Dandelions are among the very first plants you will see on your landscape after a frosty winter. They usually signify the coming of warm spring. When dandelions bloom, their bright yellow flowers and fluffy seed heads are irresistibly delightful. So, are dandelion weeds?
According to the Pennsylvania State University Extension, dandelions are perennial weeds and they can appear anywhere in your lawns, landscapes, flower beds, and nurseries.
Are dandelions weeds?
While not typically classified as weeds, dandelions can become invasive and difficult to control. Their ground-hugging stem and deep taproot anchorage give them an advantage over other weeds and even regular mowing won’t kill them.
Their parachute-like seed can travel even in a slight breeze, quickly expanding the weed territory.
Dandelions are incredibly hardy plants that will grow in most soil types. In lawns, you will get them in areas where grass cover is thin, in bare spots, and in compacted soils.
In fertile soil, the plant thrives quickly and can easily overtake your turf grass. This is one of the reasons why gardeners dread the sight of dandelions and quickly think of eradicating them.
Why dandelions are also beneficial
Before the era of well-manicured lawns and gardens, dandelions were and are still important plants to wildlife and humanity. In pre-historic days, grass in gardens was removed to pave way for dandelion growth and cultivation.
The following are reasons why dandelions are beneficial plants.
1. Food to humans and wildlife
Dandelions are edible from root to flowers and a very nutritious source of food for both humans and wildlife. Today in some communities, the leafy green shrub is used in salads and additions to stews and soups.
The roots can also be dried and used as an addition to coffee or be cooked like a turnip for use as a vegetable.
Bees, butterflies, and other pollinators rely on this flower for pollen and nectar. Dandelion seeds and leaves feed various species of birds, chipmunks, and other wildlife.
If you have chickens in your backyard, ensure you provide them with dandelion leaves as a nutritional boost.
2. Adds color and foliage to drab landscapes
Dandelions can effortlessly brighten up your dull landscape with their dense green leaves and bright yellow flowers. As soon as the frost ends, this smiling plant begins to dot your landscapes. Within a few weeks, your brown or gray landscape will all be coved in brilliant blooms of color and texture.
3. Dandelions enhance natural biodiversity
This plant attracts hundreds of insects and birds into an area. The coming of bees, butterflies, and birds will help in pollinating other plants including fruits, vegetables, and garden flowers which are very important to human beings and other lives in the ecosystem.
Hummingbirds and other species use dandelion down to line their nests. Many other insects and small animals also get shelter in the leaves of this amazing plant.
4. They aerate and improve soil condition
The strong taproots of dandelions push through hard and compacted soil to make it loose for microbial activity and proper flow of water, air, and nutrients. The plant also draws important minerals like calcium, iron, and potassium from deep down the earth into the leaves.
When the mineral-rich leaves of dandelions die and decompose, they nourish the soil. This is one of the reasons dandelion leaves make a great addition to a compost pile. Always turn the compost frequently so that heat can burn and kill the seed that would sprout after top-dressing your lawn or garden.
5. They prevent soil erosion
Dandelion roots firmly hold the soil together thus reducing the rate of soil erosion caused by wind or surface runoff. The plant also has broad leaves that grow faster to provide a natural mulch which helps in protecting the soil moisture and providing shade.
6. Dandelions have great medicinal value
For many years, various parts of the plant have been used to detoxify the body, settle stomach upsets, improve skin problems, and treat other various ailments like heartburn, constipation, and inflammation. This is one of the main reasons the plant was cultivated by ancient communities.
How to Get Rid of Dandelions
Getting rid of dandelions depends on their population and where they grow in your yard. Unlike other ways of killing weeds in lawns, the anatomy of a dandelion calls for a unique approach. The following are effective methods you can use:
Dig them out
You can uproot or dig out the few dandelions in your lawn. However, removing only the surface plant will not help. The plant will grow back from any remains of the root.
Water the soil to soften and use a weed knife or a dandelion digger to remove the whole plant. Cover any hole left with soil and if possible add grass seed to prevent other weeds from taking advantage of the bare patch.
Use a post-emergent herbicide to spot-treat the few dandelions in your lawn. A few herbicides will kill established dandelions to the root. Spot treat when the plants are still young – that is before their roots are fully deep into the soil.
Dousing dandelions with hot water is a more natural approach that can completely kill the weed. The high temperature naturally denatures the plant cells to the root. Use the hot water carefully or else you also burn your grass.
Treat the entire lawn
Apply a weed control treatment on your entire lawn to get rid of a large population of dandelions. Be sure to use a dandelion killer that won’t kill the grass. Carefully read and follow label instructions before use.
Apply a pre-emergent herbicide in the fall or early spring before the seeds germinate and sprout. A pre-emergent will not kill the existing weeds but will prevent new ones from growing. You may have to do a broad application of post-emergent herbicide in spring to completely get rid of dandelions in your lawn.
Healthy lawn maintenance practices are a great defense against dandelions and other weeds. Mow your lawn at an optimal height to encourage the thick growth of grass. Fertilize your lawn regularly to maintain a lush lawn. Remove any single or few dandelions in your lawn before they mature and produce seeds.
- University of California: Dandelions
- NEBRASKA EXTENSION: Dandelion Control