Broadleaf weeds are some of the most common problems for homeowners in the Salt Lake City area. Though some will be familiar with the term, there are many people who are not quite sure what broadleaf weeds are or why they are such a problem in lawns and gardens. That’s why Holmes Lawn & Pest is here to provide an overview of what you need to know about these pesky plants in your lawn!
What Are Broadleaf Weeds?
Broadleaf weeds are invasive plants that grow in most lawns and gardens throughout the Salt Lake City area. Like all lawn weeds, broadleaf weeds pop up where they are not wanted, and they steal nutrients in the soil from your desired grass in the lawn and/or plants in your garden. The most common example of a broadleaf weed is the dandelion, which most people are able to recognize by their bright yellow flowers. This is not uncommon for broadleaf weeds, as many of them do develop attractive flowers that brighten up the yard.
Unfortunately, unbeknownst to some homeowners, those flowers are often attached to very complex and aggressive root systems that damage the roots of healthy plants as the weeds spread their invasion. If these weeds are ignored, your lawn will become weak and discolored due to these harmful plants leaving few resources left for your grass. It is imperative that you know how to identify and deal with broadleaf weeds before it’s too late!
What Do Broadleaf Weeds Look Like?
As described in the section above, many broadleaf weeds are identifiable by the colorful flowers and delicate seed heads that start popping up across your lawn as temperatures rise. Though these are obvious and clear indicators of a potential broadleaf weed invasion, not all broadleaf weeds develop flowers. For those that don’t, you will need to look for the infamous wide leaves shared by all weeds in this category. As the name suggests, broadleaf weeds have much flatter and wider leaves than the grass blades that make up a lawn, and those leaves often appear waxy or fuzzy when compared to healthy blades of turfgrass or even other types of weeds. If you look closely, you will also see thin stems that grow upward or outward. Once you know what to look for in your yard, controlling a broadleaf weed invasion becomes much easier.
Key Characteristics Of Broadleaf Weeds:
- 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 by stolons that crawl across the top of your soil.
- Root systems often contain a 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 Do Broadleaf Weeds Grow?
What makes broadleaf weeds such a nuisance is that they can thrive in areas where healthier plants can not survive. They are often extremely drought-tolerant and can grow in any soil type, especially areas with disturbed or unbalanced soil. Broadleaf weeds love full-sun areas, but they can also find success in partial shade, which makes them a challenge to control. The lack of competition from other plants allows these weeds to thrive and spread quickly, but they can also grow in conditions that are favorable for plant life. Broadleaf weeds often develop in lawns or gardens that have high levels of nitrogen and moisture in the soil, meaning that even just a little excess or improper lawn care could welcome a broadleaf weed invasion. Due to their hardy and aggressive nature, other common sites of broadleaf weeds include the following:
- 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
The life cycle of a broadleaf weed begins with germination, which occurs when a seed finds itself in an area containing the right combination of temperature and moisture for that particular species. Once seeds germinate, they will produce the first set of leaves (known as cotyledons) and the root system will start to develop. A seedling will grow into a mature weed, producing stems and flowers as it grows. After flowering and pollination occur, viable seeds are produced that can be dispersed through various means, such as foot traffic, wind, animals, rainfall, and more. These new seeds will then restart the cycle by finding their way to suitable soil conditions for germination to occur once again.
Annual Broadleaf Weeds
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.
- Lamb’s quarters
- Spotted spurge
Biennial Broadleaf Weeds
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.
- Musk thistle
- Wild carrot
- Wild parsnip
Perennial Broadleaf Weeds
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. These types of broadleaf weeds are some of the most common in the Salt Lake area.
- White clover
- Field bindweed
How To Prevent Broadleaf Weeds
Stopping the spread of broadleaf weeds should start with preventive lawn care. There are a number of simple tasks you can do around the yard to make conditions unfavorable for these weeds. For example, proper mowing height and frequency (once per week) to create a dense lawn is essential for preventing weeds. Additionally, using the right amount of fertilizer without creating excessive nitrogen levels can help keep broadleaf weeds away. Aeration and overseeding are also great ways to prevent an invasion, as these tasks improve soil quality and add more healthy turfgrass in struggling areas.
Even with proper lawn care, however, most lawns and yards will deal with broadleaf weeds at some point through the season. When that happens, calling a lawn care specialist is the safest and most effective option, as many removal techniques can damage your lawn if you are inexperienced. If you need weed control services in the Salt Lake area, we hope you will call Holmes to save your lawn! In the meantime, we will leave you with the following tips to keep your lawn free of 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.