What are those purple weeds in my yard?

Controlling Wild Violet Weeds in the Lawn

Wild violets are very tough plants that tolerate drought. But the ideal condition for them is moist soil, which this year’s above average rainfall has provided. This has resulted in vigorous growth and spreading of this weed.

In spring, wild violets produce their well-known purple (or sometimes white, bicolored or speckled) flowers, which are often mowed off. But in summer violets can produce a different type of self-pollinating flower that stays below the leaves (or even underground) and produces seeds that are dropped in the surrounding area. These flowers will not be mowed off, allowing for a large amount of seeds to be spread. They also spread by underground stems. Using these two methods, they can eventually create dense colonies.

Wild violets can be controlled, but it does take some effort and repeat treatment. Fall is the ideal time to control wild violets as they will more readily move herbicides into the root system as they prepare for winter.

Due to their fleshy, energy storing roots, any non-selective herbicide you use must be systemic. Glyphosate (Roundup®) will work but may take 2-3 applications a few weeks apart. Non-selective herbicides will also kill any plant they contact, including grass, so protect surrounding areas with a shield of cardboard or use a brush to apply only to the violets.

Selective broadleaf weed herbicides must list wild violet on the label to be effective. Bonide Chickweed Clover& Oxalis Killer is an option, or a product containing dicamba and triclopyr, but again it may take several applications to completely eradicate established plants.

Non-selective herbicides will work, including Roundup and organic herbicides, but it takes repeated treatment to gain control as the roots can be difficult to kill.

After the existing plants in your lawn are controlled, you will need to use a pre-emergent herbicide in spring & fall to prevent the many seeds the violets have already spread from sprouting. Further suppression is gained by maintaining a thick, healthy lawn that prevents weeds from becoming established.

By George Weigel/The Patriot-News

Q: Purple weeds are growing EVERYWHERE in my lawn. This is the first year I have ever noticed them. Can you tell me more about this plant as I have heard other people commenting on it as well.

A: You’re most likely seeing henbit, which is a common weed that blooms purple in April into May and invades both lawns and garden beds. It’s a winter annual weed, which means it sprouts from seed in cool weather. This year it was popping up in January already.

A good way to ID this plant (besides the flowers) is to check the stem. It’s square. The leaves also kind of wrap around the stem in what’s called a “whorl,” then there’s bare stem, then another whorl and so on up to the flowers at the top. It’s a lamium family plant, if you care.
As a young annual that doesn’t have the deep roots of a perennial weed, henbit is fairly easy to yank out. Do it ASAP because when the flowers mature, they spew seed for the next generation of henbit babies. Each plant can produce 200 seeds.

For chemical people, a granular weed and feed product over the lawn should knock out the bulk of this weed. Or you can spot-spray them with a liquid broad-leaf weed control formulated for use in lawns.

Have you noticed the abundance of a small purple flower all around Shreveport and in everyone’s lawn this year? Some have small patches while other yards have been overrun with the pesky weed, so what is it. Well it is a combination of 2 plants – henbit, and purple dead nettle. In this article I will give you all the information you need to know about these two weeds and everything you need to know to prevent them.

This photo was taken shortly after I wrote this blog. Henbit in a Natchitoches crop.

Henbit

-Also called “Giraffe head.”

-Germinates in the fall and grows throughout the fall and winter time. In Louisiana it is usually visible by December or January in most residential lawns.

-Look similar to an orchid. Purple colored flowers bloom. No hair, looks glossy.

-Leaves and flowers grow in whirls around the stem.

-Henbit’s flower has a long tube portion when fully open.

-The stem is purple throughout.

-I have heard this plant called chick weed but it is not, Chickweed has a white flower. These two species do have a similar growing pattern as they both grow in the fall and winter months, but die off in the spring and summer.

Purple Dead Nettle

-Often confused with the henbit.

-Germinates in the fall and grows throughout the fall and winter time. In Louisiana it is usually visible by December or January in most residential lawns.

-Has a heart shaped leaf.

-The upper leaves turn to a purplish / maroon color.

-Has a signature square stem.

-Has a hairy stem and leaves.

-These two plants like to intermingle so you may have them both in your lawn.

*Both plants are members of the mint family though they don’t smell minty. These are completely edible for humans and don’t have any toxic look alike plants so go ahead and eat it! It does give horses, sheep and cattle the “staggers” though. Eating can promote healthy joints and muscles, and can encourage detox. These can also be used as fever reducers!

Purple Dead Nettle in a Broadmoor Lawn.

Henbit & Dead Nettle Prevention

-To quickly improve the look of the Lawn simply mow regularly even through the winter to cut the weeds back making it less visible.

-Crowd out the weed by regularly feeding your lawn, and re-seeding.

-Mow your lawn at proper height. Cut the grass as high as possible during the grow season to allow a deeper root system to promote a healthier lawn and further smother out, not just henbit, but most other weeds also.

-Use pre-emergents in the fall to eliminate the weed before it germinates. We usually do this in October-November.

-If have a small patch in your yard and prefer not to use chemicals it is possible to pull these weeds by hand, just make sure you pull the entire root out as well!

Read further: Henbit is also making it difficult for corn, soybean, and cotton farmers in Louisiana during this time of the year. Farmers have been using glysophate to kill the weeds on the past but in the later years the weed has become more and more resistant to the poison, resulting in the use of more toxic chemicals such as 2,4-D to kill these winter weeds before the crop is planted in spring. See the interesting LSU Agg article here.

Conclusion

Now that the plant has flowered it is harder to get rid of but the good news is this weed will be gone as soon as the temperatures start to to rise in the Spring and Summer season. The bad news is that it will then have even more seeds in the ground underneath ready to begin the process all over again next year. If you would like to start a plan to get rid of it before next year contact us today and we will begin a personalized treatment for your lawn!

How can I really get rid of henbit?

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Henbit Control: How To Get Rid of Henbit

Henbit is a fairly common weed in the U.S. that can be found just about anywhere. The life cycle of the weed consists of Henbit germinating in spring and summer in regions with cool summers, then blooming during winter down in the warmer south.

Henbit plants die out around the start beginning of summer due to the high temperatures. Henbit can quickly invade thin lawns where there is sufficient moisture in the soil, especially in shaded areas.

If you are having a problem with Henbit on your lawn, our DIY Henbit treatment guide can help. The instructions below were compiled by our lawn care experts and will show you how to properly kill Henbit and ensure it doesn’t return.

Identification

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) is a weed that is lightly hairy and grows annually in the wintertime and has greenish to purplish colored stems that are square-shaped. Their leaves are heart-shaped with rounded ends. Henbit is named as such because they are edible and hens, in particular, like to eat it.

Henbit plants have a fibrous root system and can grow up to 16 to 18 inches tall. Henbit is particularly easy to ID due to its unique flowers which are usually reddish-purple in color with darkened spots on their lower petals.

Henbit can easily be confused with other plants such as Purple Deadnettle and for good reason because they are both part of the mint family— lamina. The difference is that Henbit flowers are a darker colored purple when they bloom.

Use the description above and the images to help you to properly identify henbit. If you’re having trouble, contact us and send us a photo of your weed and we will identify it for you and suggest treatment options.

Inspection

When to Inspect

Henbit is a winter annual weed so it will start to grow near the end of summer or in the fall. After overwintering, Henbit reaches its maturity during the cooler spring months. If you first discover them in the spring it may be too late to treat them which unfortunately is the time when they are noticed. In the fall, they are very small and tend to slip under the radar.

What to Look For

If you have Henbit growing on your lawn, they are hard to miss because their purple flowers are a dead giveaway. Henbit also likes to grow in areas where there is a disturbance, either via foot traffic, poor fertilization or watering in the area.

Treatment

Since Henbit is a winter annual it is suggested to apply broadleaf weed killer in the fall when the plants are young and tiny and thus more susceptible to chemical applications. Our go-to product to control Henbit is a 2 4-D Amine, which is labeled for Henbit and is selective so it will only target Henbit and spare your desired grasses.

Step 1: Mix and Apply 2,4-D Amine

Measure the square footage of the treatment area to determine how much 2,4-D you will need. 2,4-D Amine should be mixed with a gallon of water at the rate of 0.75 to 1 fl. oz. (1-1/2 to 2 Tablespoons) per 1,000 square feet. Mixing 2 4-D with a surfactant like Alligare 90 will help the product to stick better to the weed and make the herbicide work more effectively.

For example, if you have a 2,000 sq. ft. area to treat, you will need to mix 1.5 to 2 fl. oz. in 2 gallons of water. Once you have made your measurements and calculated how much 2,4-D you need, mix the product and surfactant with the appropriate amount of water in a handheld or backpack sprayer. Shake the sprayer to ensure the solution is well-mixed and then you’re ready to spray.

When applying, change the nozzle setting to a fan nozzle so it will spray a fine mist on the plant and get an even coating on the Henbit

If you missed the window to apply herbicides at the end of fall, there is another opportunity later in the winter on a warmer day. Spray them before they have matured and started blooming. If you have a warm-season grass like Buffalo grass or Bermudagrass you can apply a herbicide and kill the weed and not hurt the ground during the time of the year when grass is dormant (December, January, Early-February or mid-March).

Step 2: Reapply As Needed

If a second application is needed, apply the herbicide in spot treatments. Repeated applications of a three-way herbicide should be spaced according to label directions (normally every 7 to 10 days). Be careful applying in the heat and just spot treat the area so you don’t burn your grass.

Prevention

WIth Henbit being a winter annual it can be more tricky to control. Pre-emergent herbicides, like Nitrophos Barricade, have proven to be the best method of prevention and the spread of Henbit can be reduced by spreading mulch around. As always, the best defense against Henbit making a comeback on your landscape in the future is to grow a thick, nutrient-rich lawn so weeds do not have any room to grow. Maintain a good lawn maintenance schedule for your particular grass type and keep up with watering, mowing and fertilizing.

Key Takeaways

  • Henbit is a common annual weed that sprouts in the fall and sets seed in the spring. This weed can be challenging to remove from your lawn.
  • Our top recommendation for treating Henbit is the use of a three-way herbicide with Dicamba such as 2 4-D Amine. This product is non-selective and will not harm the desired grasses, only the Henbit.
  • A pre-emergent herbicide like Nitrophos Barricade can be applied to your lawn in the early fall before the Henbit has sprouted to prevent its seeds from growing.

How to Control Henbit

Posted
May 12, 2016

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) is a broadleaf weed that appears in shady spots on your lawn. This annual weed grows during the autumn, flowers in late spring, and is identifiable by its pink or purple tube-shaped flowers, hairless square stems, and palmately veined leaves. Standing at about 16 inches in height at its maturity, henbit grows up to 16 inches tall. Keeping henbit under control involves acting quickly once it’s spotted as well as taking preventative measures before it pops up. Read on to learn more about keeping henbit off of your property.

First Things First: Maintain a Healthy Lawn

A well-maintained lawn can suppress the growth of weeds like henbit. Some points to remember:

  • Keep your soil consistently moist.
  • Mow on a regular basis to keep the turf dense.
  • Fertilize with every two months during the growing season.

Control Henbit with Herbicides

Pre-emergent: stop henbit from growing by applying a pre-emergent herbicide in the early fall. Herbicides create a chemical barrier that stops henbit seedlings from sprouting. Just apply half an inch of water (unless rain is predicted) to the herbicide to activate the formula.

Selective: by choosing a product formulated specifically for broadleaf weeds, a selective herbicide can be used to treat henbit in the springtime. These formulas are designed to attack the weed without destroying your grass. On a dry day, apply the herbicide before the henbit has the chance to flower and follow up with water to activate the formula.

Manual Henbit Removal

Manually removing henbit from a garden can be time-consuming, pain-in-the-back work, but it is effective if you’re dealing with a smaller invasion.

  • Hand weed: before henbit begins to flower, remove the plant from moist soil. Do this by pulling the plant by the base in a smooth motion that brings up the roots with it.
  • Mulch: apply a layer of organic mulch over the soil to prevent henbit plants from sprouting and reapply as necessary. Landscape fabric works as well, topped by mulch–either organic or inorganic (pebbles, for example).

Sometimes, effectively attacking this stubborn weed requires professional assistance. Call us today at 614-808-4446 for assistance in treating your lawn for henbit and other unwanted weeds.

Lawn Weed ID and Management

Back to Lawn Problems

Before attempting to manage lawn weeds, identify them first by using the images below or submit your question and digital photos to Ask an Expert.

Why Do Weeds Appear in Lawns?

Improper mowing practices, frequent, shallow watering, not fertilizing correctly, compacted soil, poor soil conditions, and bare spots. These factors contribute to the decline of the grass allowing weeds to move in.

Resources

  • Tips for Lawn Weed Prevention and Management
  • Conditions that Favor Lawn Weed Growth
  • Lawn Herbicides
  • Glyphosate (Roundup®) Information and Alternatives for Weed Management

Broadleaf Winter Annual Weeds

Seeds germinate from late summer through fall. Weeds overwinter and continue to grow in early spring. Treat with a broadleaf postemergent herbicide applied when the weeds are actively growing in the spring. The exception is chickweed which can be prevented with a preemergent applied in early September before it germinates. However, you would then not be able to sow grass seed.


Chickweed

Deadnettle

Hairy bittercress

Henbit

Knawel

Shepherd’s purse
(photo U. Mass Amherst)

Speedwell (Veronica)

Broadleaf Summer Annual Weeds

Seeds begin to germinate as soils begin to warm up in early spring and continue to germinate throughout the growing season. Annual weeds complete their entire life cycle in a single growing season. However, some of these weeds can also be perennials or biennials. Treat with a broadleaf postemergent herbicide applied when the weed is actively growing.

Black medic

Carpetweed Common lespedeza
Knotweed

Mallow

Prostrate spurge (photo
Jack Harper Penn. State)

Purslane

Broadleaf Perennial Weeds

Perennials are persistent from year to year. They reproduce by seed and also by vegetative means. This is the largest group of weeds. They range from weeds that are easy to eliminate, to some of the most difficult to control. Treat with a broadleaf postemergent herbicide applied when the weed is actively growing. For difficult to manage weeds, like creeping Charlie and Indian strawberry, a spring and fall application of an herbicide is recommended. A fall herbicide application can be effective because at that time of year, what is applied to the leaves will be translocated to the root system.

Broadleaf & curly dock

Broadleaf plantain

Buttercup (bulbous)

Common cinquefoil

Dandelion

Ground ivy (Creeping
Charlie)

Indian mock strawberry

Mouse-ear chickweed

Oxalis (woodsorrel)

Sheep or red sorrel

White clover

Wild garlic and wild onion
Wild violet Yarrow

Grassy Winter Annual Weeds

Seeds germinate in late summer to early September. Prevent with a preemergent herbicide applied in early September before the seeds germinate.

Annual bluegrass

Grassy Summer Annual Weeds

Seed germination begins in early to mid-spring, when soil temperatures have risen to 55° – 60° F. for about a week. In Central Maryland; this is typically mid-March through mid-April. Seeds continue to germinate in the summer, and plants are killed by the first frost. Prevent with a preemergent herbicide applied prior to seed germination. for information on using corn gluten as a preemergent herbicide.

Crabgrass

Goosegrass

Japanese stiltgrass **
Invasive

Grassy Perennial Weeds/Sedges

Are some of the most difficult weeds to control in a lawn. There are very few selective herbicides labeled to manage these types of weeds.

Bermudagrass or wiregrass

Dallisgrass Nimblewill
Orchardgrass Quackgrass

(photo Perdue Un. Turf. Program)
Roughstalk bluegrass (Poa
trivialis)

Sedges

Kyllinga

Yellow Nutsedge

Moss

Is actually an
attractive groundcover
in areas where grass
does not grow well or planted as a
lawn alternative.

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Purple Deadnettle Control: Getting Rid Of Deadnettle Weeds

You don’t have to be a die-hard gardener to keep a great looking community of plans around your house. Many homeowners find a manicured and weed-free lawn to be just as pretty as any rose garden. When you’re maintaining a sea of grass, every plant that isn’t yours must be eradicated. Control of deadnettle is just one such task that turf keepers face year after year. It sounds tricky, but don’t fear! We’ve got some deadnettle weed management pointers to help you with this formidable foe.

What is Purple Deadnettle?

Purple deadnettle (Lamium purpureum) is a common annual weed that belongs to the mint family, which explains why it’s such a pest. Like other mints, purple deadnettle is an aggressive grower that spreads like wildfire anywhere it can get a foothold. You’ll recognize it and its cousin, henbit, by their distinctive square stems that hold up an umbrella of tiny flowers and small pointed leaves reaching up to an inch long.

Deadnettle Control

Getting rid of deadnettle weeds is much more challenging than dealing with many other annual weeds because they tend to go to seed before mowing season even begins. Couple that with the thousands of seeds each plant can release persisting in the soil for years, and you’ve got one durable weed on your hands. One or two purple deadnettle weeds popping up in the lawn can easily be plucked by hand and disposed of as soon as they appear, but a larger population requires a more complicated solution.

Growing a thick, healthy lawn is the first line of defense against these mint cousins, since the grass will easily out compete the weeds for nutrients and growing space. Consider planting a grass more compatible with the growing conditions if you’ve got a spot in the yard that’s plagued with these plants. Sometimes, the thick shade a tree casts or a low spot that catches water can make it difficult for the grass that lives on the rest of your flat, sunny lawn to grow – this is when you need a special grass blend. Check with your local nursery for grass seed better suited to these rough conditions.

Post-emergence herbicides that contain metsulfuron or trifloxysulfuron-sodium can be used against purple deadnettle erupting in Bermuda grass or zoysia grass, but pre-emergence herbicides are much safer for other grasses. Be sure to apply pre-emergence herbicides in the late fall or early winter, before the purple deadnettle starts to germinate.

Developing Your Spring Fertilization Program

Purple deadnettle can be differentiated from henbit by the shape of its leaves, which are triangular, while henbit’s are scalloped.
Photo: Caleb Odom

As the official start of spring inches closer, customers may be looking for any hint of color in the landscape that might indicate winter’s grasp is loosening.

What they’ll often see are swaths of purple of either henbit, purple deadnettle or both growing with exuberance if no steps are taken to control them.

What’s the difference?

Both henbit and purple deadnettle are winter annual weeds that germinate in the fall or winter and germinate during any warm weather that might occur during the winter. Mild winters can result in both henbit and purple deadnettle getting a head start on turfgrass.

Henbit has more tubular purple flowers and no petioles on its upper leaves.
Photo: Jill Odom

They grow and produce seeds in the early spring and will die off in the late spring and early summer as temperatures rise. They can be found growing in backyards, garden beds and fallow fields.

These two weeds prefer moist, nutrient-rich soil and will invade any areas where turfgrass is bare. They thrive in cool, spring weather and rain. Shade can encourage growth as well.

Like many plants considered weeds, henbit and purple deadnettle are actually a food source for pollinators. These two weeds provide pollen and nectar for honeybees and bumblebees in March and April. The seeds are also eaten by many species of birds.

Both henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) and purple deadnettle (Lamium purpureum) are part of the mint family, which is part of the reason why the two are often mistaken for the other.

To make things more confusing, the two weeds are often found growing together. Here is the breakdown of what sets them apart from each other.

Henbit produces purple tubular flowers at the end of its stems in small whorls. Henbit’s flowers are pink to purple with darker purple spots. Its leaves are scalloped and rounded. The lower leaves have petioles, but its upper leaves do not.

Purple deadnettle likewise produces purple flowers, but its flowers are winder than henbit’s and are a lighter purple. The leaves of purple deadnettle are triangular with petioles and the leaves tend to have purple coloring, especially closer to the top of the plant. The leaves overlap each other and are also a little fuzzier than henbit leaves.

How to control them

Henbit and purple deadnettle have a tendency to take over areas with sparse turfgrass.
Photo: Jill Odom

If your clients are having problems with either one or both of these weeds overrunning their yard, there are several different control methods to consider.

The first option is to focus on improving cultural practices. Maintaining a thick, health turf leaves very few bare spots for henbit or purple deadnettle to find a foothold.

“Thin turf caused by disease, voids left from summer weeds, small rodents such as moles or improper fertilizing or watering can all cause increased numbers of winter annual weeds,” the University of Kentucky Turf Program writes. “Practices to improve the health and density of the turfed area will reduce incidence of these two weeds.”

Good turfgrass practices include properly fertilizing, mowing at the proper height and irrigating. If your customer has bare patches in their lawn, it is best to consider seeding these areas in fall.

If there aren’t many of one of these weeds present, they can be hand-pulled or hoed out. This is viable at the beginning of an infestation or when the weeds are young. A 3-inch layer of mulch in a garden bed can prevent germination and the few weeds that do appear here can be hand weeded.

Control methods for both weeds works best in the fall before the seeds germinate.
Photo: Caleb Odom

As for chemical control methods, it depends on what season it is to know what chemicals should be applied.

When trying to prevent henbit or purple deadnettle from appearing in the first place, it is best to use a pre-emergent herbicide in the late summer/early fall before the seeds germinate.

If this window of opportunity is missed, a two-, three- or four-way post-emergence product should be applied with an active ingredient such as fluroxypyr, triclopyr or clopyralid. These applications are more effective when applied to immature, actively growing henbit or purple deadnettle in the fall.

For spring applications on mature weeds, more applications may be needed.

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