Everything You Need To Know About Broadleaf Weeds

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If having a healthy and attractive lawn is something you value as a homeowner in Nebraska, the last thing you want to see is a broadleaf weed invasion in your yard. Broadleaf weeds are notorious for their hardy nature and invasive root systems that steal nutrients away from your turfgrass and other healthy plants. As broadleaf weeds multiply and spread, your desired grass and plants will become weaker and sickly, which is why knowing how to properly identify and control broadleaf weeds is so important. Summit Lawns has put together this guide to broadleaf weeds to make sure your lawn and yard stay protected this season!

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Are Broadleaf Weeds Bad?

Sow Thistles up against a wooden fence

You may see a few bright dandelions or white clovers popping up in your lawn and think they are no big deal; you may even enjoy the bursts of color they add to a green lawn. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that even one broadleaf weed can quickly lead to a patchy and thin lawn. Weeds are defined as any plant that grows where it is not wanted, such as your lawn and gardens. Unlike the healthy plants in your yard, broadleaf weeds absorb a disproportionate amount of nutrients and moisture from the soil, leaving few resources left for the plants you actually want to see thrive. If left unchecked, one broadleaf weed will reproduce and rapidly spread across your property, so it is crucial that you know how to spot these weeds as early as possible.

What Do Broadleaf Weeds Look Like?

roots of weeds

The flowers produced by many broadleaf weeds make them easier to spot in a lawn, but knowing how to spot these weeds before they flower and develop seed heads is crucial to stopping the spread. These weeds usually have waxy or fuzzy surfaces, and they can range from a few inches tall to several feet in height. Though these wide and flat leaves are the most recognizable characteristic of broadleaf weeds, there are other key characteristics shared by many different weeds in this category. The list below is by no means a definitive guide to all broadleaf weeds, but any species of broadleaf weed will have at least one of these traits that help indicate the type of weed in your yard.

Key Characteristics Of Broadleaf Weeds:

  • Leaves are known for their net-like veins that transport nutrients, as well as their wide blades that are often serrated or lobed.
  • Stems are typically slender and long, and many broadleaf weeds spread by stolons that crawl across the top of your soil.
  • Root systems often contain a central taproot, tubers 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 (not all broadleaf weeds produce flowers).
  • 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 Find Broadleaf Weeds

matted chickweed

Broadleaf weeds 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. These types of weeds also love to take root in flower beds, 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.

Common Sites Of Broadleaf Weeds:

  • Roadsides
  • Sidewalk cracks
  • Disturbed soils
  • Compacted soils
  • Poorly draining lawns
  • Nutrient-dense gardens
  • Larger flower beds
  • Areas in full-to-partial sunlight

Life Cycle Of Broadleaf Weeds

dandelion weed control

Broadleaf weeds are annuals, biennials, and perennials that can complete their entire life cycle in one year or span across multiple years. Though the exact germination requirements for each weed species vary, even a single plant is capable of producing hundreds of seeds when conditions are favorable. Broadleaf weeds typically grow and reproduce quickly in the spring and summer months due to their fast rate of photosynthesis, which helps them store energy that will eventually be used for aggressive reproduction. Different types of broadleaf weeds, however, do grow at different times of the year, making the life cycle of a broadleaf weed differ from species to species.

Annual Broadleaf Weeds

identifying lambs quarters

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.

Common Examples:

  • Common chickweed
  • Lamb's quarters
  • Purslane
  • Spotted spurge

Biennial Broadleaf Weeds

identifying musk thistle

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. Some mature annuals behave as biennials by overwintering and living through 2 seasons, but this is dissimilar from the aforementioned life cycle of true biennial weeds.

Common Examples:

  • Musk thistle
  • Wild carrot
  • Wild parsnip
  • Burdock

Perennial Broadleaf Weeds

field bindweed with morning glory flowers

Perennial broadleaf weeds, unlike annuals, 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.

Common Examples:

  • Canada thistle
  • Dandelion
  • Field bindweed
  • White clover

Preventing & Removing Broadleaf Weeds

Summit Lawns employee Trimming some shrubs

Preventive maintenance is the best way to keep weeds out of your yard. For example, mowing your lawn an inch higher than usual can help block sunlight from weed seeds in the soil, and mulching over bare soil around your yard can prevent seedlings from ever emerging in the first place. Fertilizing your lawn is always a great way to improve soil quality, as long as you don't introduce too much nitrogen too quickly. Of course, some weeds will always find a way onto your lawn, which is especially true of broadleaf weeds since they are able to reproduce more easily than other types of weeds. When that happens, we hope you will call Summit Lawns for all your weed control needs in Nebraska. Until then, keep the following tips in mind when trying to remove broadleaf weeds this season.

Best Ways To Remove Broadleaf Weeds:

  • Hand-Pull: 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.
  • Dig 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.
  • Apply 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.
  • Apply 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.