How to Kill Off Dandelions

If you’ve ruled out making wine out of dandelions or adding them to your salad, you’re no doubt looking for ways to get rid of the lawn weeds in your yard. While this isn’t an easy task, it is possible. We’ve rounded up a few options to help you get your yard dandelion-free.

The bright yellow, cheerful dandelion is a broadleaf perennial. When it invades your yard, you may feel anything but cheery. They get their name from the French “dent de lion.” It means “tooth of the lion,” and refers to the plant’s serrated green leaves. They’re native to Eurasia. European settlers introduced them to New England in the 1600s as a salad green. They’ve been here ever since, and if without weed control, they’ll take over your lawn and garden.

Dandelions have a thick taproot that grows vertically into the ground. They also self-pollinate when the yellow flower turns into a grey, fuzzy seed head. One gentle breeze (or helpful child blowing the seeds) later, the seeds land and produce a new crop of dandelions. Here’s a list of suggestions for killing dandelions.

6 Ways to Kill Dandelions

  1. Pull or dig them from the ground.
  2. Pour boiling water over them.
  3. Spray them with vinegar and water.
  4. Use herbicide.
  5. Use mulch.
  6. Raise chickens.

1. Pulling

Plucking weeds by hand isn’t easy, but it works. Credit: Lance Cpl. Nathan Knapke

The best way to kill dandelions is the old-fashioned way: pulling or digging them from the ground. When you mow the grass, it leaves the roots behind. The weeds grow back in a week or two, and you’re back to weeding. You’ll have a better chance of getting the entire taproot if you pick them within a few days after it rains. When the ground is wet, it’s easier to remove the whole plant. Make sure you bag them and get rid of them, so the seeds won’t regerminate.

2. Boiling Water

Pouring water over the dandelions is effective, but it could damage the grass and nearby plants. If you decide to use the boiling water method, pour the hot liquid over the head, stem, and root. Repeat twice a day until the entire plant has shriveled and died. Pull the dandelion, making sure to get all of the root. 

3. Vinegar

Using vinegar with 25% acetic acid also works, but again you risk killing the grass and other plants. Common household vinegar is about 5% acetic acid — the more-concentrated form is the one that actually kills plants. Spray the entire plant once a day, being careful not to spray the grass. Repeat the process until it’s dead. Pull the stem by hand, again making sure to get all of the roots. Another DIY remedy is to mix 1 tablespoon of liquid soap, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 1 quart vinegar. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and spray until you’ve covered all parts of the dandelion. Spray again if it hasn’t withered in about three hours.  

4. Herbicide 

Get a broadleaf herbicide (weed killer) that will kill dandelions and other broadleaf weeds. Follow the instructions carefully. Most broadleaf herbicides start working within a few days. Non-selective herbicides are another option, and they’re generally more effective. They’ll also kill the surrounding grass and other plants, so use them with caution. Pre-emergent herbicide can prevent dandelion seeds from germinating. For it to be effective, you must apply it in early fall and again in early spring. Once the seeds have germinated, it’s too late.

5. Mulch 

Mulch is another way to control dandelions and other perennial weeds. The University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Department suggests, “Mulching with landscape fabrics can be particularly effective for controlling seedlings, reducing the amount of light that is able to reach the soil. Use mulch in flowerbeds to smother existing weeds and prevent new ones from growing.”

6. Chickens

This farm to lawn idea can be relatively effective. Chickens love dandelions, and you’ll have fresh eggs to boot! The chickens won’t eat the dandelion roots, so this method won’t get rid of them permanently. Once the dandelions grow back, let the chickens chow down on them again. You won’t have dandelions, but the chickens may leave a bigger mess in your yard!

Regular lawn care and maintenance can help control dandelions from spreading. Mowing will kill dandelions before they can go to seed, preventing new growth. But your lawn mower can do only so much. Since the root is still in the ground, new plants will soon sprout. Leaving the clippings on the lawn after mowing can also help. The clippings act as a mulch and can keep seeds from germinating.

Once you’ve decided to battle dandelions, it’s going to take patience, time, and persistence to get rid of them. The best strategy is to stay on top of them before they turn from a yellow flower to a white puffball. 

Main image credit: Dandelions, Mike Mozart, CC by 2.0

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Written by Frank Naper

About Wikilawn

Wikilawn’s mission is to provide the best resources and information to help you enjoy your outdoor spaces the way you want. Whether you are a DIY, lawn-loving, gardening guru, or someone who wants help in picking a local lawn care professional, we can smooth your path to a beautiful backyard!

About Wikilawn

Wikilawn’s mission is to provide the best resources and information to help you enjoy your outdoor spaces the way you want. Whether you are a DIY, lawn-loving, gardening guru, or someone who wants help in picking a local lawn care professional, we can smooth your path to a beautiful backyard!

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