Identifying & Treating Dandelions

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Dandelion overhead

As a Kansas City homeowner, you may be wondering what to do about those pesky dandelions that keep popping up in your yard. Should you just ignore them? Is it really a big deal if a few dandelions are in the lawn? These are questions that must be answered if you care about the health of your yard, and Heartland Turf & Landscape is here to help! Let's learn all about dandelions as a lawn weed so you can better protect your turf this season!

Are Dandelions Weeds Or Flowers?

direct weed control sprayed onto a dandelion

The answer is both! Dandelions are very versatile plants that are known as broadleaf weeds. Many broadleaf weeds produce flowers and seed heads like the ones we are all familiar with on a dandelion plant. These are the same cheerful, yellow flowers that you likely plucked and played with as a child, but do not be fooled by the bright bursts of color they add to your yard. A plant is considered a weed whenever it grows in an undesirable place, and dandelions do much more harm than good when it comes to your lawn and garden!

  • ...OR FOOD? Yes, you can eat dandelions! The leaves and flowers are often used in salads, teas, medicines, and more. Even the roots of dandelions can be used to aid in digestion. Dandelions hold great nutritional value to both humans and dogs, providing vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium.

How To Identify Dandelions

roots of weeds

The first step in treating your lawn for dandelions is properly identifying them. Dandelions are a member of the Asteraceae family, which also includes sunflowers, daisies, chrysanthemums, and other plants that produce similar flowers. Though the flowers are your most reliable indicator of a dandelion invasion, the damage to your yard has already begun once they appear, which is why it is so crucial to know how to spot these weeds as early as possible.

Dandelions are herbaceous, perennial weeds that can grow up to 2 feet tall in ideal conditions. The leaves of dandelions are long and serrated around the base of the plant, with a slender stem sticking up from which the flowers and seed heads emerge. Being able to spot the serrated, arrow-shaped leaves before flowers emerge will allow you to remove the weed before its deep taproot is fully developed. This taproot is sturdy and can grow up to 15 feet in open fields, though it typically reaches depths closer to 20 inches in residential lawns. Once fully established, the taproot will easily outcompete your lawn or garden plants as it absorbs all the surrounding nutrients and moisture in the soil, causing your lawn to become patchy and weak.

Key Characteristics:

  • Single yellow flower
  • Delicate, fluffy seed head
  • Stems up to 2 feet tall
  • Deeply lobed & serrated leaves
  • Low-growing leaves
  • Deep central taproot

Types Of Dandelions

red seeded dandelion

Taraxacum erythrospermum, which is also known as the red-seeded dandelion (pictured above), is native to Europe and Asia, and it has reddish-brown seeds. The species that we see in our Kansas City yards is known as Taraxacum officinale, also known as the common dandelion. This type of dandelion is native to Europe, Asia, and North America, and it has black seeds. These two types are the most commonly found dandelions throughout the world, but there are over 250 species that have been identified. The different varieties in existence all have unique characteristics that can help you identify which species you may be seeing. However, because of the number of species, it can still be difficult for even a trained eye to identify all dandelions.

When & Where To Find Dandelions

Weed control for dandelions

As we mentioned earlier, dandelions are most commonly found throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. However, due to their hardy nature, they can be found on every continent except Antarctica. They prefer well-drained soil that is moist and rich in organic matter and minerals. In Kansas City's moderate climate, dandelions bloom mostly in spring and fall, usually about 8-15 weeks after germination. Though these are the seasons during which you will see the most dandelions, some will bloom all the way through summer, until your lawn's growing season is over.

Dandelions most infamously thrive in low maintenance or poor quality lawns and gardens, as they are opportunistic weeds that grow quickly wherever they find open space to develop their large root systems. They prefer full sunlight (up to 6 hours per day), but they can also survive in partial shade. Dandelions can even grow in concrete cracks and areas where other plants would not be able to survive. This is one of the reasons why they are often considered to be pesky weeds rather than pretty flowers. Once established, a mature dandelion plant will be able to survive even harsh winter weather, making them a true perennial annoyance.

How Do Dandelions Spread?

dandelion weed control

Dandelions do spread by shoots that sprout from the taproot, but the vast majority of dandelions are created by seed dispersal. Dandelion seeds are incredibly resilient and easily dispersed by the wind thanks to their fluffy “parachutes” that help carry them away. On average, an individual plant can produce up to 2,000 seeds at a time. In addition to wind dispersal, something as simple as a shoe brushing against a seed head or even critters running across your lawn can send hundreds or thousands of seeds off into wind currents, where they will be carried to a new lawn to ravage. Simply popping/cutting off the bright flowers of dandelions (before the seed head emerges) is a quick and easy way to prevent seed dispersal, but it is only a temporary solution to your dandelion problem.

How To Prevent & Remove Dandelions

the importance of weed control

Preventing dandelions is always going to be easier than successfully removing them because of their strong taproot system. Pulling or digging up the dandelion plants can be effective if done properly, but leaving even the tiniest bit of the roots in the soil will likely just cause the weed to regrow, making your efforts fruitless. Chemical weed killers can also be effective, but they should always be applied by a professional lawn care provider, like Heartland Turf & Landscape! Give us a call at (913) 238-9278 for all your weed control needs in Kansas City, and keep the following tips in mind whenever you are dealing with dandelions:

  • Regularly mow your lawn at 3 inches or higher to help prevent dandelion seeds from getting enough sunlight needed for germination.
  • Fertilize properly to ensure a healthy, thick lawn that will be able to withstand a dandelion invasion and even suffocate germinating seeds.
  • Avoid hand-pulling because the taproot of the dandelion is often too deep and has fibrous shoots, making it unlikely you will pull up the entire weed.
  • Dig out the root system with a spade or gardening tool to ensure that the weed will not have any material from which to regenerate.
  • Apply pre-emergent to your lawn and gardens to create a protective barrier that blocks seedlings from ever emerging in the first place.
  • Apply a selective weed killer (2, 4-D) designed for broadleaf weeds. Spray/apply the product directly to an emerged dandelion, and try not to cover your grass.