13 Most Common Lawn Weeds (and How to Get Rid of Them)

Field full of yellow dandelions with a white puff-ball dandelion in front

Weeds may look harmless, but these stealth invaders can bring your lawn to the brink of destruction. From the assertive white clover to the resilient bull thistle, these 13 most common lawn weeds can quickly overtake your lawn and garden.

The key to your sanity is simple: Never let weeds get control of your lawn. From learning about their appearance, the dangers they pose, and tips for getting rid of them, here’s how you can one-up these unwanted aggravators.

13 most common lawn weeds

For anyone who loves a tidy lawn, the challenge of weed management often takes center stage. But before pulling out these little plants, you need to understand their characteristics and how you can stop them from taking over your green lawn.

1. Annual bluegrass (Poa annua)

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One of the most common weeds found in lawns and gardens, annual bluegrass is known for its bright green leaves with pointed, boat-shaped tips. The seed head of this low-growing grassy weed is a cluster of tiny green or purplish flowers resembling a crow’s foot.

This versatile intruder typically germinates in the fall and thrives during the cool seasons, becoming prominent in early spring. Its rapid growth and prolific seed production contribute to its invasiveness, often outcompeting desirable grass types like fescue, bermudagrass, and Zoysiagrass.

Plant type: Annual cool-season grassy weed

USDA hardiness zone: 4-8

Habitat: Grows well in moist, fertile soil

Danger: No safety hazards

Best way to get rid of annual bluegrass: Use a post-emergent herbicide or manually remove the weeds by hand and overseed with desirable grass species. For prevention, apply a pre-emergent herbicide to forestall germination in the fall.

2. Bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare)

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Notorious for its robust nature and remarkable ability to multiply quickly, bull thistle poses a persistent challenge in turf management. Producing a staggering 10,000 seeds per plant each season that remain viable in the soil for years, it’s no wonder bull thistle is a common sight in lawns. It tends to dominate and displace desirable plants in grassy landscapes.

With its spiky rosettes, fringed purple flowers, and thorny spines enveloping its stem, this weed can be a threat to humans and animals. Its propagation occurs through wind-borne seeds or root fragments, making it hard to control once firmly established.

Plant type: Broadleaf biennial

USDA hardiness zone: 3-8

Habitat: Moist to dry soil

Danger: Its sharp spines can hurt

Best way to get rid of bull thistle: Apply post-emergent herbicides during early to late spring when the weed starts flowering. For manual removal, extract the entire taproot and securely dispose of the seed head to prevent further seed dispersal.

3. Chickweed (Stellaria media)

white flowers on a chickweed plant
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An annual weed adorned with petite, star-shaped flowers, chickweed makes its debut in winter. This resilient weed forms dense, low green mats close to the ground, making it a robust contender against mowing efforts.

A clue on how chickweed got its name: chickens are fond of devouring it. Plus, chickweed leaves have a unique behavior — they fold up at night or in anticipation of rain, adding a touch of botanical intrigue to this common weed.

Plant type: Broadleaf annual or perennial (depending on the region)

USDA hardiness zone: 4-11

Habitat: Shaded areas, moist soil

Danger: Low — chickweed is edible

Best way to get rid of chickweed: Use a pre-emergent broadleaf herbicide in early spring. For those opting for manual removal, extracting the roots is essential. Given its shallow root system, this task is more manageable before the weed achieves dense coverage.

4. Crabgrass (Digitaria)

close-up of crabgrass along the edge of a lawn
NY State IPM Program at Cornell University | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Crabgrass is an unwelcome guest that sprouts in lawns in early summer. This grassy annual weed, aptly named for its tenacious growth habit, is likely a familiar sight in many lawns, including yours.

Despite its grass-like appearance, crabgrass stands out with its characteristic Y-shaped seed head and wide, flat blades. It tends to grow in clumps, forming unsightly patches. This opportunistic plant can take advantage of thin or stressed lawns and spread through the shedding of seeds.

While crabgrass meets its demise with the arrival of the first fall frost, it leaves a parting gift — seeds that lie in wait for a chance to stage a comeback in the following spring.

Plant type: Annual grass

USDA hardiness zone: 2b-11

Habitat: Thin spots in lawns, dry soil

Danger: Low

Best way to get rid of crabgrass: To effectively banish this intruder, use a selective pre-emergent herbicide or crabgrass preventer in the spring.

5. Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea)

green leaves of creeping charlie
Andreas Rockstein | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

This broadleaf weed dons scalloped leaves and clusters of purple flowers that grace the landscape in spring, accompanied by a subtle minty fragrance.

But while these attributes may sound delightful, the reality is quite the opposite. Also known as ground ivy, creeping Charlie has the potential to carpet your lawn in a dense green invasion that will choke out your grass if left unchecked.

To prevent this weed from invading your lawn, you must maintain proper pH levels, apply lawn fertilizers, and increase sunlight exposure.

Plant type: Broadleaf perennial 

USDA hardiness zone: 3-10

Habitat: Shaded areas, moist soil

Danger: Toxic to horses in large amounts

Best way to get rid of creeping Charlie: Apply a post-emergent broadleaf herbicide in the spring or fall.

6. Dandelion (Taraxacum)

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
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Dandelion, often the whimsical delight of children who scatter its seeds with hopeful puffs, transforms into a formidable foe for diligent yard-tending parents. As a broadleaf weed, it stands out in the grass with its distinctive flowers and leaves, easily distinguishable from the turf.

Initially adorned with cheerful yellow flowers in early spring, dandelions quickly turn into a lawn nuisance when their parachute-like seeds become light and puffy, dispersing effortlessly across your yard and germinating into new plants.

Getting rid of dandelions can be challenging due to their long taproot, which can penetrate up to 15 feet (but usually 6 to 18 inches deep) into the soil.

Plant type: Broadleaf perennial herb

USDA hardiness zone: 3-10

Habitat: Most soils

Danger: Medium — dandelion is edible but can cause contact dermatitis

Best way to get rid of dandelion: Since a mere plucking at the top won’t suffice, the most effective approach involves using a broadleaf herbicide tailored to tackle the dandelion menace.

7. Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album)

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Lambsquarters can be a harbinger of crop diseases, making this weed a concern for your vegetable garden beds. Recognizable by its diamond-shaped leaves with a distinctive white, mealy coating underneath, this summer annual proliferates through black seeds that germinate and sprout from late spring to early summer.

Commonly found in gardens, cultivated fields, and disturbed areas, lambsquarters can grow up to several feet in height. It produces small, greenish flowers in dense clusters. While some people consider it a nutritious edible plant, it can become invasive, as its seeds can hold out in the soil for a long time.

Plant type: Broadleaf annual

USDA hardiness zone: 3-9

Habitat: Well-drained or compacted soil with high nitrites

Danger: While edible, it contains oxalic acid, which is poisonous to certain animals in large quantities. It also hosts several viral crop diseases.

Best way to get rid of lambsquarters: Remove by hand while its leaves are still young and tender. If you allow them to mature and grow taller, you might need to use a shovel. For those pressed for time, a targeted approach would be to use a post-emergent herbicide during its seedling to flowering stage.

8. Oxalis (Oxalis stricta)

yellow flowers of a plant
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Commonly known as yellow wood sorrel, oxalis graces warmer months with its presence, displaying charming yellow, heart-shaped flowers. The leaves are usually arranged in groups of three and can be green or tinged with red or purple, depending on the species.

But despite its outwardly sweet appearance resembling clover, this weed is unwelcome in most yards. It can cause insect infestations, thinning, lawn diseases, or incorrect pH levels in the soil. If you want to keep oxalis at bay, you can try adding mulch around your garden or utilizing landscape barriers.

Plant type: Broadleaf annual

USDA hardiness zone: 6-11

Habitat: Prefers dry soil but also can crop up in moist, well-fertilized soils

Danger: Toxic in large amounts due to oxalic acid

Best way to get rid of oxalis: A post-emergent herbicide can help eliminate oxalis once it has taken root. For preemptive action, use a pre-emergent herbicide to control it before germination.

9. Quackgrass (Elymus repens)

green spades of quackgrass
Ayotte, Gilles, 1948- | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

This perennial grass weed has distinctive features, including long, flat, and coarse leaves with a bluish-green tint. Bearing a striking resemblance to wheat, quackgrass spreads through underground rhizomes that can penetrate hardened soils, disrupt plant growth, and even infiltrate potato tubers.

Quackgrass, with its aggressive nature, is well-adapted to various conditions, making it resilient and hard to eradicate once established. It forms dense clumps and possesses toxins, giving it a competitive edge over other grass varieties. It’s also known for its ability to regrow from small root fragments, making thorough removal crucial to prevent its resurgence.

Plant type: Perennial grass

USDA hardiness zone: 3-10

Habitat: Grows well in most soils but thrives in loamy, sandy soil

Danger: It can destroy crops

Best way to get rid of quackgrass: Pull by hand, but remove all roots to prevent them from returning as new plants. Spot-treating with a post-emergent herbicide and smothering quackgrass with black landscape plastic also can help quell its growth.

10. Ragweed (Ambrosia spp.)

closeup of ragweed plant
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Often accused by allergy sufferers as the culprit behind seasonal sneezing and itchy eyes during hay fever episodes, ragweed lives up to its noxious reputation. A single ragweed plant has the disconcerting ability to release a staggering billion pollen grains into the air, causing widespread misery.

This broadleaf annual weed has distinctive fern-like leaves, elongated yellow flowers, and straight stems. Regular mowing can be effective in thwarting it. But those sensitive to pollen should consider wearing a dust mask during lawn maintenance. You also can enhance soil nutrients through compost addition as a preventive measure.

Plant type: Broadleaf annual herb

USDA hardiness zone: 6-10

Habitat: Nutrient-poor, dense soil

Danger: Its pollen can cause allergies

Best way to get rid of ragweed: A targeted approach is to apply post-emergent broadleaf herbicide in mid-spring to early summer.

11. Spotted spurge (Euphorbia maculata)

closeup image of spotted spurge
Melissa McMasters | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Its name sounds like a contagion better left in the neighbor’s yard. And it is. Spotted spurge is a weed zombie — killing it isn’t enough. Its deep taproots and resilient seeds keep this low-growing annual weed coming back to life. It grows fast and spreads in a matted web of green leaves.

Recognizable by its oval-shaped leaves with a reddish spot at the center, spotted spurge is a prostrate plant that sprawls close to the ground. It thrives in warm-season climates and produces small, inconspicuous flowers. Its ability to produce plenty of seeds contributes to its widespread distribution.

Plant type: Broadleaf annual

USDA hardiness zone: 5-9

Habitat: Nutrient-poor, compacted soil

Danger: Its sap can irritate the skin

Best way to get rid of spotted spurge: A preemptive strike with a pre-emergent herbicide can prevent its germination. For existing weeds, manual removal is necessary. You also can apply post-emergent herbicides in late spring or early summer when the weed sprouts with flowers.

12. White clover (Trifolium repens)

closeup of white clovers
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An assertive broadleaf perennial, white clover can creep quickly through sparse turf. But it doesn’t know how to be low-profile, as you can identify white clover by its round white flower heads that appear in the summer. This low-growing plant is also known for its distinctive three-lobed leaves.

This broadleaf perennial likes soils with low nitrogen, so remember to maintain balanced soil nutrients if you don’t want it in your garden. It’s resilient and can thrive in areas with moderate foot traffic. Plus, it can attract pollinators like bees to your lawn.

Plant type: Broadleaf perennial

USDA hardiness zone: 3-10

Habitat: Nutrient-poor soil

Danger: It attracts bees

Best way to get rid of white clover: Use an iron-based, selective herbicide, or you can weed it by hand as long as you remove the entire root system.

13. Yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus)

close-up of yellow nutsedge
Homer Edward Price | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Flourishing in the summer months, from late May to September, this weed uses its underground nodes or tubers for propagation, quickly establishing in the soil and creating fierce competition for essential resources, hindering the growth of neighboring plants.

Yellow nutsedge has a distinctive yellow-green hue and boasts a triangular stem that reaches a height of 2-3 feet. Some of its key features include long, slender leaves emanating from its base and a petite, cone-shaped flower head that blossoms in the summer.

Plant type: Perennial sedge weed

USDA hardiness zone: 8-10

Habitat: Areas with standing water, moist, poorly-drained soil

Danger: Non-toxic to humans and animals

Best way to get rid of yellow nutsedge: Dig up its nodes and remove them manually or use post-emergent herbicides.

Why should you care about weeds?

Weeds tarnish the aesthetic appeal of lawns and trigger a myriad of issues. Regardless of your region’s climate, leaving weeds unchecked can allow them to multiply and dominate your lawn. These unwelcome intruders are detrimental to your lawn’s health because they:

  • Steal nutrients: These freeloaders will suck the life out of your lawn. They’re the energy vampires of your grass, draining the nutrients it needs to thrive until you’re left with an exhausted and overwhelmed turfgrass.
  • Reduce curb appeal: Weeds will never cut it in a perfect lawn. So, if you’re trying to earn Lawn of the Month in your neighborhood, you’re going to have to kill the weeds.
  • Hard to control: If you think ghosting your weeds will make them go away — think again. Ignoring the problem won’t work but will only make them latch on more.

Weed control is important to lawn health because, like most opportunistic things, weeds will find a weak spot to gain access. Whether you have poor soil nutrient levels or thinning turf, you must identify lawn problems early so these green invaders don’t gain a foothold.

Pro tip: Remember, the best defense is a good offense. Maintain a healthy yard so weeds have more competition from the grass.

How to get rid of weeds by hand or herbicide

Keeping your lawn free from the relentless grip of weeds demands a strategic approach. Homeowners who want an effective weed killer can choose between the eco-friendly, manual hand weeding and the swift efficiency of herbicides. Each approach holds its unique merits, offering a tailored solution to your weed invasion challenge.

Hand Weeding

For those leaning towards a chemical-free approach, manual weed removal is the natural, eco-conscious alternative. Integrate the following practical tips into your regular weed eradication routine for a flourishing lawn without resorting to chemicals:

  • Timely intervention: Nip weeds in the bud, targeting them in their early stages before they flower or develop intricate root systems.
  • Holistic removal: Extract the entire weed to prevent any chance of regrowth, ensuring the rhizomes, bulbs, tubers, or roots are completely removed.
  • Conquering taproots: For weeds like dandelions with taproots, arm yourself with a dandelion fork or a sturdy screwdriver for effective uprooting.

Weed control chemical treatments

If time is of the essence, chemical treatments offer a quick and powerful solution to your weed woes. Consider the following types of weed control chemical treatments for effective weed management:

  • Pre-emergent herbicides: Applied before weed seeds germinate, halting their growth and establishment.
  • Post-emergent herbicides: Perfect for visible weeds already thriving in your lawn.
  • Systemic herbicides: Absorbed by the weed, they travel through the entire plant, ensuring a thorough kill from the roots up.
  • Contact herbicides: Precision-focused, targeting specific parts of the plant they come into contact with.
  • Broadleaf herbicides: Effective against broadleaf weeds while sparing grasses and desired plants.
  • Iron-based herbicides: Leveraging iron as the active ingredient, offering an eco-conscious alternative to weed control.

Regardless of your chosen method, always scrutinize product labels to ensure pet safety and compatibility with your specific turfgrass type. Armed with these strategies, you’re poised to reclaim your lawn and bid farewell to persistent weed invaders.

FAQ about the most common lawn weeds

Can vinegar also help get rid of weeds?

Yes. But while vinegar is a potential candidate for weed control, its efficacy may not rival that of traditional herbicides. It works by quickly annihilating the visible parts of the weed upon contact. However, vinegar lacks the prowess to eradicate the weed’s root system.

So, while vinegar proves to be a natural solution for addressing a small patch of weed, it might fall short of delivering the desired outcomes in more extensive weed issues. In such instances, homeowners may find it necessary to explore alternative strategies for comprehensive and effective weed elimination.

What other weeds should I know about?

In addition to the common weeds listed above, a few others may find their way into your yard. Some of them include:

  • Canada thistle: With its spiny, lance-shaped leaves and aggressive rhizome system, this thistle can be a persistent invader.
  • Field bindweed: Also known as morning glory, this bindweed is identified by its heart-shaped leaves and twining vines, making it a challenging weed to control.
  • Plantain: Recognized for its distinctive broad leaves and low-growth habit, it can easily infiltrate lawns.
  • Purslane: Characterized by succulent leaves and a proclivity for spreading, purslane can thrive in various landscapes.

When is the best time for weed control?

For homeowners living in the Northern U.S., the best times for weed control are typically in the spring and fall. During these seasons, weeds are actively growing and more susceptible to herbicide treatment. Aim for early spring before the weeds have a chance to establish and late fall to target perennial weeds before winter dormancy.

In the Southern U.S., where the climate is milder, late winter to early spring is often the optimal time for weed control. This is when many weeds, including winter annuals, begin their growth phase.

Consider the specific types of weeds you are dealing with, local climate and growing seasons, as well as the type of herbicide being used, as some are more effective at different stages of weed growth.

Can frequent mowing help control weeds?

Mowing regularly at the appropriate height can help prevent weed seed formation and limit weed germination by shading the soil. You should set your mower at the recommended height for your grass type and mow your lawn often enough to remove only the top third of the grass blades. Also, maintain sharp mower blades for optimal results.

But remember that effective weed control requires a comprehensive approach, including proper watering, fertilization, and targeted weed control techniques tailored to your specific lawn’s needs.

When to call a lawn care pro

Achieving a weed-free lawn might seem too far-fetched. However, many effective strategies exist to overcome this common issue. Identify and address the weed problem to reclaim control of your outdoor space and cultivate a pristine, weed-free haven.Spend time on lawn maintenance, as a healthy lawn is the ultimate defense against weed intrusion. But if you have better things to do than weed and care for your lawn, give your grass some Lawn Love. We’ll send a lawn care pro to your address to mow, trim, and edge your lawn — and keep the most common lawn weeds at bay.

Main Photo Credit: petrabosse | Pixabay

Melanie Joseph

After discovering her passion for writing through her beauty blog, Melanie left her engineering job in California, became a writer, and never once looked back. When she isn't writing, she loves dipping in the pool, tending to the garden, or doing simple home improvement projects.