two large dandelions in a garden

How To Get Rid Of Dandelions

Dandelions are perennial weeds that die off in the winter and return bigger and stronger than ever in the spring. The cheery yellow flowers quickly go to seed and form a puffball of seeds that are then carried to new locations in the wind. In this article, we will learn how to get rid of dandelions for good. For this to happen you need to kill the entire plant, root and all.

Why are there dandelions in my garden?

Dandelions are invasive weeds that grow in nearly any soil. Dandelion seeds are attached to a tiny parachute of fluff that carries them to new locations in the wind. Because each dandelion blossom produces 150 to 200 seeds and each plant produces up to 10 flowers, an average dandelion plant produces 15,000 seeds, says the Michigan State University Extension. That means there are plenty of these seeds to go around.

dandelion seeds floating through the air
Dandelion seeds can travel vast distances in a light breeze

When these tiny seeds land in your garden the seed germinates and takes root right away which means new dandelion plants start growing each time seeds are dispersed and land in your garden. To make matters worse when they are mowed many dandelion blooms left on the lawn continue to mature and form a puffball of new seeds within a day or two. Even a gentle breeze can carry hundreds of dandelion seeds into your garden.

How to get rid of dandelions

How you get rid of dandelions depends on how many dandelions there are and where they are located. If you have occasional dandelions in the garden, manual removal is the easiest way to get rid of them. However, if your lawn is infested with dandelions hand removal may not be practical.

How to get rid of dandelions naturally

To remove dandelions from a lawn or garden by hand you will need to remove the root of the dandelion plant. Any portion of the root that remains in the soil will send up new shoots and produce another dandelion plant. 

  1. Water the area well before attempting to remove dandelions. Moist soil makes it easier to remove the root.
  2. Insert the weeding tool into the soil alongside the root of the dandelion plant.
  3. Wiggle the weeding tool back and forth to loosen the soil along the root.
  4. Grasp the dandelion plant at the crown, the point where the root meets the leaves, and pull slowly while applying even pressure to pull the entire root out of the ground.
  5. If the root breaks, loosen the soil around the remaining section of the root and remove it from the soil. Remember even a tiny section of the root will regenerate and send up a new plant.

How to get rid of dandelions with herbicide (fully grown and pre-emergence)

There are two types of herbicides for getting rid of dandelions, contact herbicides designed to kill the entire plant and pre-emergent herbicides that will prevent new dandelions seeds from germinating and growing. 

Contact Herbicides

To kill the dandelion plant with contact herbicides you need to apply it directly to the dandelion plant. But, this requires care as most contact herbicides are nonselective and will kill any vegetation it contacts. That means if you use it in the garden to kill dandelions you must use care not to get contact herbicide on neighboring plants. Likewise, if it is applied to dandelions in the lawn it will kill the grass too if it comes in contact with the herbicide.

There are two ways you can target the herbicide to the dandelion plant and avoid contacting existing grass or plants.

  1. Use a spray bottle and spray the dandelion foliage. If the dandelion plant is mature with old foliage it may resist the herbicide. Use your foot to bruise the leaves before applying the herbicide.
  2. Cut the top and bottom out of a can (or use a section of PVC pipe). Slide the can over the dandelion plant and apply the herbicide directly to the dandelion.

Pre-Emergent Herbicides

A Pre-emergent herbicide will prevent weeds from germinating and growing in your lawn or garden, but it will not kill existing weeds, like dandelions. Pre-emergent herbicides cannot be used in the soil if you have planted seeds of fruits and veggies as it will prevent them from sprouting and growing, too. Likewise, it cannot be applied for 60 days after seeding sections of your lawn.

Apply pre-emergent herbicides in the spring before new weeds have emerged.

Will weed and feed products kill dandelions?

Yes. You can apply a commercial weed and feed product to your lawn to kill weeds and feed your lawn at the same time. Feeding the lawn helps the grass crowd out new weeds in the future. Follow the application instructions on the container.

When is the best time to remove dandelions?

The best time to remove dandelions is in the early spring with they first emerge. The smaller the dandelion plant is the easier it will be to remove. Removing them before they bloom and have time to go to seed is ideal. The soil tends to be wetter in the spring making pulling the roots easier, too. 

many dandelions in a grass lawn
Springtime is the best time to remove dandelions before they go to seed

Do dandelions have short roots or long roots?

Dandelions have massive roots that get larger each year. A mature dandelion plant typically produces a 10 to 18 inches long root, but according to the University of Columbia, a dandelion taproot can reach a depth of 10 to 15 feet in ideal growing conditions. Young dandelions have roots that are a few inches long and can usually be pulled easily if the soil is loose. No matter how big the root is, it must be removed completely to permanently eliminate the dandelion..

How do dandelions multiply?

Dandelions multiply in two ways.

  • The massive root beneath the soil sends up new shoots and develops into a new plant, even if the dandelion is cut below the soil level. 
  • Dandelions also reproduce via seeds. When the dandelion flower fades it turns to a white puffball of seeds. Each seed is attached to feathery bristles that carry the seed away like a parachute. When the seeds settle on soil they quickly germinate and begin sending down a strong taproot. 

Getting rid of dandelions can seem like a never-ending chore. Many prefer to use multiple methods to get rid of these invasive weeds, hand pulling them when practical and resorting to herbicides when necessary.

a close up of dandelion seeds
One dandelion can produce hundreds of seeds

Keep in mind that dandelions provide bees with one of the first sources of nectar in the spring. Some prefer to allow dandelions to grow to provide the bees with food as the blooms are only visible for a few weeks in the spring. Some would ask: “Isn’t putting up with a field of dandelions for a few weeks worth the aggravation when you know you are saving the lives of bees?”