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How to Get Rid of Dandelions (Tried and Tested Methods)

Dandelions in Lawn

Young children are filled with glee at the sight of the beautiful, bright yellow flowers that dandelions produce in early spring. Their heads then dry out, and parachute-like seeds form that look like fluffy seed heads. The wind, and sometimes kids, can then easily spread these seeds.

It’s a perennial weed, meaning it comes back each year and has characteristic fleshy taproots. These can be 6 to 18 inches long but can grow even deeper into the soil if it hasn’t been dealt with quickly enough.

Since dandelion seeds are spread by wind, no lawn or planting bed is safe from a dandelion seed invasion. Learning how to tackle these pesky weeds is a great skill every gardener should know more about.

This complete guide will teach you all of that and more, including how to get rid of them effectively and also stop them from reseeding once you’ve handled them.

What are Dandelions?

Dandelions are a type of weed known as a broadleaf perennial, and they are known for being hard to get rid of if not addressed quickly.

It’s a type of perennial weed with a thick, vertically rising taproot. Its English name is derived from its French name, ‘dent de lion,’ which translates to lion’s tooth. It got its name from the highly serrated leaves that develop on the plant.

Once a dandelion plant has successfully established its 10-inch-long taproot, the weed will continue to return year after year and spread its spores throughout your lawn indefinitely. The solution to complete eradication lies in that long root.

If you want to get rid of dandelion for good, you must destroy or remove the entire taproot, or the undesirable sprout will return and become an even bigger problem to deal with.

How to Get Rid of Dandelions Effectively

Learning how to get rid of dandelions effectively is a great skill every gardener should have. Here are all the top ways you can get rid of them effectively in your yard:

Dig Them Up

Hand-pulling dandelions after digging them up is, by far, one of the most effective ways of getting rid of them.

To try this method, use a watering can to dampen the soil surrounding the dandelion, then wait a few minutes for the moisture to sink in. Moist soil makes it easier to pull any plant from the ground.

Next, make two or three cuts with a weeding knife along the dandelion’s base. Wiggle the knife to move the soil away from the plant’s root.

Finally, gently tug on the base of the plant with your fingers and pull it. In the event that it continues to feel as though it is stuck, work the weeding knife around it some more, and then carefully pull out the entire taproot together with the dandelion.

Use Acetic Acid

Once you’ve removed the root as deeply as you can you’ll be left with a small hole where the plant was removed. This is when you need some vinegar.

Unfortunately, household vinegar only contains 5% acetic acid making it not strong enough to kill these pesky weeds. Horticultural vinegar, on the other hand, is much stronger and commonly used as a weed killer.

But since it’s so strong, you need to be careful while using it and it’s highly recommended to wear gloves and other protective equipment to keep yourself safe.

If you have a lot of dandelions, this will take some time. Don’t make it too much work. Mark off a space and leave the rest for another day. This is a task you want to finish. If the dandelions are starting to flower — and this happens quickly in the spring — have your kids pick the blossoms before they can go to seed.

Use Boiling Water

Using boiling water is another incredibly easy way to get rid of dandelions. Water and an electric or stovetop kettle are all you need with this method.

Immediately after bringing the water to a boil, pour it over the dandelions’ leaves, making sure that enough water gets to the roots. You’ll see that the leaves have turned brown in two to four hours. Then you can pull the entire plant out, along with its taproot.

Flaming Dandelions

You can burn your dandelions too! The technical term for this method is ‘flaming.’ What you are really doing is essentially using a weed torch to kill your dandelions.

This technique is typically used to manage bunched patches of broadleaf weeds. Flaming is the practice of burning immature seedlings that are germinating in the ground by sweeping a hot propane torch over the area.

This method is less successful against fully grown dandelion plants with a well-established root system and works best on seedlings that are concentrated in particular areas.

It should be mentioned that this technique has a considerable danger due to the use of fire on grass. The process does have effects on things other than the weeds. For example, because it needs heat to kill the weeds, it can burn your grass.

Consider Reseeding

A tough but successful method of eliminating dandelions and stopping their regrowth is to lay down new grass seed or sod. Zoysia grass, Bermuda grass, tall fescue grass, and perennial ryegrass are all viable options, depending on where you live.

These varieties tend to create thick, dense lawns that naturally choke off weeds, but only if they are maintained regularly. Regular lawn care and, if necessary, reseeding once a year will keep the grass thick enough to keep dandelions and other weeds at bay.

Use Your Lawn Mower

A big part of dandelion prevention is taking out time for lawn care to have a healthy lawn. When you have dandelions in your yard, periodic mowing can help prevent their spread.

The white puffy seed heads won’t form if the yellow heads on the stem are cut off, which will stop the spread of more dandelions in your yard. If you mow your lawn now, you’ll have to deal with weeds less next year.

Try a Pre-Emergent

In order to stop weeds from sprouting in your lawn or flowerbed, you can use a chemical called a pre-emergent. For a pre-emergent to be effective against dandelions, it needs to be applied in late winter.

The pre-emergent will stop the dandelion seeds from growing, but it will only work if it is applied before the seeds have a chance to grow and germinate.

Among all the methods for dandelion control, the most important thing to remember is that you must prevent weeds from producing seeds.

As soon as the seed heads appear, the number of dandelions in your yard and your surroundings will surge.

How to Kill Dandelions with Herbicides

Another method you can use that we felt deserved its own section is herbicides. You can use them to carefully target and kill the dandelion root.

Herbicides come in two main types that can be used on dandelions. The first is a selective broadleaf herbicide. Broadleaf herbicides are only effective against broadleaf weeds, such as dandelions. They are good for getting rid of dandelions in lawns because they only kill the weeds and not the grass.

There is also the option of using a non-selective herbicide, which is also effective against dandelion. Since it’s non-selective, this means it will damage and kill any plant with which it comes into contact. Nonselective herbicides are helpful for spot dandelion removal, such as in flower beds and pathways.

When trying to get rid of dandelion with a herbicide, it is always best to use the herbicide before the dandelion flowers. Once dandelion flowers have bloomed, the plant is significantly more resistant to herbicides, and broadleaf or non-selective herbicides are less effective.

The fall is the best time to spray dandelions because this is the time of year when plants are naturally moving nutrients from their leaves to their roots in preparation for the upcoming winter in the form of winter storage.

Applying weed killer in the fall allows it to travel directly to the roots, which assists in getting rid of dandelions for good.

However, always remember not to use any lawn feed products to kill dandelions in the fall, though, because your lawn won’t be able to use the fertilizer if it goes dormant for the winter. Instead, any weeds that are present absorb the fertilizer and grow stronger as a result.

How to Keep Dandelions From Reseeding Once Removed?

Unfortunately, as we’ve learned till now, dandelion seeds can travel far with the wind or when kids play with their fluffy seed heads.

To discourage them from reseeding once you’ve removed them, spread some corn gluten on your garden. It will stop any broadleaf seed that comes into contact with it from germinating.

Mulches made of maple and ash leaves are also known to act as a natural deterrent against the emergence of dandelion flowers in the spring. Like any mulch, though, you don’t want to use so much that your grass dies.

Again, if you don’t want dandelions to grow in your yard, the key is to have healthy soil. The denser and lusher your grass grows, the less opportunity there is for weeds like dandelions from taking root in it.

Benefits of Dandelions in Your Yard

As you can see, diligence and a good work ethic are required to deal with dandelions effectively. There’s one other quality that can help: tolerance.

As home gardeners, we learn over time to sometimes tolerate some insects in our gardens (especially the beneficial ones) and a few weeds poking up through the mulch (until they compete with our plants for moisture).

In the same way, tolerating dandelions will save you a lot of the work they require, especially when you have large areas of lawn or fields. After all, they can be attractive depending on your point of view.

In addition, bees and other pollinators rely heavily on the nectar and pollen that can be found in dandelion flowers. So, getting rid of too many of these nectar-rich flowers can hurt the environment in the long run.

In spite of the fact that the vast majority of people think of it as an invasive and unattractive weed, it is in fact a plant that possesses therapeutic properties, such as the ability to be used as a laxative and a diuretic. Greens from dandelion plants are sometimes used in salads and other dishes that are inspired by gardens.

Regardless of whether you decide to leave some around, or make sure to get rid of them entirely, this article has everything you’ll ever need to tackle dandelions in your yard effectively.

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18 Responses to “How to Get Rid of Dandelions (Tried and Tested Methods)”

  1. Tracy on May 6th, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    Am I the only one over age 5 that enjoys the pretty yellow dandelions? I say–leave them…smile at them as mother nature intended! Of course, I don’t have a lawn, I live in the woods…so anything that isn’t brown, rust or green is a joy to behold!

  2. Adam on May 6th, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    Or you could just leave them considering that the dandelion’s taproots bring up calcium, iron, and a host of other minerals from the deep soil. The decomposing roots of dandelions produce humus. Flowering dandelions provide early spring pollen that attracts ladybugs and other beneficial insects to the garden.

    • C Coleman on May 8th, 2018 at 5:19 am #

      Easy to say, but at my brother’s home he now literally has a carpet of dandelions – covering approx 1/2 to 1/3 of his lawn area – I’ve dug out maybe 1,000 already, blistered one hand, and there are maybe another 2,000 to go. I’m a native plant proponent. There are far better native, non-invasive alternatives for providing flowers and nectars for insects. His dandelions need to go – completely.

  3. Susan W on May 6th, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

    I find that if you keep them mowed and water whenever you feel inclined they stay green and look good from a distance. The yellow flowers are a bonus in early spring and the goldfincehes love the seeds. Live with nature and be happy. And by the way, I live in the suburbs among the poison, fertilize, water lawn people. I spend many an hour on my deck watching them slave over their lawns and really do wonder what’s the point.

  4. allen heart on May 7th, 2013 at 12:25 am #

    Very healthy stand of grass will also discourage and hamper dandelions from getting started, but lawn care management must be reconsidered. Grass that is mowed to short or is mown with a dull mower blade can be weaker, produce shallower roots, and can become diseased. Grass should never be mowed to 2 or 2 1/2″. At least 3″ or 3 1/2″ and even 4″ in the summer. Never cut more than about 1/3 leaving 2/3 standing. That shocks the plant less and it will recover more rapidly.

    I the grass is too sparse or if moss or plantain covers the surface, the soil might be too clayey. The fine particles of clay hold a lot of water and the grass roots need oxygen. Aeration of the soil with a professional aerator is usually best. Use a mulching mower to provide fine organic matter to slowly add humus to the soil and feed the earth worms that will begin to aerator your soil for you.

  5. Carol Eckhardt on May 25th, 2017 at 9:12 am #

    Tracy, you’re not alone! I’m in my mid-70’s and I’ve always loved dandelions! So do the goldfinches, purple finches and other small seedeaters that make my yard their home. They’ve good for everybody! Why would anyone want to poison them?

  6. Nancy Bowden on May 26th, 2017 at 4:21 am #

    I also love to dig them up … but am trying to resist (never got the real urge to eat them) for many of the reasons others have listed. And I also just learned this week that you can throw them (and other weeds) into a bucket of water (preferably rainwater or “non-city” water) for a day or two to capture the good bacteria in and on the plant, and then use that water to nourish your vegetable garden! Intend to try it! Best used before the water gets too “organic” … but if it goes beyond that timeframe, pour it onto your compost pile!

  7. charlene on April 14th, 2018 at 8:46 am #

    I am a late 60 something and naturalist (or keep aspiring). I would use my dandelions as a tonic but I live on a busy street and don’t want to risk toxicity. The real reason I have to get rid or minimize my population, which keeps expanding, is the fact that my neighbors lawns are being impacted. I won’t use chemicals though.

    • Beth on May 1st, 2018 at 5:54 am #

      Charlene,

      So what do you do for the dandelions? I have a lawn full as I won’t use chemicals. So of course I have the worst lawn on the street and I know my neighbors must hate me. Especially the ones who live next door to me. My front lawn is loaded at the moment and I even heard some young kids talking about them yesterday. There are too many to dig up one by one! Would love any advice 🙂

    • Melinda on May 8th, 2018 at 5:01 am #

      That’s me too! I read that the dandelions may be telling me my soil needs calcium. My lawn is a mixture of grasses and groundcovers. I had egg shells already so poured vinegar over them to leach the calcium, strained the shells out, added water and used a hose sprayer bottle to apply to a portion of my yard. It seems like it might have helped thin them some but I still have a yard full. I’m curious what you have done Charlene!

  8. Janice on May 11th, 2018 at 5:35 pm #

    I think dandelions are fine…but the neighborhood HOA gets really nasty about them. I dug them out, poured vinegar in the holes, let it sit 48 hours in the sunshine, covered with topsoil, and am watering daily. Will toss some grass seed in there and see what happens.

    The HOA also considers clover grass to be “weed”, but they can stuff it since the soil obviously needs the nitrogen. We’ll be moving hopefully soon where nature can be nature and not have to conform to some cookie cutter idea of lawn care. I refuse to use chemicals–kids play in our yard (which is ok with us) and the neighbors walk their dogs there (including the nasty HOA members).

    What is ironic is that we live in OREGON, where everyone was reputed to “care” about nature. Go figure!!

  9. Kerry-Ann on September 18th, 2018 at 8:40 pm #

    I have just moved into a rented property. The owners for some reason removed all grass and replaced it with stones. I have dandelions everywhere. Vinegar did nothing and there are too many to pull up by hand. I don’t want to use toxic chemicals but I am running out of options. Is there anything else I can try? I have a grapefruit tree in the back maybe I will try grapefruit and vinegar and see what happens.

    • Carol on March 10th, 2019 at 7:15 pm #

      Try horticultural vinegar. The vinegar you use in the house is not strong enough (5%) to kill the roots. Horticultural vinegar in at least 20-25% strength should do the trick.

    • Ryan on May 5th, 2019 at 7:32 pm #

      Since your soil has turned into stone (courtesy of the owners), perhaps the total absence of calcium, maybe the reason why dandelions are everywhere. 🙂

  10. Lori on April 10th, 2019 at 6:26 am #

    I want to leave our dandelions, but the neighbors not so much. We have neighborhood bunnies, but not enough to keep the dandelions “mowed” down. I go around plucking the heads off and leaving the leaves. That way some are left for the bunnies; they grow overnight. I was super excited to read what Nancy said about soaking what I pick in water and using the nutrients. Makes me feel so much better about not being able to leave them.

    I refuse to use even natural/organic weed killer because I will never give up my clover! I mow around the large areas of clover. While that may not impress my neighbors I am all about the bees. My ideal yard would be filled with only clover.

    Thanks for the article and for everyone’s comments. It is wonderful to see people who feel the same.

  11. Des Maerz on May 24th, 2019 at 10:12 am #

    I agree with many – and I say leave them. Mow them and it looks good for a day and then just let them be. I have so many birds that enjoy my yard I don’t have the heart to use chemicals and I don’t have the time to pull weeds. I live in a community of manicured lawns, but I’m noticing more people taking this route.

  12. Richard Ong on June 5th, 2019 at 5:26 pm #

    I just got through the ordeal of pulling scads of dandelions. I was away for a week during the crucial first days of warm(er) weather so the dandelions got a good start. I didn’t know about the dreaded taproot, though I did wonder . . . . Game plan now is to keep at it each day to remove any of the flowers as early as possible and keep the lawn mowed. I probably won’t get rid of them but I won’t be contributing to my or anyone else’s problem. I may try the horticultural vinegar on one patch to see if it inhibits regrowth.

  13. GardenSuz on June 26th, 2019 at 4:59 am #

    It took me about 5 years to dig up my dandelions. They still came but after those 5 or so years I could go around the yard (15,000 sq ft) and continue to dig all the flowering ones in less than an hour. Would repeat this every morning during their spring growth spurt. It’s been about 15 years now and the spring routine is done in about 10 minutes a day. Now I move about digging their green plants before they even have a chance to send up a bud. I do recognize some of these ‘old friends’ as I know getting the whole root is never guaranteed. Now let’s be clear, the lawn is teaming with wild strawberries which are a beautiful sight when in bloom. I also have blue violets that dot the lawn in spring. Lots of other weeds to think about or enjoy but no dandelions. Corn gluten is a wonderful way to stop all seeds to germinate so great for the plantain control. Also a wonderful fertilizer. I get complimented for my lawn so I guess it appeals to some like minded people. Yes I do have neighbours that balk at clover but I’m going out this morning to plant more. Got to be happy in life. Be patient with yourself. I think I’ll start looking at the creeping Charly. It looks especially vigorous this year.

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