33 Lawn and Garden Weeds: How to Identify and Control Them

person holding broadleaf plantain weed pulled from soil in garden
Photo: Jay Wilde

Don't let these pesky plants crash your garden party! The first step is to know your enemy. Then you'll know the best way to deal with your weed problem.

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What Is a Weed, Anyway?

Digging up plants with shovel
Jacob Fox

A weed can be any plant growing where you don't want it to. However, there are some particularly weedy species to keep an eye out for. These aggressive plants not only make your yard look messy, they can also choke out the garden plants you've worked so hard to grow. Whether you're trying to identify lawn weeds or garden weeds, this handy guide will help you identify more than 30 common weeds by photo, plus give you tips for how to best remove them.

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Dandelion

close shot of dandelion in grass
Marty Baldwin

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: 12 inches tall, 6-16 inches wide

Where It Grows: Lawns and gardens in sun or shade

Appearance: This common lawn weed has a long taproot with deeply notched leaves. Yellow flowers mature into puffballs. Dandelion seeds are like parachutes that fly away in the wind, helping them invade new spaces in lawns and garden beds.

Weed Control Tips: Mulch to prevent dandelions in gardens. Pull dandelion weeds by hand or treat lawns with a broadleaf herbicide, which won't kill grass.

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Oxalis

detail of oxalis broadleaf weeds
Marty Baldwin

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: Up to 20 inches tall

Where It Grows: Sunny or shady landscape, lawn or garden areas

Appearance: This garden weed has light green leaves that look somewhat like clovers and cup-shape yellow flowers in summer and fall.

Weed Control Tips: Mulch garden areas in spring to prevent weeds. Pull oxalis weeds by hand or spray weeds with a broadleaf herbicide in spring or fall.

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Crabgrass

crabgrass lawn patch
Dean Schoeppner

Type: Grassy annual

Size: Up to 18 inches tall and 20 inches wide

Where It Grows: Lawn, landscape, and garden areas in sun or shade

Appearance: Crabgrass is exactly what it sounds like: A grassy weed. This lawn weed grows roots anywhere the stem makes soil contact. Seed heads spread out like four fingers.

Control: Use a pre-emergence weed preventer to prevent seeds from sprouting, pull crabgrass by hand, or spot-treat with a nonselective herbicide if growing in sidewalk cracks or other places where nothing else is growing.

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Bindweed

detail of climbing bindweed broadleaf weed
Bindweed is known for choking out native species, and it can be extremely difficult to eliminate from your yard. Marty Baldwin

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: Climbs to 6 feet or more

Where It Grows: Landscape and garden areas in sun

Appearance: Identify this garden weed by its arrowhead-shape leaves on twining vines. Bindweed also produces white to pale pink morning glory-type flowers.

Control: Mulch your garden to prevent bindweed. Repeatedly pull or cut down growing bindweed plants and/or spot treat with a nonselective herbicide designed to kill roots, not just above-ground growth.

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White Clover

detail of white clover weed and flower head
Marty Baldwin

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: 8-10 inches tall, 12 inches wide

Where It Grows: Lawn, landscape, and garden areas in sun to partial shade

Appearance: White clover has three-lobe leaves and round white flower clusters. The plants quickly spread outward to form dense mats of foliage.

Control: Mulch your garden beds to prevent white clover in landscape areas. Use an iron-based herbicide to get rid of clover growing in lawns or dig out the weeds in garden beds.

Test Garden Tip: Clover adds nitrogen to the soil plus the flowers feed many pollinators so some gardeners use this plant to create a more environmentally friendly lawn.

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Nutsedge

detail of nutsedge grassy weeds
Marty Baldwin

Type: Grass-like perennial

Size: 2 feet tall, 1 foot wide

Where It Grows: Lawn, landscape, or garden areas in sun or shade

Appearance: Nutsedge has slender, grassy leaves, triangular stems, and small, nutlike tubers on the root system. When these weeds pop up in lawns, they often grow faster than turf grass, so they are easy to spot.

Control: Mulch garden areas in spring to help prevent nutsedge. Plants are easy to pull up by hand, but it will take repeated weeding to get rid of an infestation. Various herbicides are labeled for use on nutsedge in lawns but it is important to use the right one for the type of turf grass you have to avoid damaging it.

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Creeping Charlie

detail of creeping charlie weed around trunk
Marty Baldwin

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: 4 inches tall, several feet wide

Where It Grows: Shady lawn, landscape, or garden areas

Appearance: Identify this lawn weed and groundcover by its scalloped leaves, creeping stems, and clusters of purple flowers in late spring.

Control: Mulch garden areas in spring to prevent creeping charlie. Pull plants by hand or spray with a postemergence herbicide in spring or fall.

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Lamb's-Quarter

detail of lambs-quarter broadleaf weed
Marty Baldwin

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: Up to 4 feet tall and 18 inches wide

Where It Grows: Landscape and garden areas in sun or shade

Appearance: Lamb's-quarters has scalloped, triangular leaves with gray undersides.

Control: Mulch your garden to prevent lamb's-quarter. Pull weed plants by hand or use a postemergence herbicide.

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Plantain

plantain weed growing outdoors
Plantain weeds like hard, densely packed soil; loosen it with a hoe before trying to pull them out. Denny Schrock

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: Up to 8 inches tall and 12 inches wide

Where It Grows: Moist lawn and garden areas in sun or shade

Appearance: When you're identifying weeds in your garden, if you spot broad, flat, oval-shape leaves arranged in a low rosette, you've likely found a Plantain.

Control: Mulch to prevent plantains growing in the garden. Pull these weeds by hand or use a postemergence herbicide in lawns.

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Dayflower

detail of dayflower broadleaf weed
Marty Baldwin

Type: Annual grass relative

Size: Up to 30 inches tall and wide

Where It Grows: Sunny or shady landscape areas

Appearance: Dayflowers have dark green leaves sprouting from a stem and brilliant blue flowers through the summer.

Control: Mulch the garden to prevent weeds or use a preemergence herbicide in spring. Pull weeds by hand or spot-treat with a nonselective postemergence herbicide.

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Purslane

detail of purslane groundcover weed
Marty Baldwin

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: Up to 6 inches tall and 2 feet wide

Where it grows: Dry, sunny landscape and garden areas

Appearance: Identify this weed groundcover by its fleshy, dark green leaves and small yellow flowers at the ends of the stems.

Control: Mulch your garden to prevent purslane or use a preemergence herbicide in the spring. Pull plants by hand or spot-treat with a nonselective postemergence herbicide.

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Velvetleaf

detail of large velvetleaf broadleaf weed
Marty Baldwin

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: Up to 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide

Where It Grows: Fertile, sunny landscape and garden areas

Appearance: Velvetleaf gets its name because of its large, velvety heart-shape leaves up to 10 inches across. The weed blooms with yellow flowers in summer.

Weed Control: Mulch your garden to prevent velvetleaf or use a preemergence herbicide in spring. Pull existing plants by hand or use a postemergence herbicide.

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Wild Violet

detail of speading wild violet perennial weed
Marty Baldwin

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: 6 inches tall, 6 inches wide

Where It Grows: Shady lawn, landscape, or garden areas

Appearance: Wild violet is a groundcover with heart-shape leaves and purple flowers in late spring.

Control: Mulch garden beds in spring to prevent wild violet. Pull weeds by hand or spray with a postemergence herbicide in spring or fall.

Test Garden Tip: This plant is sometimes grown as an ornamental in shade gardens.

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Smartweed

detail of smartweed broadleaf plant
Marty Baldwin

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: Up to 42 inches tall and 30 inches wide

Where It Grows: Sunny landscape and garden areas

Appearance: Identify garden weeds like smartweed by its lance-shape leaves often marked with purple chevrons. It's an upright plant with pink or white flowers in summer and fall.

Control: To prevent this weed, mulch garden beds in spring. Pull plants by hand or apply a postemergence herbicide once it grows.

Test Garden Tip: This weed is native to areas of North America. Unlike many exotic weeds, it supports local wildlife.

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Quickweed

detail of quickweed broadleaf weed with flowers
Marty Baldwin

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: Up to 2 feet tall and wide

Where It Grows: Sunny landscape and garden areas

Appearance: Quickweed has jagged, hairy leaves and small white daisy-shape flowers in summer.

Control: Use a mulch or a preemergence herbicide in spring to prevent quickweed. If plants do grow, pull them by hand or spot-treat them with a postemergence herbicide.

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Pigweed

close shot of pigweed broadleaf in ground
Marty Baldwin

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: 6 feet tall, 2 feet wide

Where it grows: Sunny landscape or garden areas

Appearance: Pigweeds are tall plants with a taproot. Identify weeds by their hairy-looking clusters of green flowers (though some varieties are grown as annuals).

Control: Mulch garden areas in spring to prevent pigweed or use a preemergence herbicide in spring. Pull weeds by hand or spray with a postemergence weed killer.

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Canada Thistle

detail of canada thistle broadleaf weed
Marty Baldwin

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: Up to 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide

Where It Grows: Sunny lawn, landscape, or garden areas

Appearance: Canada thistle has spiny, gray-green leaves, and purple flowers.

Control: Mulch your garden to prevent it in landscape areas. Use a postemergence herbicide in lawns in spring or fall, or dig the weed out by hand.

Test Garden Tip: Thistle has an extensive root system that can grow several feet out from the main plant.

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Knotweed

knotweed broadleaf annual weed
Marty Baldwin

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: Up to 8 inches tall and 2 feet wide

Where It Grows: Sunny or partly shaded lawn, landscape, or garden areas

Appearance: Knotweed is an invasive groundcover with blue-green leaves sparsely appearing on long stems.

Control: Prevent knotweed with a deep layer of mulch or apply a preemergence herbicide in spring. Once the plant grows, hand-pull or spot-treat it with a nonselective weed killer.

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Pokeweed

detail of pokeweed emerging from dirt
Marty Baldwin

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: Up to 10 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Where It Grows: Sunny landscape or garden areas

Appearance: Identify this garden weed by its light green leaves, clusters of white flowers, and dark purple berries.

Control: Prevent pokeweed with a deep layer of mulch. Once the plant grows, hand-pull or spot-treat it with an herbicide.

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Poison Ivy

poison ivy weed detail on branches
Marty Baldwin

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: Up to 15 feet tall and wide

Where It Grows: Sunny or shady landscape or garden areas

Appearance: Poison ivy can be a vine, shrub, or groundcover. The weed has leaves divided into three leaflets and can sprout clusters of green berries.

Control: Prevent poison ivy with a deep layer of mulch. If the weed starts to grow in your yard, spot-treat it with an herbicide or wrap your hand in a plastic bag, pull the plant up, roots and all, and carefully invert the plastic bag around the plant, seal, and throw away.

Test Garden Tip: The plant contains oils that cause a severe allergic skin reaction in many people when touched. These oils are present even on dead leaves and can become airborne and inhaled if the plant is burned.

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Black Nightshade

detail of black nightshade broadleaf weed
Marty Baldwin

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: 2 feet tall, 2 feet wide

Where It Grows: Landscape or garden areas with rich soil in sun or shade

Appearance: Black nightshade can be a bushy or climbing plant with white or purple flowers and purple or red fruits.

Control: Mulch your garden to prevent black nightshade. Pull the weed by hand or treat with a postemergence herbicide.

Test Garden Tip: All parts of this plant are poisonous (including the fruits) if swallowed.

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Black Medic

hand holding uprooted black medic weed
Peter Krumhardt

Type: Broadleaf annual or short-lived perennial

Size: 1-2 feet tall, 1 foot wide

Where It Grows: Poor, dry, soil in full sun

Appearance: Identify this garden weed by its clover-type leaves and small, yellow flowers. It grows as a dense mat, thanks to its creeping stems.

Control: Mulch to prevent black medic in gardens. Pull or dig out weeds by hand or use a postemergence herbicide. Discourage it by keeping the soil well watered and amended with organic matter (such as compost).

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Quackgrass

hand holding uprooted quackgrass weed
Peter Krumhardt

Type: Grassy perennial

Size: Up to 3 feet tall and several feet wide

Where It Grows: Landscape and garden areas in sun or shade

Appearance: This garden weed has wheatlike flower spikes, which appear above slender clumps of grassy foliage.

Control: Mulch your garden well to prevent quackgrass. Dig plants out by hand, being sure to remove every bit of root. Spot treat with a nonselective weed killer.

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Dock

hand holding uprooted quackgrass weed
Peter Krumhardt

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: Up to 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Where It Grows: Landscape and garden areas in sun or shade

Appearance: Dock produces large, wavy-edge leaves and large seed heads covered with brown seeds.

Control: Mulch to prevent dock. Pull and dig up plants or treat with a postemergence herbicide.

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Henbit

henbit-broadleaf-annual-weed-detail-ad16572e
Peter Krumhardt

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: Up to 12 inches tall and wide

Where It Grows: Lawn, landscape, and garden areas in sun or shade

Appearance: This lawn weed is a low, creeping plant with scallop-edge leaves and purple flowers.

Control: Mulch to prevent henbit in gardens or use preemergence herbicide in spring. Pull plants by hand or treat in lawns with a broadleaf, postemergence herbicide.

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Fleabane

hand holding uprooted fleabane broadleaf weed
Peter Krumhardt

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: 2 feet tall and 18 inches wide

Where It Grows: Landscape and garden areas in sun to partial shade

Appearance: Fleabane has slender leaves attached to an upright, branching stem. It produces puffy white to pale lavender daisies.

Control: Mulch your garden to prevent fleabane or use a preemergence herbicide in spring. Pull plants by hand or spot-treat with a postemergence herbicide.

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Nettle

stinging nettle weed
Stinging nettle can resprout from rhizomes but also hurt your hands, so wear garden gloves when dealing with this weed. Denny Schrock

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: Up to 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide

Where It Grows: Garden areas with rich, moist soil

Appearance: This garden weed has sawtooth-edge leaves and yellowish flower clusters covered with stinging hairs.

Control: Mulch to prevent nettle. Dig out weeds or treat with a postemergence herbicide.

Test Garden Tip: Always wear gloves when working around this plant (the sharp hairs can irritate skin).

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Prostrate Spurge

prostrate spurge weed

Kelli Jo Emanuel / BHG

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: 3 inches tall, 18 inches wide

Where It Grows: Lawn, landscape, and garden areas with dry soil

Appearance: Green or purple-blushed leaves of prostrate spurge form dense mats.

Control: Mulch your garden to prevent prostrate spurge or use a preemergence herbicide in lawns. Pull weeds when young or spot-treat with a postemergence herbicide.

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Chickweed

hand holding uprooted chickweed plant
Peter Krumhardt

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: 6 inches tall, 12 inches wide

Where It Grows: Lawn, garden, and landscape areas with rich, moist soil in sun or shade

Appearance: This garden and lawn weed creates lush green mats studded with small, star-shape flowers.

Control: Mulch to prevent chickweed in gardens or use a preemergence herbicide in early spring. Pull weeds by hand.

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Musk Thistle

musk thistle weed

Kelli Jo Emanuel / BHG

Type: Broadleaf biennial

Size: Up to 6 feet tall and 18 inches wide

Where It Grows: Landscape and garden areas in full sun

Appearance: Musk thistle has prickly leaves growing off of tall stems topped by heavy two inch purple flowers.

Control: Mulch your garden to prevent musk thistle. Use a postemergence herbicide or dig the weed out by hand.

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Ragweed

ragweed plant

Kelli Jo Emanuel / BHG

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: Up to 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Where It Grows: Landscape and garden areas in sun or partial shade

Appearance: Ragweed has finely cut green leaves that are almost fern-like.

Control: Mulch your garden to prevent ragweed. Use a postemergence herbicide or pull it out by hand.

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Yellow Sweet Clover

hand holding uprooted yellow sweet clover weed
Peter Krumhardt

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: 1-3 feet tall, 12-18 inches wide

Where It Grows: Landscape and garden areas

Appearance: Identify this garden weed by its lanky branches, clover-like leaves, and fragrant yellow flowers.

Control: Mulch your garden to prevent yellow sweet clover. Pull plants by hand or spot-treat with a postemergence herbicide.

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Yellow Salsify

yellow salsify weed

Kelli Jo Emanuel / BHG

Type: Broadleaf biennial or short-lived perennial

Size: Up to 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Where It Grows: Sunny landscape and garden areas

Appearance: Spot yellow salsify by its gray-green leaves. Yellow flowers on the plant are followed by large puffballs of seeds.

Control: Mulch your garden to prevent yellow salsify. Pull plants by hand or treat with a postemergence herbicide.

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