Weed Identification Guide

hand holding uprooted yellow salsify weed
Don't let weeds rob your garden of its beauty. Use our guide to help identify and control these troublesome pests.

Weed Identification Guide

We get it. Weeds are obnoxious and hard to eliminate. But with proper weed identification, you can stop them while they're young. Use our guide to identify weeds by picture and know how to remove them safely. 

Need help now? Watch our quick video on how to control weeds in the garden.

Dandelion

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 strong taproot; leaves are deeply notched. Yellow flowers mature to puffballs. Dandelion seeds are like parachutes that fly away in the wind—they're the plants that you would blow on and "make a wish" when you were younger.

Lawn Weed Control Tip: Mulch to prevent dandelions in gardens. Pull dandelion weeds by hand or use a post-emergence herbicide in lawns.

Related: Tips on Caring for Your Yard

Oxalis

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: 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 like clover and cup-shape yellow flowers in summer and fall.

Grass Weed Control Tip: Mulch garden areas in spring to prevent weeds. Pull oxalis weeds by hand or spray weeds with a post-emergence herbicide in spring or fall.

Note: The leaves of oxalis are edible in small quantities and have a sharp, sour taste. They can be harmful if eaten in large amounts.

Related: Identifying and Controlling Common Garden Pests

Crabgrass

Type: Grassy annual

Size: 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.

Weed Control Tip: Mulch your lawn to prevent crabgrass or use a pre-emergence herbicide; pull plants by hand or spot-treat with a nonselective post-emergence herbicide.

Note: Each plant can produce up to 150,000 seeds.

Bindweed

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: Climbs 6 feet or more

Where it grows: Landscape and garden areas in sun

Idnetify Weeds: Bindweed has arrowhead-shape leaves on twining vines. The garden weed bears white to pale pink morning glory-type flowers.

Control: Mulch your garden to prevent bindweed. Repeatedly chop down growing bindweed plants and/or treat with post-emergence herbicide.

Note: Wandering roots produce offspring 20 - 30 feet from the mother vine.

White Clover

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 frame round white flower clusters.

Control: Mulch your garden beds to prevent white clover in landscape areas. Use a post-emergence herbicide in lawns or hand-pull the weeds.

Note: Clover adds nitrogen to the soil so as far as weeds go, this one is moderately helpful.

Nutsedge

Type: Grassy perennial

Size: 2 feet tall, 1 foot wide

Where it grows: Lawn, landscape, or garden areas with moist soil in sun or shade

Appearance: Nutsedge has hiny, grassy leaves and nutlike tubers on the root system.

Control: Mulch garden areas in spring to prevent nutsedge. Pull plants by hand or spray with a post-emergence herbicide containing MSMA.

Creeping Charlie

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: 4 inches tall, several feet wide

Where it grows: Shady lawn, landscape, or garden areas

Appearance: Creeping Charlie groundcover has scalloped leaves 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 post-emergence herbicide in spring or fall.

Lamb's-Quarter

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: To 4 feet tall and 18 inches wide

Where it grows: Landscape and garden areas in sun or shade

Appearance: Lamb's-quarter's scalloped leaves have gray undersides to them.

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

Plantain

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: To 8 inches tall and 12 inches wide

Where it grows: Moist lawn and garden areas in sun or shade

Appearance: Plantains have a broad, flat leaves around a low rosette.

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

Note: Each plantain plant can produce more than 15,000 seeds.

Dayflower

Type: Annual grass relative

Size: To 30 inches tall and wide

Where it grows: Sunny or shady landscape areas

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

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

Purslane

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: To 6 inches tall and 2 feet wide

Where it grows: Dry, sunny landscape and garden areas

Appearance: Purslane groundcover has fleshy, dark green leaves and small yellow flowers at the ends of the stems.

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

Velvetleaf

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: To 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide

Where it grows: Fertile, sunny landscape and garden areas

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

Weed Control: Mulch your garden to prevent velvetleaf or use a pre-emergence herbicide in spring; pull plants by hand or use a post-emergence herbicide.

Wild Violet

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 post-emergence herbicide in spring or fall.

Note: This plant is often grown as an ornamental in shade gardens.

Smartweed

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: To 42 inches tall and 30 inches wide

Where it grows: Sunny landscape and garden areas

Appearance: Smartweed is an upright plant with pink or white flowers in summer and fall and has lance-shape leaves often marked with purple chevrons.

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

Note: This weed is native to areas of North America. Unlike many exotic weeds, it does support wildlife.

Quickweed

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: 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 pre-emergence herbicide in spring to prevent quickweed. If plants do grow, pull them by hand or spot-treat them with a post-emergence herbicide.

Pigweed

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. These weeds sprout hairy-looking clusters of green flowers.

Control: Mulch garden areas in spring to prevent pigweed or use a pre-emergence herbicide in spring. Pull weeds by hand or spray with a post-emergence herbicide.

Canada Thistle

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: 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 post-emergence herbicide in lawns in spring or fall, or dig the weed out by hand.

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

Knotweed

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: 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 pre-emergence herbicide in spring. Once the plant grows, hand-pull or spot-treat it with an herbicide.

Pokeweed

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: To 10 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Where it grows: Sunny landscape or garden areas

Appearance: Pokeweed bears light green leaves with 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.

Poison Ivy

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: 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.

Note: 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.

Black Nightshade

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 post-emergence herbicide.

Note: All parts of this plant, including the fruits, are poisonous.

Black Medic

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: Black medic has clover-type leaves and small, yellow flowers.

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

Quackgrass

Type: Grassy perennial

Size: To 3 feet tall and several feet wide

Where it grows: Landscape and garden areas in sun or shade

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

Control: Mulch your garden prevent quackgrass. Dig plants out by hand, being sure to remove every bit of root.

Dock

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: To 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Where it grows: Landscape and garden areas in sun or shade

Appearance: Dock roduces 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 post-emergence herbicide.

Note: Each plant can produce up to 40,000 seeds that wait decades before sprouting.

Henbit

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: To 12 inches tall and wide

Where it grows: Lawn, landscape, and garden areas in sun or shade

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

Control: Mulch to prevent henbit in gardens or use pre-emergence herbicide in spring. Pull plants by hand or treat in lawns with a broadleaf, post-emergence herbicide.

Fleabane

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, borne on an upright stem that branches. It produces puffy white to pale lavender daisies.

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

Nettle

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: To 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide

Where it grows: Garden areas with rich, moist soil

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

Control: Mulch to prevent nettle. Dig out weeds or treat with a post-emergence herbicide.

Note: Always wear gloves when working around this plant.

Prostrate Spurge

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 pre-emergence herbicide in lawns. Pull weeds when young or spot-treat with a post-emergence herbicide.

Chickweed

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: Chickweed creates lush green mats studded with small, star-shape flowers.

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

Note: Each plant can produce more than 15,000 seeds.

Musk Thistle

Type: Broadleaf biennial

Size: To 6 feet tall and 18 inches wide

Where it grows: Landscape and garden areas in full sun

Appearance: Musk thistle's prickly leaves off of tall stems topped by heavy 2-inch purple flowers.

Control: Mulch your garden to prevent musk thistle. Use a post-emergence herbicide or dig it the weed out yourself.

Ragweed

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: To 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Where it grows: Landscape and garden areas in sun or partial shade

Appearance: Ragweed grows finely cut green leaves that are almost ferny.

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

Yellow Sweet Clover

Type: Broadleaf annual

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

Where it grows: Landscape and garden areas

Appearance: Yellow sweet clover has 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 a post-emergence herbicide.

Yellow Salsify

Type: Broadleaf biennial or short-lived perennial

Size: To 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Where it grows: Sunny landscape and garden areas

Appearance: Yellow salsify has gray-green leaves. Yellow flowers on the plant are followed by large puffballs.

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

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