Lush Green Yard Care Blog

Everything You Need To Know About Broadleaf Weeds

Sow Thistles up against a wooden fence

Broadleaf weeds are an all-too-common problem for many homeowners and gardeners. These pesky plants can be difficult to identify and even more challenging to get rid of. In this article, we’ll dig deep down into broadleaf weeds, from identification tips to best practices for controlling them in your yard or garden. Whether you’re a beginner gardener or an experienced landscaper, by the end of this post, you should have everything you need to know about broadleaf weeds.

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Are Broadleaf Weeds Bad?

identifying lambs quarters

Yes, they are. In terms of lawn care, a broadleaf weed invasion is not something to take lightly. Weeds of any kind function primarily by stealing naturally occurring resources away from the grass and plants in your yard. The invasive and complex roots of broadleaf weeds are able to access any resources seeping into the soil before your lawn has a chance. To make matters worse, many broadleaf weeds thrive in environments with excess nitrogen and water, meaning that even fertilizing and properly caring for your lawn can spread an underlying invasion. Do not be fooled by their alluring flowers; ignoring broadleaf weeds in your lawn will quickly lead to patches of grass thinning out and becoming weaker.

Identifying Broadleaf Weeds

field bindweed with morning glory flowers

Identifying broadleaf weeds can be tricky, especially if they emerge in gardens and flower beds with similar looking plants. Luckily, there are a few common characteristics that make them easier to spot. Broadleaf weeds usually have wide, flat leaves (hence the name) that may be fuzzy or glossy in appearance. These leaves tend to grow low on the stem of the plant, and they may be sharply serrated, rounded, heart shaped, or any other shape you might expect a leaf to be. The stems of broadleaf weeds can reach anywhere from a few inches to several feet in height, depending on the species of broadleaf weeds. Stems may be smooth, but some types of these weeds include stems with a single line of hairs, though this is by no means a reliable indicator of a broadleaf weed. Due to the rapid growth rate of lawn weeds, you can expect their stems to be taller than those of healthy flowers and plants found in your yard.

The most reliable indicators are the netted veins across the broad leaves of the plant. Many types of broadleaf weeds have veins running all across them (resembling a net), which carry water and nutrients throughout the leaves, making them robust and intimidating. This is one of the many reasons broadleaf weeds are so formidable in your lawn or garden. Flowers and thorns develop on many types of broadleaf weeds, but this often makes people confuse them for lovely flowers in their yard… and broadleaf weeds are anything but lovely when it comes to lawn care!

What To Remember About Broadleaf Weeds:

dollarweed roots and stems
  • Leaves are known for their net-like veins and flat, wide blades that are often serrated or lobed.
  • Stems are typically slender and long, and many broadleaf weeds spread via stolons that crawl across the top of your soil.
  • Root systems often contain central taproot, fibrous roots and rhizomes near the soil surface, or a combination of both.
  • Flowers may be produced singularly, or they may be produced in clusters at the ends of stems.
  • Seed heads are typically (but not always) delicate and cotton- or oat-like in appearance, emerging after flowers bloom and fully mature.
  • They are dicots that have paired cotyledons, which are two seed leaves that usually appear during germination.

Where To Look For Broadleaf Weeds

matted chickweed

Broadleaf weeds can be found in many places. They are often seen in lawns, gardens, and even growing along the sides of roads. Broadleaf weeds need plenty of sun and water to grow, so they tend to do well in open areas that receive a good deal of watering or rainfall. Your lawn is certainly a good place to start looking for weeds to remove, but remember that many resilient broadleaf weeds can even grow in narrow sidewalk cracks. Once established and matured in cement cracks, a weed can easily spread its seeds all across your lawn, meaning even one broadleaf weed growing anywhere on your property can lead to a nasty invasion.

These types of weeds also love to take root in flower beds, gardens, tree rings, or anywhere else plants tend to congregate. These areas are the most difficult places to identify broadleaf weeds due to the flowers produced by a mature weed. For example, morning glory flowers are gorgeous additions to any garden or flower bed, but the dreaded field bindweed produces identical flowers that are very often misidentified as morning glories. When weeds like this go undetected, they will quickly drain the natural resources in the soil that your flowers need to survive.

Life Cycle Of Broadleaf Weeds

dandelion weed control
  • Annual Broadleaf Weeds can grow in either summer or winter, depending on the species. Summer annuals germinate in spring and mature/set seeds in summer to late fall, while winter annuals germinate in late summer or fall, go dormant over winter, and set seeds in early spring. As these plants live only 1 year, they do not develop overly complex root systems, making them easier to remove before maturing. (Examples include chickweed, lamb’s quarters, purslane, and spotted spurge.)
  • Biennial Broadleaf Weeds live for about 2 years, as the name would suggest. True biennial weeds develop only stems, leaves, and roots in the first year before going dormant over winter. The weeds will return to life in spring, and produce flowers and seed heads in their second year to spread the invasion before dying. (Examples include musk thistle, wild carrot, wild parsnip, and burdock.)
  • Perennial Broadleaf Weeds, unlike annuals and biennials, are more hardy and can return for several years if they are not removed. Different species can grow throughout various seasons and climate conditions, which makes them a much more formidable foe! Perennial weeds develop complex root systems and often develop seed heads, making the spread of these types of weeds twofold and much more difficult to control. (Examples include dandelion, violet, white clover, and field bindweed.)

Controlling Broadleaf Weeds

Yard Care Colorado

Preventing broadleaf weeds through proper lawn care and gardening practices is always the best way to maintain a healthy yard. Because of the varieties of these weeds and the aggressive ways they can spread, removing established weeds may be challenging. Mowing regularly and slightly higher than normal is a great way to keep your grass healthy while blocking sunlight from germinating weed seeds. Proper fertilization is also key throughout the growing season, but too much can produce excess nitrogen in the soil, which many weeds love!

If you’ve identified the presence of broadleaf weeds on your property, there are a few things you can do to remove them. However, attempting to removing broadleaf weeds can damage your lawn if you don’t know what you’re doing. Certain weed killers can not touch your grass without killing it, and hand-pulling roots improperly will just cause new weeds to sprout. Keep the following methods and tips in mind this season when you are treating your lawn for broadleaf weeds:

  • Hand-Pulling: Best for shallow roots. Be sure to pull firmly and steadily near the base of the plant, and do not leave any root or stem fragments behind.
  • Digging Roots: Best for deep taproots or fibrous roots. Use a gardening spade or other tool to dig under and around the soil containing the root system.
  • Applying Pre-Emergent: Best for seedlings in soil. If some weeds have emerged, others are likely waiting, and they can be blocked from emerging with preventive herbicides.
  • Applying Post-Emergent: Best for emerged, matted weeds. Use a selective weed killer (2, 4-D) directly on the emerged weed, but make sure you do not apply any to your grass. Or, call Lush Green Services today, and let us give you a lush, weed-free yard! 
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