11 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 look harmless, but these stealth invaders can bring your lawn to the brink of destruction. The key to your sanity is simple: Never let weeds get control.

So how do you one-up these unwanted aggravators? We compiled a list of 11 of the most common lawn weeds — what they look like and tips for getting rid of them.

So, grab your gardening gloves and a hand shovel or weed puller, and start weeding. Or load up the herbicide, then spray and destroy. 

1. Dandelion (Taraxacum)

If you want to get rid of dandelions, stop blowing your wishes on these plants. While this common weed might be the joy of children who puff their hearts out blowing airy seeds far and wide, it’s the horror of their yard-tending parents. 

Dandelion is a type of broadleaf weed. Broadleaf weeds are easy to identify because they don’t look like grass. They typically have flowers or leaves that make them stand out in the grass. 

Dandelion begins with happy yellow flowers that you might see dotting your yard in early spring. And though that sounds delightful, that’s where the fun ends. Dandelions morph into their scarier selves when the parachute-like seeds turn light and puffy, making them easily airborne. This spreads the seeds across your lawn and allows new plants to grow. 

So how do you get rid of dandelions? The dandelion has a long taproot that can penetrate the soil up to 15 feet (but usually 6 to 18 inches deep), so it’s not an easy target to kill. You can’t just pluck them at the top. It’s better to kill dandelions with a broadleaf herbicide. 

  • Plant type: Broadleaf perennial herb
  • Location: Hardiness zones 3-10
  • Soil: Most soils
  • Danger: Medium. Dandelions are edible but can cause contact dermatitis for some.
  • Best way to get rid of dandelion: Broadleaf herbicide

2. Crabgrass (Digitaria)

The name for this plant is reminiscent of the cranky feeling you’ll have when you see it sprouting in your lawn in early summer. Crabgrass is a grassy annual weed that grows in most lawns so chances are it’s in yours. Although it’s grass-like, it won’t blend in with your turf so it should be easy to spot. 

The best way to get rid of crabgrass is to use a selective pre-emergent herbicide, or a crabgrass preventer, in the spring to stop it from appearing.

Crabgrass dies in the first frost of fall but not before dropping seeds that will attempt an encore in the spring.

  • Plant type: Annual grass
  • Location: Hardiness zones 3-11
  • Soil: Dry soil, thin spots
  • Danger: Low
  • Best way to get rid of crabgrass: Pre-emergent herbicide

3. White clover (Trifolium repens)

White clover is an assertive broadleaf perennial that creeps quickly through sparse turf. It’s not very discreet, though. You can identify white clover by its white flower heads that appear in the summer. Clover likes soils with low nitrogen so make sure to correct levels. 

How can you kill white clover? Use a selective iron-based herbicide to kill clover or you can weed it by hand if you remove the root system. And even after all that, you can still expect to battle white clover each year as seeds are harder to eradicate.

  • Plant type: Broadleaf perennial
  • Location: Hardiness zones 3-9
  • Soil: Nutrient-poor
  • Danger: Attracts bees
  • Best way to get rid of white clover: Iron-based herbicide

4. Ragweed (Ambrosia spp.)

Allergy sufferers often blame this noxious weed for sneezing and itchy eyes during hay fever season. One ragweed plant can release a billion pollen grains into the air, creating misery and contempt.

Ragweed is a broadleaf annual that stands out with its fernlike leaves and long yellow flowers. The stems are straight and grow from rhizomes.

There are several ways to remove ragweed. This invader doesn’t survive mowing so cut your grass often. If you’re sensitive to pollen, you might want to wear a dust mask while mowing. Add compost to your soil to boost nutrients or spray a post-emergent broadleaf herbicide in mid-spring to early summer. 

  • Plant type: Broadleaf annual herb, invades most grasses
  • Location: Hardiness zones 6-10
  • Soil: Nutrient-poor, dense
  • Danger: Allergies from pollen
  • Best way to get rid of ragweed: Post-emergent broadleaf herbicide

5. Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Chickweed is an annual weed that appears in winter with small, star-shaped flowers. It grows close to the ground in low green mats so it withstands mowing well. 

To keep chickweed at bay, you’ll want to spray a pre-emergent herbicide in early spring. If you pull it by hand, you’ll need to get the roots. This is easier to do before they gain dense coverage as roots are shallow.

Chickens love to eat chickweed, which might be a clue to how it got its name. And if you watch closely, chickweed leaves fold up at night or when it’s going to rain.

  • Plant type: Broadleaf annual or perennial depending on locale
  • Location: Hardiness zones 4-11
  • Soil: Most, shaded soils
  • Danger: Low. It’s edible
  • Best way to get rid of chickweed: Pre-emergent broadleaf herbicide

6. Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea)

While creeping Charlie sounds like that flaky friend you’re trying to dodge, it’s a broadleaf perennial with scalloped leaves and clusters of purple flowers that appear in spring. It has a slight minty fragrance. Sounds delightful, right? Wrong.

Also called ground ivy, it can form a dense green carpet if left to spread. Patchy grass and unhealthy soils with low fertility are inviting features for creeping Charlie.

Maintaining proper pH levels, fertilizing, and adding more sunlight could be enough to prohibit growth. But if it persists, you can pull out the big guns and spray a post-emergent broadleaf herbicide in the spring or fall.

  • Plant type: Broadleaf perennial 
  • Location: Hardiness zones 5-9
  • Soil: Moist, shady
  • Danger: Toxic to horses in large amounts
  • Best way to get rid of creeping Charlie: Post-emergent broadleaf herbicide

7. Oxalis (Oxalis stricta)

Oxalis, also known as yellow wood sorrel, has yellow, heart-shaped flowers that appear in warmer months. While it looks like a sweet and dainty clover, this sour-tasting weed is not welcome in most yards.

Seeing oxalis could be an early sign of problems with your turf. Check for insects, signs of thinning, disease, or incorrect pH levels. 

If you’re too busy to weed by hand, use a pre-emergent herbicide to control oxalis before germination. Use a post-emergent herbicide to kill oxalis after it has grown. Mulch around your garden or landscape barriers can also keep oxalis at bay.

  • Plant type: Broadleaf annual
  • Location: Hardiness zones 
  • Soil: Dry but can also crop up in moist, well-fertilized soils
  • Danger: Toxic in large amounts due to oxalic acid
  • Best way to get rid of oxalis: Pre- or post-emergent herbicide

8. Spotted spurge (Euphorbia maculata)

Its name sounds like a contagion that’s better left in the neighbor’s yard. And it is.

Spotted spurge is a weed zombie. Killing it isn’t enough. The long taproot and resilient seeds keep spotted spurge coming back to life. Spotted spurge grows fast and spreads in a low, matted web of green leaves. 

You can try a pre-emergent herbicide to stop spotted spurge from germinating. But once you see it, you can pull it by hand. Wear gloves as the milky sap can irritate your skin. Or, use a post-emergent herbicide when spotted spurge sprouts with flowers, around late spring or early summer. 

Either way, you’ll need to remove all signs of the spurge — seeds and roots — to keep it out of your yard for good.

  • Plant type: Broadleaf annual
  • Location: Hardiness zones 3-9
  • Soil: Nutrient-poor, compacted soil
  • Danger: Sap can irritate skin
  • Best way to get rid of spotted spurge: Pulling, pre or post-emergent herbicides

9. Bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare)

Thistle has a reputation for being difficult. It multiplies quickly and it needs a persistent plan of attack to keep it at bay.

Bull thistle, one of several types of thistle found in turf, is known for its purple fringed flowers and prickly rosettes. The downy seeds catch the air and spread the plant all over. And with about 5,000 seeds per season, per plant, it’s easy to see why thistle is common.

To remove bull thistle from your yard, pay attention to growth stages. You’ll need to spray bull thistle with a post-emergent herbicide in early to late spring, usually when it’s beginning to flower. Due to thistle’s resiliency, it can require annual applications before you stop seeing it in your yard. 

If you pull bull thistle by hand, remove the entire taproot and put the seed head into a bag so seeds don’t escape. 

Despite all your diligence, you could still end up with thistle in your lawn if your neighbor doesn’t take the same approach to limit seeds.

  • Plant type: Broadleaf biennial
  • Location: Hardiness zones 3-10
  • Soil: Moist to dry
  • Danger: Sharp spines can hurt
  • Best way to get rid of bull thistle: Post-emergent broadleaf herbicide

10. Quackgrass (Elymus repens)

Quackgrass is no joke. It is a blue-green perennial grass with coarse blades and auricles that resemble wheat. Quackgrass spreads in dense clumps and has toxins that give it an advantage over other grasses. 

Farmers find quackgrass annoying, too. Underground rhizomes can penetrate hard soils, crowd out plants, and even grow into potato tubers.

Quackgrass loves cooler temperatures so you’ll see it more in spring and fall in the Northern United States.

To kill this stubborn weed, you can pull quackgrass by hand, but you’ll need to remove all the roots or they’ll return as new plants. You can spot-treat quackgrass with post-emergent herbicide, but you’ll need to use a product that’s not selective so be careful about the application. 

If all else fails, you can always smother quackgrass with black landscape plastic.

  • Plant type: Perennial grass
  • Location: Hardiness zones 3-10
  • Soil: Most but thrives in loamy, sandy
  • Danger: Crop destroyer
  • Best way to get rid of quackgrass: Weeding by hand, post-emergent herbicide, smothering

11. Lambsquarter (Chenopodium album)

Lambsquarter, a summer annual, is the bearer of crop diseases so keep this weed away from your food gardens.

Lambsquarter has diamond-shaped leaves with a white, mealy coating underneath and, it spreads by black seeds that germinate in late spring to early summer.

Lambsquarter is easy to remove by hand when leaves are young and tender. If you let them grow taller, you might need a shovel. Or, if you’re short on digging time, spray with a post-emergent herbicide in the seedling to flower stage.

  • Plant type: Broadleaf annual
  • Location: Hardiness zones 3-9
  • Soil: Well-drained or compacted with high nitrites
  • Danger: Lambsquarter is edible but has oxalic acid so it is poisonous to certain animals in large quantities. Lambsquarter also hosts several viral crop diseases.
  • Best way to get rid of lambsquarter: Pull by hand when young or use post-emergent herbicide

Why should you care about weeds?

Weeds are:

  • Freeloaders: Weeds 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 turf.
  • Unattractive: Weeds will never cut it in a perfect lawn (sorry, weeds) so if you’re trying to earn Lawn of the Month in your neighborhood, you’re going to have to kill the weeds.
  • Out of control: If you think ghosting your weeds will make them go away – think again. Ignoring the problem won’t work. It will only make them latch on more.

How to get rid of weeds by hand or herbicide

Pulling weeds by hand is the most organic, natural way to get rid of these invasive plants, but if you’re too busy for that, try one of these chemical treatments. 

Remember to read labels carefully to ensure products are safe for your pets and turf type.

Types of weed control chemical treatments

  • Pre-emergent herbicide – Prevents weeds by killing seeds before they germinate
  • Post-emergent herbicide – Kills weeds after growth
  • Broadleaf herbicide – A weed killer that targets broadleaf weeds
  • Iron-based herbicide – A weed killer that contains iron and targets broadleaf weeds. Since it’s more selective, it doesn’t harm nearby plants.

Why weed control is important to lawn health

Like most opportunistic things, weeds will find a weak spot to gain access. Whether you have poor nutrient levels or thinning turf, make sure you identify problems early so these lawn invaders don’t gain a foothold. 

Remember that the best defense is a good offense. Make sure you maintain a healthy yard so weeds have more competition from the grass.

When to call a lawn care pro

If you are spending too much time weeding and caring for your lawn — you likely have better things to do — give your grass some Lawn Love. We’ll send a Lawn Love pro to your address to mow, trim, and edge your lawn — and keep those weeds at bay. 

Main Photo Credit: petrabosse | Pixabay

Candice Wall

Candice Wall is a former newspaper reporter who writes for Lawn Love. In her free time, she enjoys finding old cookbooks, digging through antique stores, and learning how to tame the wild plants in her Georgia backyard.