- Alternative Lawn Mix Wildflowers
- 13 Common Weeds
- 10 weeds that are probably growing wild in your garden
- Weeds vs. Flowers: What’s the Difference?
- Angiosperms – First Plants with Flowers
- Looking Good for the Birds and Bugs
- Some Withy One Cotyledon
- And Some with Two
- Related Video…
- Exploring Nature Science Education Resource:
Alternative Lawn Mix Wildflowers
First, you need to choose a place for your wildflower meadow. If you’re planting an entire field of several acres, the decision is easy. If you are growing in a smaller area, there are several things to consider; Choose a sunny spot for wildflowers, the sunnier the better. The only other absolute requirement is good drainage. This means a place where water doesn’t stand after a rain. Finally, try to make it a spot you can control, where you can easily water, if necessary, to get the plants established.
When to Plant:
Wildflower seed is best sown about one week before vegetable gardens are planted in your area. In cold climates, with killing frost, spring planting is most common, after all danger of frost is past. You may also plant in summer (up until two months before frost), but summer planting will usually require more watering. It’s usually best to plant when the soil is warm, and rains will promote germination.
Prepare your soil by hand or by rototilling. Till only as deep as necessary to remove old roots. If you feel that tilling is not sufficient to remove unwanted grass and weeds from your planned meadow area, there are several other methods you can use. Your choice will depend on several factors: attitudes regarding herbicides; time; expense; and size of your site.
Method One involves early site preparation three weeks prior to sowing. Tilling is followed by repeated cultivation throughout the period. This provides the opportunity to eliminate the early germinating annual weeds. Method Two involves early soil preparation six weeks in advance of sowing. The first three weeks after tilling, the weeds can grow abundantly, even encouraged with additional watering. At the end of this time a herbicide is applied following directions carefully. Once the weeds have died down, plant the wildflowers. The less you disturb the soil at planting the better to prevent stirring up new weed seeds. If you have an extreme weed problem this might be the method for you. Method Three involves more planning but requires no chemicals. Till in the late summer or early fall the year before planting. You may allow the soil to lie fallow or plant a cover crop after tilling. A cover crop may be important if your site is on a slope. A green manure cover crop such as buckwheat or annual rye grass will hold the soil until spring, help add beneficial organic matter and help snuff out germinating weeds. In the spring, light cultivation will be needed to loosen the soil and turn under all existing growth just prior to planting.
Once your ground is bare and loose, you are ready to sow. Following are a couple of tips that will make the whole process simple and successful. First, choose a nearly windless day and, second, separate the seed you’re planting, no matter the amount, in roughly two equal parts. Put the first half in a clean bucket or coffee can and add in roughly 10 parts of light sand or vermiculite. There are two reasons for the sand. It will dilute the seed and help you spread it more evenly. More important, since it is lighter-colored than the freshly-tilled soil, you’ll be able to see where you’ve been as you sow. You can simply hand-sow, keeping the seeding as even as possible. Or use a hand-crank seeder. The amount of seed you sow depends on the sort of flower display you want. Many people sow up to two or even three times the minimum seeding rates on seed packages to assure heavy bloom. Avoid planting higher densities since this will inhibit good growth. Sow the first half of your seed/sand mix over the entire area to be seeded. Then go back, mix the second half of your seed with sand and spread that seed over the whole area. This way, you’ll avoid bare spots. Once the seed is evenly sown, you can rake to barely cover the seed with soil. Or, simply compress the seed into the freshly-tilled ground. A lawn roller is perfect for the job, and for smaller areas, a piece of plywood laid down and walked on will do. Germination All plants, even wildflowers, require adequate moisture and temperature to germinate. While certain wildflower species will germinate (or sprout) in as little as eight days, others may not appear for months. A lot depends on the temperature and the amount of rainfall or watering your plants receive.
Most seed mixtures contain annual and perennial wildflowers. It’s important to understand these different groups, so you’ll have a clear idea of how your meadow should grow and bloom. Annuals are the flowers that usually sprout quickly, grow fast, and are the first to bloom. They normally bloom heavily, set seed, and then are killed by frost. Annuals are the plants that live for only one growing season. They may reseed themselves somewhat, but if you want a yearly show of these flowers, you’ll need to reseed every two years or so. Perennials are the flowers that come back every year from the same roots. They are slower to sprout and grow, often not showing shoot growth for months. They normally flower their second year – and then with increasing size and vigour in successive years as they form clumps. Biennials form leaves the first year, bloom the second year and are killed by frost at the end of their bloom year. Biennials are such heavy seed-producers that most of them are as permanent in a meadow as perennials.
We do not recommend the use of fertilizers except in extreme cases of soil sterility – which are rare. Wildflowers grow best in soils of low fertility where nitrogen levels are low. Also, fertilizing promotes fast weed growth.
You might find it necessary to pull some weeds or shrubs that pop up in a favorite spot. Most people, however, let them go. After all, the look usually sought is naturalistic, not manicured. Once a year, at the end of the growing season, after seeds have formed, you should mow the entire area, with your mower on its highest setting. This cuts down the shoots of tree and brush seedlings that will always try to move into an open site. A scythe, hand clipper, or weed cutter will do the job if you don’t have a mower, or if the blades can’t be set high enough to miss the seedlings. Because most of the weeds will be annuals, mowing them before they set seeds helps destroy the next season’s seed crop. The exact time and height for mowing varies with each site and the species planted. In many cases, you can’t avoid hand-weeding or spot applications of a herbicide, especially if aggressive species or perennial weeds dominate the site. Annual and biennial wildflowers must be allowed to re-seed to produce a strong stand the next year. Once your meadow wildflowers have bloomed, delay mowing the area until at least half of the late-blooming species have dropped seeds. When you mow your meadow, leave the clippings (which may have viable seeds) in place. If possible remove the clippings of any weedy or undesirable species that may have set seed.
A wildflower meadow is not maintenance-free, but it is less labour intensive than a lawn and it costs less to maintain. During the first few years you will want to control any aggressive weeds that threaten to take over. But, gradually you will work yourself out of doing much weeding. There is really nothing left to do but to enjoy the flowers. You’ll see more birds, butterflies, and small animals in your wildflower meadow as it matures. You truly will have a window ‘on nature’ on your property.
No one likes to talk about weeds, but if you’re growing vegetables, fruit, herbs, or flowers, it’s important to identify and control the unwanted plants. Here are 13 of the most common weeds found in gardens and lawns—with weed identification pictures and tips on how to manage their growth.
What is a Weed?
A weed is simply a plant growing where it is not wanted—usually in competition with cultivated plants. For example, if you are intending to grow strawberries, you don’t want other plants (weeds) taking over your patch.
Understand how different plants grow and spread. A handful of weeds are naturally strong competitors; those weeds that can best compete always tend to dominate.
Of the approximately 250,000 species of plants worldwide, only about 3% behave as weeds that we don’t want in cultivated areas. These weeds have many traits in common, including:
- Abundant seed productivity—sometimes tens of thousands of seeds per plant.
- Rapid population establishment and spread.
- Long-term survival—seeds go dormant but then sprout just as soon as conditions are right.
These weeds are troublesome in many ways. Primarily, they reduce crop yield by competing for water, light, soil nutrients, and space. Some produce chemical substances which are toxic to crop plants (and often animals and humans).
“Weeds” aren’t inherently bad, though! Many weeds stabilize the soil and add organic matter. Some are edible to humans and provide habitat and food for wildlife, too. See “Eating Weeds: Why Not?”
So, there is a balance. To the agriculturist, the weeds that interfere with cultivated crops do need to be controlled, in an economical, practical and safe way, in order to produce food, feed, and fiber for humans and animals.
Top 5 Weed Control Tips
1. Never let ‘em set seed!
This is the #1 rule with weeds. Some varieties produce tens of thousands of seeds from a single plant, multiplying your weed control problems for years to come. So make certain you remove weeds around your home before they flower and produce seeds. Pigweed, purslane, Shepherd’s purse, chickweed, and lambsquarters are examples. Their seeds are very small and light enough to be blown by the wind over short distances, spreading profusely and often surviving for decades in the soil.
Remember that it may take a few years to get weed-free. Seeds of most annual weedy grasses die after two or three years, but some broadleaf weed seeds can last much longer. On average, though, the bulk of your weed seeds will be depleted in about five years if no additional seeds are added. That means diligence is the key.
For further weed suppression throughout the growing season, apply two to three inches of mulch or use landscape fabric or black plastic. Mulch not only blocks weed seeds from sunlight so they do not germinate, but also promotes better water retention, provides needed nutrients as it decomposes over time, and moderates soil temperatures. If you mow or blow leaves in the fall, be sure to get a shredder (like this one from Echo) to turn those leaves into garden mulch—and save yourself the costs of buying bags of mulch.
3. Turn to tools.
A garden hoe, tiller or even hand-weeding can work, especially if the space you’re tending is fairly small. And keep your tools (garden hoe, spade, mower, tiller) clean to keep from spreading weed seeds or plant parts that you encounter. Tillers like this one from Echo is ideal for aerating soil and keeping flower and plant beds weed-free, turning what can be a difficult job into easy, productive work.
4. Establish a perimeter.
Pay special attention to the area adjoining your flower bed, garden, natural area or lawn and establish a weed-free perimeter. Mow or mulch the area or pull or dig up weeds as they emerge. You’ll help to reduce the number of new weed seeds in the area you want to protect. Also, a good trimmer (like this one from Echo) can make it easier to reach weeds along garden beds, posts, and tight spots.
5. Pay special attention to perennial weeds.
When you deal with perennials, you need dig up any roots, underground tubers and rhizomes without leaving fragments behind. New weeds can grow from any pieces that break off and remain in the soil. It does also help to cut off the emerged green part of the weed with your hoe or mower—repeating the process quickly each time it regrows. Without leaves needed for photosynthesis, the underground plant parts will become weakened and may eventually die.
With these techniques, you’ll soon find that you won’t spend much time weeding the following years!
13 Common Weeds
Some of the below weeds are noxious and invasive, while others have more beneficial uses (and could even be harvested), but all are rated as the most troublesome weeds that compete with vegetables, fruits, and crops (source: WSSA).
1. Bindweed (Perennial Morning Glory)
Field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) is a hardy perennial vine that has been given many names, including perennial or wild morning-glory, creeping jenny, sheepbine, cornbind, and bellbine.
Bindweed is NOT the same as the ornamental annual morning-glory (in the genus Ipomea) which has a larger (2-inch wide) and more showy flower that can be white to blue or purple; it also has a thicker stem that is sometimes hairy and heart-shaped leaves that are 1 ½ inches wide and 2 inches or more long. The two species are easy to distinguish from each other.
An invasive from Eurasia, field bindweed is one of the most persistent and difficult to control weeds. It spreads from an extensive rootstock and from seed. And its roots are found to depths of 14 feet! Lateral roots becoming a secondary vertical root. A single field bindweed plant can spread radially more than 10 feet in a growing season. This extensive underground network allows for overwintering without foliage, and it can persist for many years in the soil.
Bindweed sprouts in late spring and can be seen throughout the summer. Though the plant’s flowers are attractive, field bindweed can become a big problem in warm weather, when they spread ruthlessly.
Image: Bindweed seedling
Unfortunately, tilling and cultivation seems to aide bindweed spread. Fragments of vertical roots and rhizomes as short as 2 inches can form new plants! Field bindweed also is very drought tolerant and once established is difficult to control even with herbicides.
The best control is, as with most weeds, is prevention or early intervention. Seedlings of field bindweed must be removed before they become perennial plants. However, this need to be done when they’re young—about 3 to 4 weeks after germination. After that, perennial buds are formed, and successful control is much more difficult.
Bindweed can grow through many mulches so you need to use landscape fabrics such as polypropylene and polyester or mulches such as black plastic or cardboard but also ensure that the edges of the covering overlap so that the bindweed stems can’t find their way into the light. If holes are made in the fabric or plastic for plants, bindweed will grow through these holes. A landscape fabric placed over soil then covered with bark or other plant-derived product (e.g., organic matter) or rock will likely keep field bindweed from emerging. It might take more than 3 years of light exclusion before the bindweed dies. Once landscape fabric or other mulch is removed, new bindweed plants might germinate from seed in the soil; be sure to monitor the site for new seedlings.
Lambsquarters. Photo by Michigan State University.
According to the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA), lambsquarters ranks as the most common weed in gardens.
Common lambsquarters is an annual broadleaf weed that is widely distributed across the northern half of the United States and southern Canada. So it’s not surprising that lambsquarters is a problem in gardens with sugar beets, vegetable crops and pulse crops, such as dry edible beans, lentils and chickpeas.
Lambsquarters is a very fast-growing annual with seeds that are small and light enough to be blown by the wind over short distances and can sometimes survive for decades in the soil. Under favorable conditions, these three weeds can establish themselves quickly and spread profusely.
This summer weed rapidly removes moisture from soil, so remove it as soon as possible!
Cultivate this weed out of your garden using a sharp hoe.
If you wish, you can eat lambsquarters (assuming you’re not using chemicals). The young shoots and leaves can be eaten raw in any vegetable dish, or sauteed or steamed like spinach. See our natural health blogger’s post on Anytime Salad.
3. Pigweed (Amaranth)
Image: Pigweed. Credit: United Soybean Board.
Pigweed or Amaranth wins the title of most “problematic” weed. Amaranth has evolved traits that makes it a tough competitor, especially in broadleaf crops like soybeans and cotton.
An annual weed that reproduces by seeds, pigweed is characterized by its fleshly, red taproot. This weed appears in late spring or early summer and likes warm weather.
Try to pull out this weed before it flowers!
To prevent pigweed in the future, cover your garden plot with a winter mulch, then till the garden shallowly in early spring. When you till you may bring up some pigweed seed so it’s best to mulch again. Cover the soil with five layers of wet newspaper and cover that with 3-6 inches of mulch.
Pigweed is also edible—though usually only when young and tender, and when taken from a pesticide-free area. In June, the young leaves of Amaranthus blitum or amaranth are abundant and should be eaten because of their high nutritional content. Vitamin-wise, these greens are packed like carrots and beets and can be delicious in a tossed salad. You can also cook them as you would spinach. Native Americans used the black seeds of this plant as a ground meal for baking.
4. Buckhorn Plantain
Buckhorn plantain. Photo by Oregon State University.
A hardy perennial that reproduces by seeds. This narrow-leafed weed invades meadows, pastures, and lawns. This weed appears in any season.
Hand weed this plant and destroy it to remove it from your garden.
Plantain’s also edible, especially when the leaves are young and tender. Enjoy raw, steamed, boiled, or sauteed.
Crabgrass. Photo by R. Dyer/Bugwood.org
Crabgrass is a low-growing, summer annual that spreads by seed and from rootings of nodes that lie on the soil. Unmowed, it can grow to 2 feet tall.
This weed appears from mid-spring through summer when the ground is warm. It grows well under dry, hot conditions.
As an annual, crabgrass dies at the end of each growing season, usually at the first frost in the fall, and it must produce new seeds every year.
Fortunately, crabgrass is easy to manage. Controlling crabgrass before it sets seed is important, because the seeds can remain viable for at least 3 years in soil.
In the lawn, mowing regularly is often all you need to prevent them from flowering and producing seed. Most experts recommend that you mow your lawn to a height of 2 to 4 inches and that you mow frequently enough to keep it within that range.
Also, if you keep a lawn, be sure to select grass adapted to your location so it’s a healthy, thick lawn. Because seedling crabgrass isn’t very competitive, a vigorously growing turf will crowd out new seedlings. Perennial ryegrass is the best competition for crabgrass. It also provides some insect control, as it emits a natural poison that gives some small, damaging bugs the “flu.” Fertilizing is key and must be done in the spring and in the fall. Crabgrass thrives in compacted lawns, so aeration can help. A mixture of 1 pint of hydrogen peroxide, diluted to 3 percent, per 100 square feet of lawn can help eradicate the pesky plant.
In gardens, you easily can control crabgrass by mulching, hoeing, and hand pulling when the plants are young and before they set seed. You also can control this weed with solarization. Several chemical herbicides are available but often aren’t necessary. Mulching with wood products (e.g. wood chips or nuggets), composted yard waste, or synthetic landscape fabrics covered with mulch will reduce crabgrass in shrub beds and bedding plants and around trees by blocking sunlight needed for its germination, establishment, and growth.
Organic mulches that have been on the soil for a while decomposing can provide an adequate growth medium for weeds to germinate and grow in. If crabgrass is germinating in the mulch, move it about with a rake to reduce seedling establishment. Hand pull escaped crabgrass plants before they set seed
If you’re using herbicides, apply pre-emergent herbicides before crabgrass germinates or post-emergent herbicides after it germinates. Avoid using chemical herbicides in vegetable gardens because of the variety of crops grown and planted there.
Photo: Quackgrass in strawberry garden.
A creeping, persistent perennial grass that reproduces by seeds. Its long, jointed, straw-colored rhizomes form a heavy mat in soil, from which new shoots may also appear.
Try to dig out this weed as soon as you see it in your garden.
Mouse-ear chickweed. Photo by Oregon State University.
There are two species of chickweed, common (Stellaria media) and sticky (Cerastium glomeratum), which grow easily in gardens, low-maintenance lawns, and agricultural areas. Mouseear chickweed (Cerastium fontanum ssp. vulgare) is a perennial also found in lawns.
When growing without competition from other plants, common chickweed can produce approximately 800 seeds and it takes 7 to 8 years to eradicate. Chickseed thrives in moist, cool areas so it often gets started before spring crops can become competitive and can limit vegetable harvest.
Fortunately, annual chickweed is easier to control as long as you control before it flowers. This can be difficult due to the short period between germination and flower production so you need to keep an eye out for this weed. Both types have shallow roots, so they can often be removed by hoeing or hand-pulling if done early. It is most effective if the soil is dry and plants are small.
New plants can grow from broken pieces of mouse-ear rootstock, however, so make sure you remove the entire plant when using either method. Herbicides should only avoided in the vegetable garden.
Using an organic mulch such as wood chips, at least two inches deep, will reduce the amount of weed seeds germinating by limiting light and serving as a physical barrier. Synthetic mulches such as landscape fabrics may also be used. In landscaped areas, they should be covered with an additional layer of mulch (rock or bark). Vegetable gardens also can utilize black plastic, both as mulch into which seeds or transplants are placed and also between rows.
A healthy lawn can compete against mouse-ear chickweed if the grass is not mowed too short or too frequently. Watering the lawn deeply and infrequently will encourage the grass to grow deeper roots, which also can help it compete against chickweed. Water once every seven to ten days, and apply enough water so that it soaks six to eight inches into the ground.
Chickweed is also edible. When young, the leaves, stems, and flowers can all be eaten either raw or cooked, where it adds a delicate spinach-like taste to any dish.
Ah, we love much about dandelions with their bright yellow heads in the springtime. They provide a lovely source of food for bees early in the year, and the jagged leaves of this perennial (Taraxacum officinale) are even edible, especially when young and tender. The flowers, too, can be eaten raw or fried, or used to make dandelion wine! Here are a few dandelion recipes: Dandelion Recipes
In time, however, dandelions will also take over any habitat from your garden to your ornamentals to your grasses. They have the most weedy characteristics of all the weeds. Not only do dandelions have wind-borne seed but also reproduce vegetatively thanks to large tap roots. So unless you cut the root deep into the soil, you can rest assured the plant will reemerge.
Removing dandelions by hand-pulling or hoeing is often futile, unless done repeatedly over a long period of time, because of the deep tap root system of established plants. But if you have a small area, pull young dandelions by grasping them firmly by their base and wiggling gently, as you must dislodge their deep taproot from the soil. Alternatively, use a hand trowel to dig them out. Try to remove the whole dandelion root at once, as any piece left in the ground will probably grow back.
If you keep a lawn, a vigorous (and competitive) lawn will slow down dandelion infestation. Dense turfgrass and ornamentals shade the soil surface, reducing the establishment of new dandelion seedlings. Many broadleaf weeds may be controlled with mowing but this is NOT true of dandelion. Because it grows from a basal rosette that is lower than a mower blade can reach, mowing will have no effect on control.
For a garden bed, mulches of wood chips or bark are effective if they are maintained at a depth of least 3 inches deep (and replaced over time). Mulching with landscape fabrics can be particularly effective for controlling seedlings, reducing the amount of light that is able to reach the soil. Use a polypropylene or polyester fabric or black polyethylene (plastic tarp) to block all plant growth.
Solitary new dandelion plants along fence rows, roadsides, flower beds, and in turfgrass should be grubbed out (removed by digging out the entire plant, taproot and all) before they produce seed. Dandelion knives and similar specialized tools are available for removing individual weeds and their roots while minimizing soil disturbance. Monitor the area for several months to make sure that removal of the taproot was complete.
If you’re using herbicides, consider pre-emergence herbicides such as those containing dithiopyr or isoxaben because they are applied to the soil BEFORE the seeds germinate.
Purslane is an annual succulent that reproduces by tiny black seeds and stem fragments. This weed appears in late spring or early summer and likes warm weather, fertile soil and moist garden beds.
Purslane produces over 2,000,000 seeds PER PLANT! Wow. Purslane also can reproduce vegetatively through its succulent leaves, making it especially tough to eradicate. Many a gardener hoed purslane one day only to see it growing at full strength the next.
The primary method of management for common purslane is prevention. In home landscapes and gardens, this weed is generally managed by hand-weeding. Pull out this weed as soon as you see it and destroy the plant; this weed can live in your soil for years!
Young purslane is edible, too! It’s a nutritional powerhouse and a great addition to a salad or stir-fry. See purslane’s health benefits and find a recipe here.
Mulching is also helpful, especially in garden beds. To be effective, organic mulches should be at least 3 inches thick. Synthetic mulches (plastic or fabric mulch) which screen out light and provide a physical barrier to seedling development, also work well. Fabric mulches, which are porous and allow flow of water and air to roots, are preferred over plastics. Combinations of synthetic mulches with organic or rock mulches on top are commonly used in ornamental plantings.
10. Shepherd’s Purse
Shepherd’s Purse. Photo by Oregon State University.
A flowering annual that reproduces by seeds. It likes cool weather and its yellowish-brown seeds are long-lived in the ground.
Try to pull out this weed before it seeds.
11. Nutsedge (Yellow, Purple)
Image: Yelllow Nutsedge
Nutsedges are perennial weeds that superficially resemble grasses, but they are thicker and stiffer and V-shaped. Their leaves are arranged in sets of three from their base instead of sets of two as you would find in grass leaves. They are among the most problematic weeds for vegetable crops and can greatly reduce harvest yields. Yellow nutsedge has light brown flowers and seeds, while purple nutsedge flowers have a reddish tinge and the seeds are dark brown or black.
If you have nutsedge, it’s often an indicated that your soil drainage is poor or waterlogged. However, once nutsedge is established, it’s very difficult to control.
The best approach is to prevent establishment of the weed in the first place.
Remove small plants before they develop tubers. Tubers are key to nutsedge survival. If you can limit production of tubers, you’ll eventually control the nutsedge itself. Most herbicides aren’t effective against tubers.
Also, eliminate the wet conditions that favor nutsedge growth. Use mulches in landscape beds. Landscape fabrics are the best mulch because the sharp leaves of nutsedge can pierce other mulches.
12. Canada Thistle
Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) is an aggressive, creeping perennial weed from Eurasia. It infests crops, pastures, and non-crop areas like ditch banks and roadside. Canada thistle reduces forage consumption in pastures and rangeland because cattle typically will not graze near infestations.
Introduced perennial from Eurasia. Reproduces by seeds and whitish, creeping rootstocks which send up new shoots every 8 to 12 inches. Plants 2 to 4 feet tall, It is a colony-forming weed, reproducing asexually from rhizomatous roots (any part of the root system may give rise to new plants) or sexually from wind-blown seed. The plant emerges from its roots in mid- to late spring and forms rosettes.
Then, it will send up shoots every 8 to 12 inches. The plants will grow 2 to 4 feet tall. You may spots its purple flowers are produced in July and August.
Canada Thistle is difficult to control because its extensive and deep root system allows it to recover from control attempts. Horizontal roots may extend 15 feet or more and vertical roots may grow 6 to 15 feet deep! Seeds may retain viability 4+ years in the soil.
The first plants need to be destroyed by pulling or hoeing before they become securely rooted. Look for Canada Thistle above ground in early spring.
If Canada Thistle becomes rooted, the best control is to stress the plant and force it to use stored root nutrients. It’s at its weakest during the flowering stage in summertime; this is a good time to begin cultivation and destroy the roots and rootstock. One season of cultivation followed by a season of growing competitive crops such as winter rye, will go a long way toward eradication.
An approved herbicide, applied for two years in an established in a thistle-infested area, is an effective control. Usually, a combination of techniques is needed. Consult with your cooperative extension office for an approved herbicide and suggested program.
13. Creeping Charlie
Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea), also called “ground ivy,” is a herbaceous perennial plant that enjoys moist and shady areas. Native to Europe, it has become an invasive lawn weed in North America. The plant has bright green leaves with scalloped edges on creeping stems that root at the nodes. It tends to form a dense mat over the ground.
The reason Creeping Charlie is so challenging is the way it spreads—by both seeds and by creeping stems (called stolons) that grow along the ground. If you try to dig it out and leave behind a fragment of rhizome (root), even a tiny piece can grow up as a new plant!
To control, improve soil drainage or water less frequently to dry the soil. If Creeping Charlie is invading a thin lawn, try to improve turf health and density to get weeds under control. This can be accomplished by mowing regularly (to a height of two to three and one-half inches), fertilizing and watering appropriately, and overseeding in the fall. Also, make sure to grow the most suitable type of turfgrass for the location (e.g., plant shade tolerant turfgrass varieties under trees).
Alternatively, consider removing grass and growing shade-loving plants such as vinca, English ivy, pachysandra, or hosta that compete well with weeds (though they can also become weeds themselves, so plant at your own risk!). In areas where Creeping Charlie has become established, try removing plants by hand. This is the control method of choice in vegetable or flower gardens. Try to pull the weed without breaking it and over time it may give up.
However, this may not be a viable option in heavily infested areas, as the extensive spreading stems of creeping Charlie can be difficult to completely remove. If you have mats of weed, smother with newspaper or tarp. Once plants are pulled, make sure to dispose of the plants in such a way that they cannot re-root.
Borax, once used for organic control, is not recommended for creeping Charlie (or other broadleaf weed) control. It does not provide long-term control of creeping Charlie, and can injure turf and other plants, causing stunting and yellowing.
Often, herbicide applications are a necessary last resort. Consult your local garden center or cooperative extension for the appropriate herbicides in your local area.
More on Weeding
To learn more about combating common garden weeds, see Weed Control Techniques, as well as our mulching guide.
10 weeds that are probably growing wild in your garden
For a proud few weeks, I carefully tended to what I thought were burgeoning broad beans. That was until I realised my ‘broad beans’ were growing everywhere (including in gutters and between paving stones), not looking very vegetable-like and in fact not broad beans at all.
For many gardeners, this would be blindingly, embarrassingly obvious, but for a keen amateur desperately trying to cultivate their first ever garden, it was just a bit sad.
But as millions more British adults are flexing their green fingered skills, according to new research. And despite this gardening enthusiasm, nearly two thirds admit they often struggle to tell the difference between plants and weeds. Almost nine in 10 believe a bluebell to be a plant, although it’s most commonly described as a weed as it spreads across gardens with ease and three quarters say their general garden knowledge is average to very poor.
So what other weeds are out there masquerading as plants? What other ‘flowers’ am I dutifully watering, unaware they’re a weed silently plotting their big border coup?
Clovers are important wild flowers, good for bees and grazing animals and they also improve the soil by ‘fixing’ nitrogen from air. However in gardens as opposed to on farms they can often be weed that spreads in thick mats in beds and borders and can infiltrate lawns. In lawns they are hard to remove but that does not necessarily matter.
Unacceptable as they may be in fine or sports turf (they make the short grass slippery) they can benefit more modest lawns by their drought resistance and absence of need for fertiliser. Lawn weedkillers often have some effect but feeding the grass with fertiliser can squeeze out the clovers.
Daisies are unacceptable on the finest lawns, but in more utilitarian turf they add a cheerful note and are beloved by children (and insects) and most people are happy enough to refrain from persecuting them. Lawn weedkillers generally see them off when they are too numerous to excise with an old knife.
Being robust survivors, oxalis occupy suitable spots in gardens but often in places nothing else will grow – waste areas and cracked paving for example. They make a cheerful summer groundcover, resembling the ‘shamrock’.
Unfortunately they have to be ‘managed’ as an acceptable groundcover or they can soon be a tenacious occupier of borders and lawns. Persistent, thorough cultivation over a period of months can remove them but often only an application of glyphosate-based weedkiller (Roundup, for example) followed by reseeding of lawn and replanting of borders is the only realistic remedy.
Widely sold as bedding plants, Forget-me-nots set abundant seed and come up all over the garden. Avoid this by disposing of all plants before they set seed. Self-sown ones sound enticing but they are usually rather ordinary and often heavily infected with powdery mildew. It’s best to buy better forms from the garden centre.
‘Willing but not invasive’ sums up the aquilegia – well, not usually invasive anyway. Self-sown aquilegia have a lot of charm for the ‘cottage garden’ type environment. If they don’t please you, pull them up and don’t let them set seed in future.
6. Slender speedwell
Pretty ivy-like foliage and blue flowers belie a persistent almost-impossible-to-control lawn weed. Prevention is best as weedkillers are none too effective against it. But having said that, it is usually an acceptable component of many workaday lawns, and lifting them with the lawn rake before mowing provides sufficient control.
Foxgloves are delightful citizens of shady glades and often seed well. Many gardeners report though that no matter how often you spread foxglove seed, they seldom come up where you want them – therefore you should change plans to accommodate any serendipitous if inconvenient foxgloves.
If there are too many, just remove some with an old knife or hand fork to give the remainder space to thrive. Be aware that foxgloves are potentially harmful and gloves should be worn when handling them and care should be taken that pets do not have access to uprooted plants.
8. Birds-foot trefoil
Like clovers, birds-foot trefoil is an important wild flower, good for bees and grazing animals and they also improve the soil. However in gardens as opposed to on farms they can often be a persistent lawn weed. Lawn weedkillers often have some effect but feeding the grass with fertiliser can squeeze out the trefoil.
Children love bindweed – the flowers can be popped form their stalk in a most satisfying way, but gardeners baulk when this weed gets a grip. Its fleshy white roots have amazing powers of recovery not matter how zealous the gardener is in treating the shoots and digging out the weeds.
A ‘fallow’ period is often the only answer removing desirable garden plants to holding pots and then spending a summer digging out or spraying off any sign of the weed.
Iconic wildflowers can be weeds as well. In the wrong place the native bluebell is incredibly deeply embedded in the soil and can take years to eliminate by careful digging. Its glossy foliage sheds weedkiller sprays although this can be overcome to some extent by bruising the leaves by trampling or bashing with the back of the spade.
Weeds vs. Flowers: What’s the Difference?
For the novice gardener, the difference between a weed and a flower might be nothing more than whether or not the plant is wanted in the garden. With that basic distinction, many plants that are actually defined as weeds find their place in gardens because they have a flowery appearance. On the other hand, many weeds torment flower beds and removing them is an annoying chore for many a gardener. From a more scientific perspective, however, weeds aren’t all that bad. Here is a basic guide to identifying these plants in your home garden:
Weeds often spread quickly, but do not cause a threat to native plants in the area. Therefore, weeds are not necessarily invasive plants. Even though some weedy plants won’t necessarily disrupt your flower bed, they can take away from the aesthetic you’re trying to present. Weedy plants can be divided into three main categories: broadleaf weeds, lawn weeds and grass-like weeds. Common weeds include crabgrass, poison ivy and prickly lettuce.
Invasive plants, all of which are weeds, are the real headache for gardeners. An invasive species can quickly spread, dominate the landscape and harm native species of plants in the area. Invasive plants are particularly hard to kill because they can grow rapidly, produce many seeds, disperse seeds over a wide geographical area, have a lack of natural predators and germinate quickly, according to the Chicago Tribune. These plants can be a challenge for the average gardener, causing the continual need to clean up flower beds. Invasive plants can be nearly impossible to contain. Examples of invasive species include buckthorn, honeysuckle and hogweed.
Flowers are, of course, desirable in your garden. Also known as the bloom or blossom of a plant, flowers are the reproductive center of the overall organism. A garden is a celebrated center for flowers, but remember that some weeds flower as well. Dandelions and sowthistles are two of the most common types of these weeds. For some, these weedy flowers might not make a difference to the overall appearance of the garden, but they can take resources away from your other plants. Eliminating all weeds from your lawn and garden is the best way to make sure your desired plant life stays healthy. Wildflowers are also at times mistaken for weeds. Accounts of the rarity of wildflowers varies, so research the native flowers in your lawn or garden to make sure it is not endangered in the area before killing it. Endangered flowers are often listed by state.
Weeds are often a sign that something is wrong in the soil, such as over-acidity or uneven watering. Use the weeds in your garden to identify any problems in the soil that can easily be fixed. Your lawn or garden might just need to be fertilized. However, enriching the soil can be challenging. If needed, herbicides can be found in any neighborhood garden center, but be careful when spraying weeds to isolate the area. Herbicides can have a harmful effect on other plants in your garden. To avoid hurting your flowers, there’s always the old fashioned method of weeding by hand. Digging out weeds by the roots will ensure the undesired plant does not return. When removing weeds by hand remember to wear gloves, as many of these plants are poisonous or can cause an itch.
The best method for preventing weeds is maintaining a dense and healthy lawn. Make sure to properly take care of your soil to keep away these pesky plants.
Growing up, I felt certain that grass and most trees did not have flowers. They just had leaves and seeds — that was all I could see, anyway.
It wasn’t until college that my eyes were opened. Not only do all trees except conifers and tree ferns have flowers, so do all grasses. All of them. You may have suspected this if you have allergies, since grass pollen is a common allergen. But where are the flowers? What do they look like?
The reason I had failed to notice grass flowers is that they look pretty much like grass seeds most of the year. The only visible indicator that they are in bloom — extended flower parts called stamens and stigmas — are small and fleeting, usually lasting only a few days each. You have to be vigilant to see them in action. But if those of you in the Northern Hemisphere keep a look out right now, you may catch grass flowers in bloom.
For example, a few days ago I stumbled upon this while on a walk:
Here is a closeup. The salmon orange objects are the pollen-filled stamens drooping from the dry, spikelike flowers. The cottony fuzz is cottonwood seed dander that blew onto the plant, not a part of the grass.
(c) Jennifer Frazer
When the stamens are ripe, the orange anthers, or pollen sacs, will split open and the pollen will blow away in the wind. If a grain of pollen is very lucky, it will land on a stigma — or female receptacle — of the same grass species.
Stigmas, like stamens, need to extend from the flower. Here is an early 20th-century illustration of a grass flower showing how beautifully sculpted they can be. These look like the bushy antennae of some exotic moth, and have obviously maximized their surface area to up their chances of grabbing the right pollen:
Flower of Lolium perenne. CC-by-3.0 Andreas Plank. Click image for source.
Flowers initially evolved to attract pollinators that would improve the chances of the right pollen meeting the right stigma (wind being capricious). But since grass flowers reverted to a wind-pollinated state — the likely ancestral state of flowering plants — they understandably underwent some pretty radical flower evolution to readapt them to the wind-borne habit.
Grass flowers are, in fact, so specialized and different from other flowers that they have generated their own fascinating vocabulary. Where are the petals? you may wonder. Gone. Instead, there are a whole series of nested “bracts”, the botanical term for plant scales evolved from leaves that surround a flower but did not evolve from true petals.
Grass bracts and other flower parts bear a host of delicious names: glume, palea, and lemma, to name a few. The long pointy extensions that makes heads of wheat prickly are called “awns”. The palea and lemma enclose an individual grass flower. The glumes enclose a small collection of flowers called a spikelet. Here is how this is configured on a wheat plant (which, like all major grains, is a grass):
“En Anatomia” by Aelwyn – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Since grass flowers do not depend on pollinators, they don’t invest much in marketing: they’re drab, dry, and non-descript. This is also the situation of conifer trees (with their drab, woody cones), and so in a way you could think of grasses as the whales of the wind-pollinated plant world, and conifers the fish.
Still, ephemeral anthers may still retain the bright colors of their pollen, itself colored by the sunscreen that protects pollen grains from UV light on their extended air travels.
Here are a few more blooming grasses letting their stamens hang loose. This one is meadow foxtail (which is, in spite of its name, a grass):
“Alopecurus pratensis Grote vossenstaart“. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
This little grass with fuzzy green and purple flowers appears to be sprouting tiny white anthers.
“Tragus roxburghii W IMG 1725” by J.M.Garg – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Finally, these anthers are sunshine yellow. Note the prominent spiky awns.
“Grassflowers” by Hardyplants at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Nomarcland using CommonsHelper.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Angiosperms – First Plants with Flowers
We asked it before. What would give you an advantage if you were a plant? You have a vascular system to transport nutrients. You have seeds for reproduction that allow your babies to spread out in new areas. What next? Flowers! Flowers are the most recent evolutionary advantage for plants.
Looking Good for the Birds and Bugs
When we talked about gymnosperms, we spoke of seeds. That was a big advantage. The angiosperms took it one step further. They not only have seeds, but they also have flowers. What kind of an advantage is that? Many angiosperm species use wind for pollination the way that gymnosperms do. What if you didn’t need to rely on the wind to spread your pollen around anymore? What if another creature could do it for you? Maybe an insect? Sounds like a new advantage.
Those specialized flowers are able to attract organisms to help pollinate and distribute seeds. Another cool advantage is the fruit/seed packaging. Would you rather eat a pine cone or an apple? A lot of animals would go for the apple. When they do, they are able to spread the seeds across wide areas after the animal poops out the seeds.
Some Withy One Cotyledon
There are two kinds of seeds in the angiosperms, monocots and dicots. Monocot is short for monocotyledon. A cotyledon is the seed leaf. When you are a monocot, your seed only has one package of food. “Mono” means one or a single cotyledon. Monocots are made up of simple flowering plants like grasses, corn, palm trees, and lilies. Two of the characteristics of monocots are that their flowers have petals in numbers of three and their leaves are made of long strands. Think of the leaves of grass or a palm frond.
And Some with Two
The other kind of plant in the flowering plant world is called a dicot. Dicot is short for dicotyledon. “Di” means two or a double cotyledon. These plants have seeds that have two cotyledons, two seed leaves of food for the embryo. Most of the flowers you see every day are dicots. They have flowers with petals in numbers of four and five. They also have really complex leaves with veins all over, not long like monocots. Some examples of dicots are roses, sunflowers, cacti, apple, and cherry plants.
► Or search the sites…
Celebrating Wildflowers (Nat’l Forest Service Video)
Wikipedia (Flowering Plants):
Exploring Nature Science Education Resource:
Flowering Plant Reproduction:
Flower can take many different forms and can be very simple or very complex. In general, they are made up of rings of leaf-like structures that sit on a receptacle.
The first ring is made up of the sepals, which are often green and cover and protect the flower before it blooms.
Inside the sepals, the next ring is made up of petals. They are usually large, colorful and showy to attract pollinators.
Then comes a ring of stamen – the male part of the flower that produces pollen.
Each stamen is made up of a long, thin filament topped with a pollen-covered anther. It is in the anther where the microspores develop into pollen grains. The pollen is then transport by wind or animal pollinators to the female parts of the flower (or other flowers).
The stamens generally encircle the female part of the flower – the pistil. The pistil has 3 parts.
The stigma is the sticky tip where pollen grains stick.
The ovary is at the base of the pistil and contains the ovules.
The style is the thin stalk that connects the stigma down to the ovary.
After the pollen grains land on the stigma, they grow pollen tubes down the style into the ovule. They each release two sperm into the ovule. One fertilizes the egg and the other fuses with other the divided polar nuclei to form the food for the developing seed, called endosperm.
This double fertilization allows flowering plants to produce seed that contain the embryo, food and a protective seed coat. The wall of the ovary then develops into a fruit that surrounds the seeds – the so-called covered seeds of the angiosperm. The fruit protects the seeds and attracts animals that will carry the seeds away to grow elsewhere (seed dispersal).
Plant Reproduction – A General Explanation
Plant life cycles are more complex than animal life cycles. In animals, we get half our hereditary material (genes) from our mother and half from our father. The one-cell egg and one-cell sperm each contain half, so are said to be haploid. It isnt until the egg is fertilized by the sperm that it becomes diploid – containing a whole set of genetic information.
Plants have both a haploid and diploid phase of reproduction, which are both multi-cellular. In the life cycle of a plant, they go back and forth between these two phases. This is called alternation of generations. The two phases of reproduction are called the sporophyte and the gametophyte.
- In nonvascular plants (mosses) the gametophyte generation is the phase we see as the plant in the forest.
- In vascular plants (flowering plants and conifers) the sporophyte generation is the phase we see.
Vascular plants are adapted for life on dry land with seeds protected from drying out by a seed coat. They also have ways to collect water (roots) and food (leaves) and move it through the plant (xylem and phloem).
The gametophyte generation forms the gametes (sperm and egg) that are haploid (n) (with only half the genetic material). During fertilization (pollination), they fuse together and form a diploid (2n) plant with its full compliment of genes. This is the sporophyte generation. Summary: The gametophyte generation is haploid and the sporophyte generation is diploid.