Grassy Weeds vs. Broadleaf Weeds. What's The Difference?

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Weed control for dandelions

When most people think of weeds, they picture a pesky plant with broad leaves that is growing in the wrong place. However, there are two different types of weeds: grassy weeds and broadleaf weeds. While they may look similar to the untrained eye, they are actually quite different. Let's look at the unique features of each, and why they are classified as separate categories.

Identifying Grassy Weeds

crabgrass emerging

Grassy weeds are appropriately named, as these weeds masquerade as regular turfgrass on your lawn. They often share many characteristics with turfgrass, but they do not produce the same quality lawn that healthy turfgrasses produce. In fact, the invasive roots of grassy weeds often overtake healthy root systems in the soil, which will cause your lawn to be filled with harmful and undesirable weeds. If you see patches of sudden and quick grass growth that is taller than the surrounding grass, you likely have a grassy weed problem. 

Common Grassy Weeds

  • Annual bluegrass
  • Annual ryegrass
  • Crabgrass
  • Goosegrass
  • Quackgrass
  • Barnyardgrass
  • Bermudagrass
  • Carpetgrass
  • Creeping Bentgrass
  • Sedges

Identifying Broadleaf Weeds

up close chickweed

These weeds are very resistant and can be difficult to manage once they appear in your yard. Broadleaf weeds can grow annually, biennially, or perennially, making their growth and control needs difficult to predict. Broadleaf weeds are known to multiply quickly, utilizing a mixture of both rhizomes and seeds to sprout new shoots. These weeds are easily identifiable by their wide, broad leaves, and they are often accompanied by a single flower or cluster of flowers.

Common Broadleaf Weeds

  • Chickweed
  • Clover
  • Dandelion
  • Spotted Spurge
  • Prostrate Knotweed
  • Thistle
  • Ivy
  • Milkweed
  • Violets
  • Broadleaf Plantain

How Are They Different?

Grassy weeds and broadleaf weeds both have unique characteristics that allow us to distinguish between the two, which helps us have a better understanding of how to control the weeds in our lawns. Now that we've established a few basic characteristics of both weed types, let's take a closer look at what really makes these weeds different from one another.


roots of weeds

The most significant difference between grassy and broadleaf weeds is their root system. Broadleaf weeds often have a deep taproot with a fibrous root system, while grassy weeds possess underground rhizomes (horizontal stems) or aboveground stolons that can spread quickly, making it difficult to remove all of the invading grassy weed.


white clover overview

The leaves of broadleaf weeds are known for their net-like veins and thin, wide blades that are often serrated or lobed. Grassy weeds, on the other hand, typically have long, tube-like leaves with veins that run parallel down their length.


Dandelion overhead

Grassy weeds are just different types of grass, so they do not sprout flowers. Broadleaf weeds, however, will often produce a single flower or cluster of flowers, such as the flowers of a dandelion plant or white clover. These flowers make it very easy to differentiate broadleaf weeds from grassy weeds and the grass in your lawn, which is quite handy when trying to find weeds to remove!


crabgrass seedhead (2)

Grassy weeds can reproduce both through rhizomes in their root systems and through seed dispersal. Broadleaf weeds can also reproduce by both rhizomes and seeds, but some broadleaf weeds spread by seed only. You can also easily identify the seedheads of many broadleaf weeds, such as the delicate and white puffball-like seedhead of a dandelion.

Are There Any Similarities?

chemicals and nutrients for the soil

Grassy weeds and broadleaf weeds certainly have their own distinct physical features that helps us identify each, but there are also many similarities. After all, they are both just two different categories of harmful and invasive weeds, which automatically gives them more similarities than differences. No matter which type of weed you are dealing with, they all steal nutrients away from your desired grass and plants, which weakens them and makes them vulnerable to even more complications.

No matter what type of grass you have in your lawn, weeds will always find a way to get in there! While some grasses are more tolerant than others, all grass types are vulnerable to invasion by both broadleaf weeds and grassy weeds. Both grassy weeds and broadleaf weeds have the capability to spread quickly, depending on their reproductive method. Whether it's through rhizomes in the soil or dispersal of seeds into your lawn, an infestation will rapidly spread once weeds of any kind begin emerging.

Prevent & Control Weeds Today!

yard maintenance leaves and weeds in a barrel

Understanding what makes each type of weed unique is the key to controlling problems with either one, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the features of each category before attempting to apply any hazardous chemicals.

As always, call Heartland Turf & Landscape, or your local lawn care company, for more information on the weeds in your yard! We will leave you with these final tips for how to prevent weeds in your lawn:

Grassy Weeds

Setting your lawn mower an inch or two higher than normal mowing height is an easy and effective way to control grassy weeds because these types of weeds grow very low to the ground. Allowing your grass to be taller than the weeds in your lawn will suffocate the weeds and block out their access to sunlight.

  • Use a non-selective weed killer (glyphosate) on grassy weeds. Be careful, though, because non-selective weed killers will kill everything they touch, including your grass and plants. Read instructions carefully, and make sure you spray directly onto the weed only.

Broadleaf Weeds

Hand-pulling is an effective method against certain broadleaf weeds with long taproots that can be completely removed. However, leaving even a fraction of root material behind could sprout new weeds, so you must make sure you remove the entire root system if you are going to pull broadleaf weeds.

  • Use a selective weed killer (2, 4-D) on broadleaf weeds. When broadleaf weeds become too deeply rooted or matted, selective weed killers are more effective because pulling by hand will almost certainly result in regrowth. Read labels carefully, or call a lawn care provider for assistance.