When do dandelions grow?


Think about dandelion as more than just a weed, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The leaves of the dandelion plant are delicious and rich in nutrients, and even the roots of the dandelion plant can be roasted and made into a drink.

Dandelions are very hardy and can survive the hottest summers and the coldest winters. Plant the seeds in early spring, four to six weeks before the average date of last frost. Dandelions grow best in well-drained, fertile soil but do well in any soil anywhere. If you’re growing dandelions for their foliage only, they’ll tolerate soil in poorer physical condition. They prefer full sun but will do fine in partial shade. Plant seeds directly in the garden 1/4 inch deep in single rows or wide rows. Thin seedlings to 8 inches apart when they have produced their first true leaves.


Harvesting Dandelion

Harvest dandelion greens at your pleasure throughout the growing season. Harvest the roots in the fall of the second year. Pull the whole root from the ground or lift the roots with a fork to avoid breaking them.

The two most common varieties are Montmagny and Improved Thick-leaved.

Want more information about dandelion? Try:

  • Vegetable Recipes: Find delicious recipes that feature dandelion.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Grow a full harvest of great vegetables this year.
  • Gardening: We answer your questions about all things that come from the garden.

Dandelion Growing Info: How To Grow And Harvest Dandelions

We freely admit that it may be a little odd to have an article about how to grow dandelions. After all, most gardeners consider dandelions a weed and are looking for information on how to remove it from their garden. But, once you get to know a little more about this nutritious plant, you may find yourself also wondering how to grow and harvest dandelion plants for yourself.

Why You Should Be Growing Dandelion Greens

While dandelions can be a nuisance in the lawn, they are also a surprising source of nutrients. Dandelion greens contain vitamin C, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, thiamin, riboflavin, beta carotene and fiber. They are actually more nutritious than most of the fruits and vegetables you can buy in the grocery store.

It is also touted as being beneficial to your liver, kidneys, blood and digestion. Not to mention that it supposedly helps with acne, weight-loss, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It is nearly a perfect food.

How to Grow Dandelions

At a very basic level, you don’t need to do much to grow dandelions. Chances are there is a whole yard full of them near where you live, perhaps even right outside your door, but it’s likely that the dandelion plants growing in your lawn are Common Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale subsp. vulgare). This is the most common variety of dandelion, but there are thousands of varieties and cultivars to be found around the world. Common Dandelion has all the health benefits mentioned above, but they tend to be a bit more bitter than some of the other varieties of dandelion you can buy.

Some “gourmet” varieties of dandelion include:

  • French Dandelion a.k.a Vert de Montmagny Dandelion
  • Amélioré à Coeur Plein Dandelion
  • Pissenlit Coeur Plein Ameliore Dandelion
  • Improved Broad Leaved Dandelion
  • Arlington Dandelion
  • Improved Thick-Leaved Dandelion a.k.a Dandelion Ameliore

Dandelions are by nature a very bitter green, but there are steps you can take to reduce how bitter it is. First, grow a less bitter variety such as the ones listed above. The right variety can make dandelion greens taste much better than the wild variety growing in your yard.

Second, try growing dandelions in the shade. This will blanch the leaves some and will result in a less bitter leaf. Alternately, you can manually blanch the dandelion leaves by covering the plants a few days before you are ready to harvest.

The third thing you can do to reduce bitterness is to harvest dandelion leaves early. Young leaves will be less bitter than more mature leaves.

You can keep your dandelions from becoming invasive in your yard by either choosing a less invasive variety (yes, they exist) or by making sure that the plant never goes to seed and therefore cannot spread its seeds throughout the neighborhood.

Harvesting Dandelions

Much like other greens, dandelions can be harvested either as a “head” by removing the entire plant when mature (starting to flower) at harvest or as a leaf, which means that you would remove only some of the young leaves or the whole head when the plant is still young. Both ways are acceptable and which you choose will be based on your preference.

Another benefit of growing dandelions is the fact that it is a perennial. After you harvest the plant it will grow back the same season, year after year.

Never harvest dandelions from a location that is near a road or has been treated with pesticides or other chemicals.

Dandelion Information

Dandelion Habitat

Dandelions originated in Eurasia but have now become one of the most widespread wild plants in the world. They can be found in almost every climate except in polar or artic regions and in the driest deserts. The dandelion thrives in areas where there is a lot of nutritional soil. They also prefer moist areas in the cool seasons or temperate regions. The dandelion plant grows best in areas where there is lot of full direct sunlight and part shade.
Dandelions usuall grows in temperate regions of the world, in lawns, on roadsides, on disturbed banks and shores of water ways, and other areas with moist soils. There is also a high population of dandelions in areas such as burned forests, overgrazed ranges, avalanche areas, and marshy floodplains. Dandelion growth is distributed often in perennial crop fields (especially alfalfa), orchards, vineyards, turf, nursery crops, mountain meadows, rocky hillsides and pastures.
Dandelions actually thrive in areas where the soil is somewhat disturbed, such as parks, playground, construction sites, and of course, backyards. Dandelions are also extremely resiliant plants, often found growing in the most rugged or difficult terrain, and they have the ability to survive some very harsh conditions. Dandelions can even grow at extremely high elevations between 500 and 11,000 feet.

Dandelion Ecology

Dandelion Roots

For more information about the dandelion, check out the dandelion factoids section,
or explore some unique dandelion folklore, myths and legends.

Whole Story

It’s hard to believe there was a time in my life when I thought of dandelion greens as weeds! Clearly, I had never made a meal of them, nor had I read about or studied the many health benefits these common backyard plants confer. Growing up in the South, I learned to love just about any greens that were put on my plate, but I have to admit, I never saw a dandelion sitting there. As I got older and ventured into both the culinary and health fields, I learned to enjoy them in more ways than one. Did you know that the flower, leaves and root of the dandelion are all edible? Traditional people have used the whole plant for healing support for eons. A quick peruse around our stores will turn up dandelion root tea, dandelion tincture, dandelion capsules and tablets, and of course, dandelion greens. Renowned for supporting healthy liver function, you can find this wonderful plant in many combination herbal formulas as well. When it comes to good health and good taste, dandelion greens are a perfect choice providing calcium, iron, fiber, Vitamins A, E and K, and powerful antioxidants including beta Carotene and lutein. If you have never tasted dandelion leaves, you are in for a nice surprise but remember: Like many leafy greens, they can be a little bitter, but when properly prepared, you’ll be glad you tried them! (Try steaming them before sautéing for less of a bite.) Here are some delicious ways to start:

  • Purchase a blend of baby greens that contain dandelion; toss with your favorite dressing and enjoy.
  • Use it in salads in place of some of the other leafy greens. Try our delicious recipe for Butternut Squash and Kale Salad but be sure to use dandelion in place of some or all of the kale.
  • Sauté alone or with onions and garlic in olive oil or sesame oil; garnish with sesame seeds.
  • Chop the leaves and add to soups, stews, or a crockpot dish. Try this wonderful Seafood Soup with Kale and Potatoes, but use dandelion in place of the kale.
  • Chop the leaves and add to salads. Try this recipe for Dandelion Greens with Warm Balsamic Vinaigrette.
  • Add chopped leaves to pilaf mixes. Great with quinoa, wild or brown rice!
  • Try them with feta cheese, sliced red onions and currants or raisins.
  • Cook them with legumes. Be sure to use some dandelion in this recipe for Sauteed Greens with White Beans and Garlic.
  • Use them in place of lettuce on a sandwich.
  • Juice them…they make a great addition to your morning juice blend.
  • Here is a recipe for a Double Green Smoothie. Be sure to use some dandelion greens in place of some of the kale in the recipe.
  • Use them as a substitute for other leafy greens, in part, or all the way. This recipe for Baked Chicken with Spinach Pears and Blue Cheese is just dandy with dandelion greens and this recipe for Spinach and Arugula Stuffed Mushrooms is just as delicious with dandelion.
  • Try this recipe for Swiss Chard with Shallots, substituting dandelion for the chard.
  • Finely chop the leaves and steep in hot water for 10 minutes. Drain and enjoy a cup of dandelion leaf tea.

When purchasing dandelion greens, be sure to look for organic varieties. The plants should be a beautiful green shade, not browned, spoiled or wilted. And remember, they will have a bit of a bite, so go slow if you haven’t tried them before. Spring is the time to turn over a new leaf – a beautiful green, dandelion leaf – at its very best, most tender, and most delicious right now, in the early spring. Have you ever eaten dandelion greens? Do you have a favorite recipe? Let me know!

Dandelion Supplement

The dandelion plant is an herb even though many people think of it as a weed. What many people don’t know is that dandelions are full of vitamin A, B, C, and D. They are also full of iron, potassium and zinc. Dandelions have been used as both food and as medicine for years. Their greens are used for fresh salads and soups. They are often dried and ground down along with their roots to brew teas used as medicine. Wines are made from the bright yellow flowers of this plant. Native American people used dandelions as medicine. They were used in teas to treat kidney problems, skin problems, heartburn, and upset stomach and to reduce excess body fluid. The Chinese used dandelion to treat stomach problems, and breast problems, such as swelling and lack of milk flow. In Europe, dandelions were used to treat fever, boils, eye problems, diabetes, and diarrhea. Today, the roots are used primarily to boost appetite. Dandelion leaves are also still used to help rid the body of excess fluid. Although dandelion can be included as part of your diet, many people don’t like the idea of eating something they think is a weed. In addition, dandelions can be very bitter and many people don’t like their taste. Many people prefer to use a supplement in order to get the benefits of dandelions. Dietary supplements can help you get the health benefits of a type of food when you can’t or prefer not to eat it. Supplements can be vitamins, minerals, herbs or amino acids.

Selecting Dandelion Supplements

Walgreens has many different kinds of supplements to meet your needs. These include liquid forms, capsules, and tea bags. Review all of the options and choose one that appeals to you. You should always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before you begin taking a supplement. All supplements carry the risk of causing side effects. Talk about your past and present medical problems. Include all of your medicines, prescriptions, over the counter medications, and supplements. Your doctor or pharmacist can help you find the right dandelion supplement to meet your needs.

This summary is intended for general informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of purity, strength, or safety of the products. As a result, effects may vary. You should read product labels. In addition, if you are taking medications, herbs, or other supplements you should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before taking a supplement as supplements may interact with other medications, herbs, and nutritional products. If you have a medical condition, including if you are pregnant or nursing, you should speak to a qualified healthcare provider before taking a supplement. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Foraging for Dandelions

Growing up, we were told to eat our greens. While we may not have always enjoyed them, they do provide some great nutrition. And one of the most nutritious greens we can eat is found right in our yard – the notorious dandelion!

Now, before you think I am taking you too far out in the weeds, put down your weed killer and hear me out.

While most see dandelions as a nuisance that needs to meet the business end of our weed killer, they are a great source of nutrition and an excellent introduction to foraging. Dandelions are present in the U.S. because European settlers brought them here as a salad green. So instead of spraying it, pick it and eat it!

Today you can often find dandelion in several forms at organic grocery stores and some farmers markets. But instead of buying it, we can just harvest some as we chase turkeys this spring.

“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dandelion Benefits

  • Dandelions have countless health benefits and contain a treasure trove of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.
  • One half cup contains more calcium than a glass of milk.
  • One half cup has more iron than spinach.
  • One half cup contains 10 mg of Vitamin C.
  • Leaves contain more vitamin A than carrots. 55 mg of leaves contain 535% of daily value.
  • Very high in antioxidants and contain essential minerals including potassium, folic acid, magnesium, fiber.
  • Contain more beta-carotene than most fruits and vegetables.
  • High amount of lutein which is important in eye health.
  • Dandelions are a diuretic that can help to cleanse our body of toxins.
  • Dandelion has been documented as being used as a liver and blood cleanser as far back as the ancient Celts.
  • It is a mild laxative.

Foraging For Dandelions

Dandelions are a great introduction to foraging as they are very common and easily recognizable. Many foragers and herbalist consider it the safest plant to harvest.

Dandelions have a very unique look. Really no other plant or herb that resembles the dandelion. We are all familiar with the jagged leaves and bright yellow flowers that spring up in our yard. It’s name is derived from French – dents de loin – because the leaves resemble a lion’s teeth which helps with identification.

The leaves and the roots have a great capacity to collect toxins. The bad side is that if they have been sprayed or are close to a road, they can contain toxins and be very bitter. But on the upside, if you harvest dandelions from an unsprayed, unpolluted spot, they will absorb toxins in your body and help to detoxify and cleanse you.

The youngest leaves, those located closest to the inside, are the sweetest with the older outside leaves being the most bitter. The best leaves come from the plants that have not produced the bright yellow flower. They are best fresh but will keep for a couple days in the fridge. You can even eat them as soon as you pick them as long as they are in an unpolluted and unsprayed area.

A plant that has just produced a crown that is just about to bloom, pick it! Crowns are the sweetest part of the plant. The flowers are edible and pretty sweet but the green base can be very bitter, so it is important to separate the flower from the green base.

Roots are a little more difficult to harvest but can be used as a replacement for your morning cup of coffee.

Harvesting the root in the spring provides you with the most nutrition as the plant stores its minerals and vitamins in the root during the cold months and is found abundantly in the root in the spring.

To harvest the tops of dandelions use a knife to slice the plant a few inches below the top of the root. This will keep the leaves together in a cluster. Cut the flower just above the green base as the flower is sweet but the green base can be bitter. To harvest the root, use a small shovel to dig down around the deep running root.

As true gamekeepers, we need to cherish and even cultivate dandelions not only for our own personal health but for the health of the soil and wildlife. Many wildlife will utilize dandelions to help with sickness and to eliminate toxins. Dandelions have a strong deep taproot thus breaks up compacted soil and makes great pathways and perfect soil for earthworms. Dandelion root pulls up nutrients locked deep in the subsoil into its leaves.

Dandelion coffee recipes

Option 1

  1. Once you’ve dug up a fair-sized pile of dandelion roots, wash them in the sink or in a bucket of water. They’ll be full of dirt, so you’ll likely have to scrub them a few times to get all the dirt off.
  2. While you’re washing, preheat your oven to 250 degrees.
  3. Once the roots are clean, chop them into small chunks. Then put them in a bowl of water and scrub them one more time.
  4. Place the roots on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven to dry. Leave the oven door open slightly to let moisture escape. You’ll want to stir them frequently to make sure they’re drying evenly and they don’t burn. The drying process will take at least two hours. As the roots dry, they’ll shrink and turn to a pretty brown color.
  5. Once the roots are roasted, let them cool completely. Then, store them in a sealed glass mason jar.

To make the coffee, use 1 teaspoon of roots for every cup of water. You can put them in the coffee pot or put them in a tea infuser and add boiling water. In my opinion, adding hot milk takes away the slight bitterness and makes for a truly wonderful cup of dandelion coffee!
Option 2

  1. Using a small shovel dig up the long tuber and after washing the dirt off, just chop them into thin slices like a carrot. Dehydrate the root for about an hour. (You can skip this step if you do not have a dehydrator.)
  2. Chop the dandelion into small pieces and spread evenly on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Keep an eye on them as they should get brown and dried but not burn.
  4. Let cool and then grind into a powder.
  5. Spread the powder on the baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes at 350 degrees.

To make the coffee, place 6 tablespoons of grinds into 500 ml of boiling water. Let steep for 30 minutes. Strain or use a french press. Add a dollop of ghee or a spoonful of coconut oil.

It is caffeine free and contains more antioxidants and nutrients than regular coffee. It is bitterer than coffee tasting similar to a New Orleans style chicory coffee.

Dandy Dandelion

A hardy, cheery perennial, the dandelion arrives in early spring, thriving in wet or dry, shady or sunny locations (though it basks in the sun). You’ll find it gracing pastures, wastelands, and, of course, lawns. While its official Latin name is Taraxacum officinale — meaning “official remedy for disorders” — it also goes by Irish daisy, monk’s head, telltime, blowball, wild endive, and lion’s teeth (likely in reference to its long, deeply toothed leaves).

The dandelion’s hollow stalk supports a jaunty yellow flower that transforms — when no one’s looking, it seems — into a downy white seedhead, each containing its own tiny parachute to carry it into the wind for dispersal. (Make a wish before you blow!)

Despite its nasty reputation among lawn lovers, the dandelion is a hard working herb. It attracts ladybugs (and so decreases pesty aphids), aerates the soil, and provides early spring pollen. (In fact, dandelions were introduced to the Midwest in order to provide food for honeybees in the early spring.) The dandelion is nutrient rich and has been used medicinally for centuries. And it has cosmetic uses to boot. From its taproot to its blossom, the dandelion is a valuable herb.

Culinary Dandelion

There are so many fun and delicious ways to use every part of the dandelion plant! For example:

  • Include the fresh greens in salads or sandwiches, frittatas or omelets, pasta or grain dishes. Sauté them in olive oil with mushrooms and onions or add them to soups and stews. (They partner well with other greens like kale and baby lettuces.)
  • Create the perfect tonic tea. Use about 1 tablespoon of dried dandelion leaves per cup of water. Sweeten with honey, if you like.
  • Add the flowers to salads, or use them to make jelly, beer or wine. Steam them with other vegetables, or pickle them. (When preparing the flowers, avoid the green sepals at the base, which are bitter; stick with the yellow parts of the flower).
  • Fried dandelion blossoms are an easy-to-prepare delicacy: Simply dip each dandelion flower into a batter of egg and milk, then into a mixture of flour, salt, black pepper (and a favorite spice or two, if you like). Deep fry in hot oil until golden brown, then drain on paper towels.
  • Even the root (which can grow to ten inches) can be eaten — as a cooked vegetable in soups, for example. Or it can be roasted to make a rich, hot drink: Cut the root into small pieces, then roast in a pan until it’s dark and aromatic. Add about a teaspoon of the root to one cup of water and simmer for about 10 minutes. For a chai-type beverage, add spices like cloves, cardamom, star anise, and licorice root. Strain and serve with milk or cream and honey.
  • If you have some unripe fruit in the kitchen, simply place it in a paper bag with a few dandelion leaves and flowers. The dandelion will release ethylene gas that will help ripen the fruit.

Note: See Q&A below about eating the dandelions in your yard.

Cosmetic Dandelion

Dandelions are as useful externally as they are internally. Equally appropriate for dry or oily skin or hair, the herb is good at re-establishing equilibrium.

  • To make a dandelion facial mask, simply combine fresh, mashed dandelion leaves with egg white or yogurt. Or make a decoction (strong tea) of dandelion leaves and add it to the egg white or yogurt. (The decoction will make a runnier mask, but that’s okay.) Spread on clean face and lie down for 15 minutes. Rinse off and pat dry.
  • Treat yourself to a dandelion facial steam. Add a handful of dandelion flowers to a large bowl. Pour boiling water over the flowers. Lean over the bowl and, using a towel, form a tent over your head and the bowl. Steam for about 10 minutes. Rinse with warm then cool water and pat your face dry.
  • Add dandelion leaves and/or flowers to your bath; use a muslin bag or cheesecloth for easy removal. (Or simply add a strong dandelion tea to your bathwater.)
  • A dandelion herbal hair rinse is especially nice for light-colored hair. Combine 1 cup of dandelion flowers, 1 cup of chamomile flowers, and 1/2 cup lemon balm in a pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes, then cover and remove from heat. Let sit for about half an hour, then strain and cool. Use as a final rinse.

Ask the Experts

What nutrients does dandelion offer?

Dandelions are loaded with nourishment! In fact, according to the USDA, dandelions are among the top four green vegetables in nutritional value. The plant is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, iron, potassium, and manganese. And it’s a good source of folate, magnesium, phosphorus and copper. Little wonder the early American settlers toted dandelions along to the New World!

Can I eat the dandelions in my yard?

Sure, with a few caveats. You’ll want to harvest dandelions from areas that aren’t visited by pets and that haven’t been sprayed with pesticides (you’ll know this about your own yard, but don’t assume roadsides or neighbor’s lawns are chemical free if you’re inclined to roam). For the best taste, harvest the fresh leaves just as they emerge in the spring. (Fall is another good time, because the bitterness dissipates after frost.) Wash the herb well to remove any white sap (which is bitter). While you can pick leaves and roots any time of the day, dandelion flowers are best harvested mid-morning, after the dew has evaporated.

The Surprising Truth about Dandelions

In most parts of the country as your lawn greens, it also yellows—yellows with dandelions. For such a beautiful flower, dandelions can cause a lot of dread.

But did you know that your lawn’s enemy is your health’s ally?

Dandelions are a great source of nutrition, but few people eat them.

If your lawn is organic you can control dandelions and eat healthy, all in one meal.

What are the Health Benefits of Dandelions?

Many people know that dandelions are great for detoxing, but that is just the beginning. The roots are a fantastic liver tonic. The leaves are a digestive bitter and support your circulatory and lymph systems. The flowers are great for your skin. Even the sticky sap is useful—it can erase warts, corns and calluses.

The entire plant is packed with nutrition. Dandelions are high in vitamins A, B, C and K. They contain a lot of minerals, including calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese.

Controlling your blood sugar is easy with a dandelion meal. They are a low calorie, high fiber and high protein food.

Dandelions are also recommended for many health conditions. People with bone health concerns, liver disease, diabetes, urinary disorders, skin care, acne, weight loss, cancer, jaundice, gall bladder issues, anemia and high blood pressure all benefit from eating dandelions. The nutrients found in dandelion greens may help reduce the risk of cancer, multiple sclerosis, cataracts and stroke. And on top of all of these benefits, dandelions are anti-inflammatory and may offer benefits to people with inflammatory conditions.

How do I Gather Dandelions?

It’s not hard to find dandelions in the wild since you can find them in lawns all over the country. Your biggest challenge will be finding dandelions that haven’t been sprayed. Make sure you know the history of your dandelion patch.

Harvest time depends on which parts of the plant you intend to eat. Springtime is the best time to gather dandelion greens. Tender young leaves are the least bitter; look in shady areas for the tenderest plants. The best time to harvest is after a series of cool rains, when the nights are still cool and before the plant blooms. You can gather roots any time of year, but typically people harvest them in fall. And, of course, gather the flowers while they are blooming and look fresh and yellow. Be quick because the time from flower to seed is less
than 2 weeks.

Since harvesting dandelions is dirty business, the easiest way to eat dandelions is to buy them at a store. Many specialty grocery stores now carry dandelion greens.

How Do You Eat Dandelions?

There are many ways to eat dandelions and the internet is full of recipes. The entire plant is edible—leaves, flowers and roots. As a rule of thumb, use the leaves the way you cook with spinach and the roots the way you cook with burdock.

The flowers and roots can be both meal and beverage. You can boil and stir-fry both the flowers and roots as a cooked vegetable. And you can make wine with the flowers and roast the roots to make a coffee substitute.

The leaves are the most common part to eat. You can eat dandelion leaves both cooked and raw. In addition to steaming, boiling or stir-frying the leaves, you can throw them in a soup or combine them with kale, lettuce or cabbage. Use the raw greens in salads or on sandwiches. Dry the greens and use them for an herbal infusion. You can even juice the leaves or add them to a smoothie.

Surprise your family and friends by gathering dandelion greens and making a pesto. Serve the pesto with some crusty bread, delicious cheese and fresh spring-time fruits. Enjoy your meal while looking at your weed-free lawn.

Dandelion Pesto


  • 12 ounces washed and cleaned dandelion leaves
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 6 tablespoons pine nuts,
  • lightly toasted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 1/2 ounces Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated


  1. Put one-third of the dandelion greens in a food processor or blender with the olive oil and chop for a minute. Add the remaining dandelion greens in two batches until they’re finely chopped.
  2. Add the garlic, pine nuts, salt and Parmesan, and process until everything is a smooth puree.
  3. Taste; add more salt if necessary. Thin with olive oil or water if needed.

Storage: The pesto can be refrigerated in a jar for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 2 months. To prevent the top from darkening pour a thin layer of olive oil on top.

From: David Lebovitz www.davidlebovitz.com/2011/03/dandelion-pesto-recipe/

Weed of the Week: Dandelion

June 7, 2016

Type: Dandelion is a well-known, pesky broadleaf perennial weed that can push out plants and grass all while sucking nutrients and sapping water from the surrounding area. This weed can range from 12 inches tall to 6-16 inches wide and has a fleshy taproot that can extend up to 3 feet deep. A single plant produces about 12,000-15,000 seeds that can be dispersed for miles, making it a difficult weed to manage!

How to identify: A dandelion has yellow flowers that mature into puffballs. This common lawn weed has deeply notched leaves and has a strong taproot (a straight tapering root growing vertically downward and forming the center from which subsidiary rootlets spring).

Where it grows: This weed grows in lawns and gardens in mainly sunlit areas.

Growing Season: May-October. Seed germination occurs throughout the growing season at or near the soil surface. Seeds germinate at soil temperatures of 50°F but around 77°F, germination can increase. The seedling stage can last 8-15 weeks depending on growing conditions and soil temperature. Although dandelion will slow its growth during cooler seasons, it has the ability to survive cold weather.

How to Manage: Use a post-emergence herbicide (Herbicide that can be applied today) and/or, dig them out by hand and shovel (remember taproots run deep and if not removed all the way, dandelions will return). Mulching can also help prevent dandelion growth in garden. Unfortunately, because dandelion seeds can travel miles through the wind, permanent removal of it is nearly impossible so all approaches of removal must be repeated yearly. NOTE: It is important to prevent the weed from maturing to seed (white puffballs). Once the puffball appears the number of dandelions in your yard will multiply when the seeds are dispersed. Overall, the best prevention method for dandelion and any invasive weed is to maintain healthy, dense turf with a strong root system by adopting a regular lawn care routine including fertilization, soil amendments, proper mowing and watering as well as aeration and thatch management practices.

If all else fails, pick yourself one of the white feathery dandelions and give it a good hard breath and wish those pesky dandelions away!
(Turfcare is not responsible for the results if this method is chosen.)

To view our post-emergent products, download our Product Catalog for more information.

for more information on locating your local distributor to order.

Keywords: weed of the week

Flowers That Look Like Dandelions

Dandelions image by Annika from Fotolia.com

The common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a perennial plant–most would say a weed–with long, deeply toothed green leaves growing in a low rosette around tall, hollow milky stems which bear a shaggy, cheery yellow flower head. Dandelion flowers must be popular in the plant kingdom, as the flowers of numerous other plant species strive their best to look just like dandelions, even turning into a white puff of drifting seed heads at maturity.


Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) bears its flowers on stems ranging 3 to 18 inches tall and blooms at about the same time as dandelions. The coltsfoot flower is about the same size and happy shade of golden yellow as the dandelion; however, on closer inspection, the coltsfoot flower has central disc flowers surrounded by the outer ray flowers most typical of the composite flower varieties, while dandelions lack the inner disc flowers and consist solely of a ring of outer ray flowers. The other distinct difference between coltsfoot and dandelions is the leaves–coltsfoot blooms before the leaves emerge from the ground, and when the leaves arrive, they are large and flat, with a shape resembling a horse’s hoof, according to the Purdue University Horticulture Department description. Coltsfoot also loves damp soil and thrives in ditches and along brooks, while dandelions tend to prefer good drainage.

Smooth Hawksbeard

The smooth hawksbeard (Crepis capillaris) grows throughout most of the southern and western United States. The Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide maintains that smooth hawksbeard primarily lives in pastures and hayfields, as well as along roadsides. Its sunshine-yellow flowers sport only ray flowers, like the configuration of the common dandelion. However, smooth hawksbeard tends to grow in a multi-stemmed clump. Its flowers are distinctly dandelion-like, and its leaves are thin and deeply pointed, but its growing habit differs considerably from that of the dandelion. The leaves clasp the stems, which are more upright than the dandelion rosette form, and the flowers bloom in an open spray on multiple thin, dark, branching stems.

Annual Sowthistle

The annual sowthistle (Sonchus oleraceus) is a widespread annual plant which grows throughout the western United States, but is particularly abundant in California’s Central Valley and coastal areas, where it thrives year-round, according to the U.C. Davis Integrated Pest Management Program Weed Gallery. The plant bears spiny, pointed leaves, somewhat dandelion-like in shape, but considerably larger, with the plant form reaching about 4 feet tall. The plant also bears flat, clasping leaf rings around stem branching points. Its flowers are golden dandelion-like composite flowers with no visible disc flowers, but they grow in clusters on the tip of the central, main stem of the plant and flower a bit later in the summer than do dandelions.


Sunflower Family (Asteraceae)

Other Names:

Origin and Distribution:

The native range of common catsear includes much of Europe, Asia, and North Africa. Following its introduction, the plant became established throughout the eastern half of North America as well as in the Pacific Northwest. According to current reports, it occurs in a dozen northeastern counties of Ohio and is scattered throughout the southern half of the state. Common catsear is a weed of lawns, golf courses, pastures, and waste places. It tends to be more common on sandy or gravely soils.

Plant Description:

Common catsear is a perennial with a growth form similar to that of dandelion; its leaves form a basal rosette and it produces yellow head-like flowers at the tips of upright stems. Leaves of common catsear are typically lance-shaped with irregular rounded lobes and hairs on both the upper and lower surfaces. Emerging from the rosette are wiry hairless stems that usually have leaf-like bracts and branches. At the tips of the branches are 1-inch-wide flower heads composed of many tubular, yellow flowers. Common catsear reproduces by seeds and vegetatively by way of buds formed on the crown that can produce new plants if separated.

  • Root System:

    Common catsear has a deep, fibrous root system that includes enlarged roots resembling taproots.

  • Seedlings and Shoots:

    Cotyledons are spoon shaped and have a rough surface. Young seedlings resemble dandelions except they have thick, rough-surfaced leaves with wavy margins. Seedlings form a rosette of basal leaves.

  • Stems:

    Stems are 8 to 16 inches tall, stiff, wiry, smooth, and often branched. Located at the tip of each branch is a solitary flower head. There may be a few scattered, small, leaf-like bracts upon the stem. Stems contain a milky sap.

  • Leaves:

    Leaves formed in a basal rosette are lance-shaped with irregular, rounded lobes. The upper and lower leaf surfaces and margins are covered with coarse hairs.

  • Flowers:

    A single, dandelion-like flower head is produced at the end of each branch. The yellow flower heads are flat and 3/4 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Each flower head is composed of many individual petal-like flowers.

  • Fruits and Seeds:

    The one-seeded, spindle-shaped fruits are 1/5 inch long, narrow, red-brown, and have a long ridge and an elongated beak making up at least half their length. Located at the end of the beak is a persistent, feathery, white plume of hairs (pappus).

Similar Species:

Common catsear and dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) are easily confused due to similarities in their flowers and leaves. However, dandelion leaves are hairless and have pointed lobes and its flowering stems do not branch, lack bracts, and are often tinged with red. Yellow hawkweed (Hieracium pratense) produces hairy leaves in a rosette and yellow flowers similar to those of common catsear. However, hawkweed leaves lack lobes and its stems are bristly while common catsear leaves have irregularly lobed edges and its stems are smooth. All three of the above-mentioned species exude a milky sap when cut or bruised.


Although flowers form anytime from May until autumn, it is most common to see common catsear blooming after September. The plant grows rapidly and is capable of producing mature flowering plants from seeds in about two months. Plants produce, on average, 20 flower heads during a single season with 40 or more seeds in each head. Because of its palatability, nutrient content, and productivity, common catsear is a valued grassland plant in New Zealand and Australia. Sheep, pigs, and some wildlife often prefer the plant over more traditional pasture species. Common catsear can be controlled by hand digging in early spring. On large areas, common catsear can be managed by plowing and cultivating for one to two years. Rapid spread of the weed was noticed in the 1960’s, possibly because it was tolerant to some of the more common herbicides used on lawns. However, there are selective herbicides available that will control common catsear.


Potentially allergenic compounds are associated with this genus.

Facts and Folklore:

  • There are reports of pigs eating the long fleshy roots and therefore, ‘Hypochoeris’ was derived from the Greek word for a ‘young pig’.

  • The common name comes from the hairy leaf surface that was thought to resemble a cat’s ear. Otherwise, the plant bears little resemblance to felines.

False Dandelions For Lunch

Pyrrhopappus carolinianus, note dark flects

Pyrrhopappus, Hypochoeris: Dandelion Impostors

Most people don’t notice False Dandelions because they have the real thing. But here in the South where real dandelions are scarce and scraggly, False Dandelions stands out. Actually, they are found most of the Eastern US, and up the west coast. Let’s look at several of them starting with the Pyrrhopappus carolinianus.

Pyrrhopappus carolinianus

P. carolinianus is not mentioned in any edible plant book I have. I learned about it from Dick Deuerling, author of “Florida’s Incredible Wild Edibles” which is still in print, the profits from which go to non-profit plant causes.

Dick, however, had a slightly different take on the False Dandelion. While ethnobotanical research shows the Indians ate the roots, Dick preferred the leaves, raw in salads or cooked. The roots, by the way, are said to be much sweeter when picked in autumn. I use them just like Dandelion leaves, that is, young and tender leaves in a salad, older leaves boiled as a green.

Pyrrhopappus (pye-roh-PAP-pus) means “fire fluff” a reference to the floating dandelion-like seed. Carolinianus (kair-oh-lin-ee-AY-nus) means “of Carolina” which was an old way of saying middle America.

Hypochoeris radicata

The second false dandelion is better known and more wide-spread. The Hypochoeris radicata (hye-poe-KÊ-ris rad-i-KAY-ta) is also called by several other names usually involving “cat’s ear” such as “Smooth Cat’s Ear” or “Spotted Cat’s Ear.” See pictures at right.

Unlike the previous “false dandelion” the radicata is an import from Europe. It is still very popular wild weed in France, Spain, Italy and Greece. It is one of only 17 plants that are still gathered by farming communities in those countries. You can find it in grassy areas and road sides. They can tolerate dry ground but like moist soil as well. In very wet conditions the rosette can grow in to a clump.

Hypochoeris glabra

H. Radicata might be an acquired taste. Cooking reduces the bitterness but there is always left over bitterness, and the leaves are hairy as well. They can go in go raw in salads, or cooked in soups and also steam well. The “cat’s ear” part refers to the bitter hairy leaves. Radicata means “rooted.” Hypochoeris is translated to mean “for the hogs” because pigs like the roots. Another Hypochoeris, the glabra, right, is less bitter and is often eaten raw. Glabra means smooth, read hairless.

Agoseris aurantiaca

Lastly a fourth false dandelion, also called the Mountain Dandelion, is the Agoseris aurantiaca, (a-go-SER-iss aw-ran-ti-AYE-kuh) below, found mostly in the western half of north America. It’s leaves were eaten by the Indians. Agoseris combines two Greek words, aego (goat) and seris (the genus name for a lettuce-like plant) and aurantiaca which means orange-red color.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION: On first glance you’ll think P. carolinianus is a dandelion but the flower’s rays are more sparse and you will see dark anthers in the middle area of the flower. The stem is thinner and stronger than a dandelion, and the leaves skinnier and far less intended. They tend to curl laterally towards the center.

H. radicata: first leaves are club-shaped, round end, and hairless, mature leaves grow to eight inches long. Leaves arranged in a basal rosette, hairy, toothed or irregularly lobed edges. Basal leaves obovate in shape and to 8 inches long and 1.5 inches wide with toothed edges that are deeply wavy. The basal leaves are very hairy and sessile (without stalks.) Leaves grow smaller up the stem, have a milk sap, leafless flower stalks with two to seven flowers on each stalk. H. glabra is similar to radicata but hairless.

Agoseris aurantiaca: Perennial with basal patch of long leaves, variable in shape but 15 inches in length, no stem, several flowers on tall peduncles up to two feet tall. Flower is ray florets with squared, toothed tips, deep orange to red, occasionally yellow, seed has dandelion-like tuff attached.

TIME OF YEAR: Same time as dandelions, greens spring and summer, roots in fall.

ENVIRONMENT: Same environment as dandelions, lawns, fields, common areas, sidewalk cracks. Prefers moist soil.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: P. carolinianus: Young leaves raw in salads, older leaves boiled like dandelions for a potherb. Autumn roots boiled or roasted. H. radicata, young leaves raw or cooked. H. glabra, leaves cooked or raw. Flower and buds of all can be used like dandelions. A. aurantiaca, cooked leaves

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *