What Is Chickweed?

Rated 4.9 Across 200+ Reviews


If you are a homeowner in Kansas City, you probably deal with your fair share of lawn weeds every season. Chickweed is one of the most common problems facing lawns in our area, but many people don't know much about it or even how to spot it in their lawns. That's where Heartland Turf & Landscape comes in. We have put together this guide to help you identify chickweed in your lawn, and we will go over all the reasons why you do not want it growing in your yard and how to prevent it! Let's take a closer look at this pesky lawn weed.

Quick Links

How To Identify Chickweed

up close chickweed

The scientific name for chickweed is Stellaria media, and this name actually tells us a bit about what this lawn weed looks like. Stellaria, the genus to which chickweed belongs, comes from the Latin word for "star," which is useful information when trying to identify a chickweed invasion. Just as stars are often characterized as having 5 points, chickweed sprouts flowers with 5 white petals that form a star-like shape. At first glance, it will appear as though these flowers have 10 petals, but a closer examination will reveal that they are actually 5 deeply lobed petals.

In addition to the star-shaped pattern of the petals, the sepals underneath the petals are also in the shape of a star. This star-shaped sepal pattern makes it a bit easier to differentiate chickweed from plants with similar-looking flowers. The leaves of chickweed are oval shaped, appearing in opposite pairs along the stem,  and they come to a point. While the leaves are hairless, both the stem and the sepal have fine hairs on them.

The stems can be identified by their deep purple/red hue, which is quite noticeable among the greens and whites of the rest of the weed. Chickweed is a low-growing plant that typically only reaches heights of about 2-4 inches. When the plant is growing in large patches, it can appear to be a dense mat on the ground. This growth habit is caused by the plant's stems, which branch out and send down new roots at their nodes (the point where leaves attach to stems). Patches of ugly, clumpy, tangled weeds are often the result of a chickweed infestation in your lawn.

Look For These In Your Lawn:

  • Star-shaped flowers and sepals
  • 5 deeply lobed, white petals
  • Oval-shaped leaves
  • Single line of fine hairs on stem
  • Hairs on perimeter of sepals
  • Purple or red hue on stem
  • Matted and tangled growth
  • Low growth

Does Chickweed Damage Lawns?

In short, yes. Chickweed can and will severely damage your lawn if it is left unchecked. The matting caused by the low, vine-like growth of chickweed will easily suffocate your lawn and block vital sunlight and moisture from reaching the grass. What's worse is that just underneath the soil surface, chickweed spreads its invasive roots and steals resources away before minerals and nutrients have a chance to even reach the deeper roots of your lawn. Chickweed will form ugly, dense patches above the soil, and it will outcompete your turfgrass for nutrients underneath the soil, both resulting in a thin and patchy lawn.

Life Cycle & Habitat Of Chickweed

Chickweed is a winter annual weed, which means that it will germinate and emerge between late summer and fall (usually in September or October), enter dormancy in winter, and set seed during the following spring. In colder climates, chickweed will die off in the late spring and summer months when temperatures start to rise. However, in warmer climates, chickweed can grow year-round because of mild winters. If chickweed dies off due to warm temperatures, it will propagate itself by dispersing seeds that will find suitable soils in which to germinate and begin the life cycle over again in late summer or fall.

Chickweed is common in lawns all across North America, as it can survive in a variety of different soil and environmental conditions. Fertile soils can easily see a chickweed invasion, but infertile soils are the preferred home of chickweed. This means that lawns struggling with turf growth are even more prone to a chickweed invasion. It can thrive in both full sun and partial shade, and it is often found in areas that are poorly drained and have puddles or standing water. Chickweed is commonly seen in lawns, but it can also grow in gardens, flower beds, and other areas of your landscape. Below is a list of some of the most common conditions that lead to a chickweed infestation:

  • Full sun to partial shade
  • Moist soil
  • Too much nitrogen
  • Compacted soil
  • Soil at 50 - 65 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Short grass in lawns

How Does Chickweed Spread?

matted chickweed

Chickweed is a very adaptable weed, which allows it to spread easily. Seeds are this weed's primary method of expansion, with a single plant being able to produce between 800 and 30,000 seeds. Once mature, these seeds will fall to the ground and lay dormant until they come into contact with ideal growing conditions. Seeds can remain viable in the soil for up to 10 years, which means that chickweed can be a problem in your lawn for many years to come if it is not properly controlled.

How To Prevent & Control Chickweed

Nutsedge 2 step program

While seeds account for the vast majority of new chickweed growth, the shallow and fibrous roots of this weed often intertwine together in the soil. If you attempt to remove this weed and leave even a fraction of the roots intact, a new plant will likely emerge from the residual plant matter. The best time to control chickweed is in early spring before the weed has had a chance to produce seeds. Preventing chickweed from being able to mature and spread is always better than trying to remove established plants, especially considering how matted and tangled chickweed becomes. Below are some of the best methods for removing and preventing chickweed in the Kansas City area:

  • Avoid Hand-Pulling: It can be difficult to fully remove a matted mess of chickweed by hand.
  • Dig With Tools: Gardening tools like a shovel or spade can help ensure that no fragments get left behind.
  • Aerate Your Lawn: Spring and fall aeration will help your lawn drain properly, which deters moisture-loving chickweed.
  • Leave Grass Tall: Keeping your lawn at around 4 inches tall can help block sunlight from reaching low-growing chickweed.
  • Monitor Nitrogen: Chickweed thrives in soil with excess nitrogen, so be sure to use a season-appropriate fertilizer.
  • Call Heartland Turf & Landscape: Professional weed control always provides the best results for your lawn. Call us today at (913) 238-9278 for pre-emergent and post-emergent weed control, or whatever else your lawn may need!