transition period from dormancy to active growth (spring green-up). Because chamberbitter tends to germinate in late spring and early summer, applications after grasses green up are effective. Target areas where chamberbitter was observed the previous season and be careful to not apply near the roots of desirable landscape plants. See Table 1 for examples of products.


Isoxaben is a preemergence herbicide that is effective for chamberbitter control in tall fescue, centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass, bermudagrass and zoysiagrass lawns. For home lawn use it is purchased in a granular form, and the granules must be watered-in to allow the isoxaben to coat the soil surface for weed prevention.


Isoxaben is also available as an additional active ingredient in three-way herbicide. With this product, the postemergence, three-way, broadleaf weed control portion controls existing chamberbitter plants. The isoxaben portion will aid in preventing reinfestation of the area from seeds that may be present. To prevent new seeds from growing, the entire area to be protected must be sprayed. Wait 2 days after spray application and activate the isoxaben residual barrier by watering the lawn with ¼ to ½ inch of irrigation. Do not seed or overseed within 60 days after application. Do not apply isoxaben to a newly seeded lawn until it has been mowed 3 times. See Table 1 for an example of product.

 

Postemergence Herbicides: Postemergence herbicides are most effective when applied to young weeds. For postemergence control of chamberbitter in St. Augustinegrass and centipedegrass lawns, atrazine is recommended. It has both preemergence and postemergence properties. Make two applications spaced 30 days apart.


On tall fescue, bermudagrass, and zoysiagrass lawns, repeat applications of three-way herbicides that contain 2,4-D, mecoprop (MCPP) and dicamba can be used to control chamberbitter. Apply these herbicides in late spring or early summer when the weeds are still young and space applications seven days apart. These three-way herbicides may also be used on centipedegrass and St. Augustinegrass lawns at reduced rates and after the grasses have completely greened-up in the spring. Read the product labels for rates to mix and apply.

 

Dollar Weed


Description:Dollarweed , also known as pennywort, is a warm-season perennial weed. It gets the common name, dollarweed, from its silver- dollar-shaped leaves. The leaves of dollarweed are round, bright green, fleshy and look like miniature lily pads measuring 1-2” in diameter with a scalloped edge.


Life Cycle: It has a low-growing habit that spreads by seeds, rhizomes and tubers.


Control: Dollarweed thrives in weak, thin turf with excessive moisture. The first defense against dollarweed is to reduce moisture levels and modify cultural methods (i.e., proper mowing height and irrigation). After taking steps to modify the lawn care techniques, a chemical control may still be necessary to further reduce the dollarweed population. Herbicides should be chosen according to turf species and applied in late spring (after full spring green-up of the lawn) when weeds are small. Herbicide effectiveness is reduced as weeds mature.


Antrazine (such as in Hi-Yield Atrazine Weed Killer, Image for St. Augustine & Centipedegrass, Southern Ag Atrazine St. Augustine Weed Killer) can be applied to St. Augustinegrass and Centipedegrass up to two times a year. For maximum effect atrazine should be applied once in the fall and again in late spring (after spring green-up). Atrazine has a pre- and post-emergent effect on weeds, which means it helps to control both emerged weeds and weed seed. It should NOT be applied to newly seeded lawns due to detrimental effect it has on seed germination. Delay atrazine applications to newly sodded and springged lawns until it is well-established and actively growing.

 

CAUTION: Atrazine can travel through soil and enter ground water, please read the label for all environmental precautions. Users are advised not to apply atrazine to sand or loamy sand soils where the water table (groundwater) is close to the surface and where these soils are very permeable, i.e., well-drained.

 

Henbit


Description: Henbit is a sparsely hairy winter annual with greenish to purplish, tender, square stems. Its opposite leaves are broadly egg shaped with bluntly toothed margins and prominent veins on the underside. Upper leaves are sessile (directly attached to the stem) and lower leaves have petioles.


Life Cycle: It has a fibrous root system and can grow to a height of 16 inches. Henbit’s distinctive flowers are reddish purple in color with darker coloring in spots on lower petals. It flowers in the spring with the flowers arranged in whorls in the upper leaves.


Control: Cultural controls should be implemented before applying herbicides for henbit control. However, after taking steps to modify lawn care techniques, a chemical control may still be necessary to further reduce a henbit population. Herbicides should be carefully chosen according to turf species and all label instructions followed. Chemical controls for henbit should be applied in fall or early spring for best results. Keep in mind that herbicide effectiveness is reduced as weeds mature.


A three-way herbicide may be used on bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass and tall fescue. The active ingredients of a three-way herbicide include the following broadleaf weed killers: 2,4-D, dicamba, and mecoprop (MCPP).

 

Note: Herbicides containing 2,4-D should be applied at a reduced rate on St. Augustinegrass and centipedegrass to prevent damage to these lawns. If a second application is needed, apply the herbicide in spot treatments. Repeated applications of a three-way herbicide should be spaced according to label directions.
In addition to three-way herbicides there are several other herbicides that can be used for henbit control on home lawns. Atrazine may be used to control henbit in centipedegrass and St. Augustinegrass.

 

Lawn Burweed


Description:Lawn burweed is a low-growing, freely branched winter annual. It has opposite, sparsely hairy leaves that are twice divided into narrow segments or lobes.


Leaves are approximately ½ to 1½ inches long and ¼ to ½ inch wide. It has small (¼ inch or less in width), inconspicuous flowers in the spring. It attains an overall diameter of 6 inches and a height of 3-4 inches. The most prominent identifying characteristic of lawn burweed is its spine-tipped burs which are often hard to see but easily felt.


Life Cycle: Lawn burweed is a low-growing, freely branched winter annual.

 

Control: The key factor to effectively controlling lawn burweed is to apply a postemergence herbicide during the winter months of December, January and February. The weed is smaller and easier to control during this time of year and has not yet developed the spine-tipped burs. Control is not impossible in March, April, and May, but the spines have already formed by this time and will remain after the weed dies. Because lawn burweed is a winter annual, it will begin to die in late spring as air temperatures reach 90 °F. Once the weed has reached a more mature state, multiple herbicide applications may be necessary which increases the potential for turfgrass injury. Dead or alive, lawn burweed poses a painful problem. The only solution to this is early identification and control.
A three-way herbicide may be used on bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass and tall fescue. The active ingredients of a three-way herbicide often include the following broadleaf weed killers: 2,4-D, dicamba, and mecoprop (MCPP).

 

Note: Herbicides containing 2,4-D should be applied at a reduced rate on St. Augustinegrass and centipedegrass to prevent damage to these lawns. If a second application is needed, apply the herbicide in spot treatments. Repeated applications of a three-way herbicide should be spaced according to label directions.
In addition to three-way herbicides, there are several other herbicides that can be used for lawn burweed control in home lawns. Atrazine may be used for control in centipedegrass and St. Augustinegrass. Atrazine applied in November will have postemergence activity against newly sprouted lawn burweed seedlings and also will have preemergence activity against those that have not yet germinated during the fall.


CAUTION: Postemergence herbicides should not be applied during spring transition (green-up of lawn) or when air temperatures exceed 90 ºF as this can cause severe damage to the turfgrass. A newly seeded lawn should be mowed a minimum of three times before applying an herbicide

 

White Clover


Description:White clover also known as Dutch clover, is a cool-season perennial that is often found growing in patches along roadsides and in pastures and lawns. It has trifoliate leaves which consist of 3 oval-shaped leaflets. There is usually a characteristic white, crescent-shaped band on each leaflet. White flowers (often tinged with pink) appear in early summer. The flower heads consist of 40 to 80 florets (individual flowers) in a cluster measuring ½ to 1 ½ inches in diameter.


Life Cycle: It is a low-growing plant with creeping stems (stolons) that produce roots and shoots at nodes (joints) along the stem, which helps the plant to spread.White clover is in the legume family (Fabaceae) and is capable of fixing its own nitrogen, which enables it to thrive in unfertilized areas. Because of this, it can be used to indicate inadequate fertility. It has a shallow root system that does not do well in dry soils. It grows best when temperatures range from 50 to 85 °F.


Control: If an herbicide treatment is chosen, it is best to start treatments early in the fall. A three-way herbicide may be used safely on bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass and tall fescue. The active ingredients of a three-way herbicide often include the following broadleaf weed killers: 2,4-D, dicamba, and mecoprop (MCPP).

 

CAUTION: Herbicides containing 2,4-D should be applied at a reduced rate on St. Augustinegrass and centipedegrass to prevent damage to these lawns. If a second application is needed, apply the herbicide in spot treatments. Repeated applications of a three-way herbicide should be spaced according to label directions. Three-way herbicides should not be applied during spring transition (green-up of lawn) or when air temperatures exceed 90 ºF. A newly seeded lawn should be mowed a minimum of three times before applying a herbicide


Atrazine (such as in Hi-Yield Atrazine Weed Killer, Image for St. Augustine & Centipedegrass, Southern Ag Atrazine St. Augustine Weed Killer) can be applied to St. Augustinegrass and Centipedegrass up to two times a year. For maximum effect atrazine should be applied once in the fall and again in late spring (after spring green-up). Atrazine has a pre- and post-emergent effect on weeds, which means it helps to control both emerged weeds and weed seed. It should NOT be applied to newly seeded lawns due to the detrimental effect it has on seed germination. Delay atrazine applications to newly sodded and sprigged lawns until they are well-established and actively growing.


CAUTION: Atrazine can travel through soil and enter ground water, please read the label for all environmental precautions. Users are advised not to apply atrazine to sand or loamy sand soils where the water table (groundwater) is close to the surface and where these soils are very permeable, i.e., well-drained.


Poison Ivy


Description:Poison ivy has compound leaves that occur in threes (trifoliate or three leaflets). The edges of the leaflets can be smooth, wavy, lobed or toothed. Some leaves may resemble oak leaves. Atlantic poison oak (T. pubescens) looks similar to poison ivy, but it generally grows more upright and has hairs on both upper and lower leaf surfaces. Most mature poison ivy plants will flower and produce clusters of white, waxy fruit.


The entire plant is poisonous because all parts contain the irritating oil urushiol. Urushiol is a colorless or slightly yellow oil found in the leaves, stems and roots. The oil can remain active for months on objects. It can be picked up on tools, clothing and the fur of pets. Therefore, anything that may carry the oil should be carefully washed. Even dead plants or roots may cause allergic reactions for a couple of years.


CAUTION: Some people are more sensitive than others to the effects of poison ivy. Sensitive people often develop a severe skin rash within hours after contact. Highly allergic people may develop a rash if they inhale smoke when burning poison ivy in brush piles, or if they contact pets with the toxin on their fur. However, sensitivity can change from time to time so that someone who was not affected by it at one time can have a reaction at another time.


The plants are most dangerous in spring and summer when oil content is highest. For those sensitive to the oil, a linear rash, resembling small insect bites, will appear within 12 to 48 hours, but a reaction can take up to two weeks to occur. This rash develops into a more severe rash and blisters


Washing with running water is recommended. Washing with soaps that contain oils, such as complexion soaps, can actually spread the irritating oil and make the rash more widespread. Unless the oil is removed from the skin within 10 minutes of exposure, a reaction is inevitable in extremely sensitive individuals. Less sensitive people may have up to four hours to wash it off, although it is generally accepted that the oil binds to the skin in 30 minutes. Thereafter, it is extremely difficult to remove with water. Rubbing alcohol is a better solvent for the oil than is water.


Life Cycle: Poison ivy grows fairly quickly and propagates itself by underground rhizomes and seeds. Seeds are quickly spread by birds and other animals that eat the small fruits. Poison ivy can get started in the landscape from a seed dropped by a bird and may quickly become a widespread problem. It often grows in shrubs and groundcovers making it difficult to control.


Control: If you choose to eradicate poison oak or poison ivy by cutting back the plants, you should protect your hands and arms. Always wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. Use protective gloves. Launder the clothing separately from the family laundry. Instead of disposable gloves, consider using plastic bags, the long kind that newspapers and bread loaves come in. Slip each hand into a bag and keep the bags secured to your arms with rubber bands. When you have finished cutting, remove the bags by turning them inside out. Then be sure to discard them, because the bags will now be contaminated with urushiol, the oil that causes the allergic skin reaction.


To eradicate poison oak and poison ivy chemically, use an herbicide that contains glyphosate, triclopyr, or a 3-way herbicide that contains 2,4-D amine, dicamba and mecoprop. These herbicides can kill desirable plants, so be careful. If the poison ivy or poison oak is growing among plants you want to save, you can cut back the poison ivy or poison oak and spray or paint the herbicide only on the freshly cut stems or stump. If there are no desirable plants nearby, you can spray or paint poison ivy and poison oak without cutting them back first. Read and follow label directions whenever using any herbicides.


The herbicides glyphosate, 2,4-D amine, dicamba, mecoprop and triclopyr are translocated from the leaves and cut stems to the rest of the plant, eventually killing the shoots and roots. Repeated applications may be necessary. Depending on weather and other factors, it may take one to several weeks before you discover whether you have successfully eradicated the plant, so be patient.


Herbicides work better when you spray at the right time. Poison ivy and poison oak are most sensitive to 2,4-D amine and dicamba treatments in late spring or early summer when the plants are actively growing rapidly. Triclopyr offers the best control after the leaves fully expand in the spring and before leaf color changes in the fall. Glyphosate offers the best control when applied between 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after full bloom (early summer) and should be mixed to a 2% solution.


In lawns, many of the Three-way herbicides may be applied to tall fescue, bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, St. Augustinegrass and centipedegrass for poison ivy control. Be sure to read the label for safe use on each turfgrass species and for the amount of product to use per gallon of spray. Applications may be repeated. Triclopyr may be safely applied to tall fescue lawns only, although some products are not labeled for use on residential lawns.

 

Wild Garlic & Onion


Description:Wild garlic and wild onion are winter perennials, with wild garlic being predominant in South Carolina.


Life Cycle: They emerge in late fall from underground bulbs and grow through the winter and spring. In late spring, aerial bulblets are formed and the plants die back in early summer. The underground bulbs can persist in the soil for several years. While both have thin, green, waxy leaves, those of wild garlic are round and hollow, while those of wild onion are flat and solid.


Control: Unfortunately, there are no preemergence herbicides that will control wild onion or wild garlic. They must be treated with a postemergence herbicide, and persistence is the key. Plants will need to be sprayed more than once and for more than one season. One characteristic that makes control difficult is that both have a thin, glossy leaf to which herbicides don't readily adhere. Unlike most weeds, mowing wild garlic or wild onion immediately before applying an herbicide may improve uptake. After application, do not mow for at least two weeks.


Timing of Sprays: Treat wild garlic and wild onion in November and again in late winter or early spring before these plants can produce the next generation of bulbs in March. However, be careful not to apply most weed killers onto centipedegrass or St. Augustinegrass during their spring green up period. Inspect the lawn again in the spring and the next fall, and treat if necessary.


Recommended Herbicides: Imazaquin, the active ingredient in Image Nutsedge Killer, will provide control for wild garlic and wild onion. This product should not be used on fescue and should not be applied to warm season turf during green up in spring. Wait at least 1-1/2 months after treatment before reseeding, winter overseeding or plugging lawns. This product is not for use on newly planted lawns, nor on winter over-seeded lawns with annual ryegrass.


Three-way herbicides containing 2,4-D, dicamba and mecoprop (MCPP) will provide control of wild garlic and wild onion with repeat applications. These products can be used safely on most turfgrasses, but reduced rates are recommended when applying to St. Augustinegrass or centipedegrass. Apply during November, very early spring, and again the next November for best control. Do not apply these herbicides during the spring green up of warm season turfgrasses, or over the root zone of nearby ornamental trees and shrubs. Do not apply these products to newly seeded grasses until well established (after the third mowing). Treated areas may be reseeded three to four weeks after application. Always check the product label for rate of application and to determine that it is safe for use on your species of turfgrass.


Glyphosate, the nonselective herbicide found in Roundup Original, Eraser Systemic Weed & Grass Killer, Quick Kill Grass & Weed Killer, Bonide Kleenup Grass & Weed Killer, Hi-Yield Super Concentrate Killzall Weed & Grass, Maxide Super Concentrate 41% Weed & Grass Killer, and Southern States Grass & Weed Killer Concentrate, will also provide control of wild garlic and wild onion. If you are unable to prevent glyphosate from getting on desired, actively-growing grasses, a selective herbicide should be used. To avoid harming turfgrass, apply glyphosate only to warm-season grasses in winter, when they are completely dormant.