Common Weeds in Central Florida Lawns

The definition of a weed is quite simple. It is basically an unwanted wild plant that grows in your lawn or flower beds and competes with cultivated plants. Or, as the popular saying goes, “A weed is just a plant in the wrong place.” While some weeds may be attractive when considered on their own, their hardy nature and tendency to grow rapidly and crowd out other turfgrasses and plants make them a difficult-to-control nuisance.

Whether you’re new to Central Florida, a new homeowner, or a long time resident who just wants your landscape weed-free, this guide is for you! If you want to do additional research, our resources are Dean’s Services, Everglades Equipment Group and Home Improvement Cents. Our blog posts – “Spring Weed Control for Florida Yards & Landscapes” and “How to Detect & Control Florida Crabgrass” – provide more information.

Nine Common Common Weeds – Plus One That Can Be Tamed!

In order to control the weeds in your Central Florida lawn, it is important to first identify them. Here are nine of the most common culprits:

  1. Beggarweed – This is a common perennial broadleaf weed found in Florida landscapes, gardens, and pastures. The stems, seeds and leaves are all coated in tiny hairs that work like Velcro when they come in contact with fur, clothing and hair. These sticky seeds can help spread beggarweed far and wide – and, not to mention, make a mess of your pets. 
  2. Broadleaf plantain – This perennial weed is characterized by large, wavy-edged and rounded leaves, and can be found in nutrient-poor or compact soils. Broadleaf plantains are common in landscapes, yards and plant nurseries. It grows low to the ground, making it able to avoid most lawnmower blades. These weeds germinate in late spring and continue until mid-to-late summer. Pre-emergent herbicides are the best method of control.
  3. Clover – A member of the pea family, clover is known for its large white flower heads and three oval-shaped leaflets. Its stems spread low on the ground, forming dense, large mats. Depending upon your point of view – and landscaping plans – clover can make your lawn appear unsightly, or provide a pasture-like setting. 
  4. Crabgrass – This is one of the most common weeds that plague the lawns of Florida. Crabgrass is tough and can survive through mower blades. Homeowners often fail to control crabgrass, as it is notoriously tough. Crabgrass can even grow in soils with a high quantity of nitrogen, which is the compound found in most fertilizers. This means that when you’re fertilizing your lawn, you’re also feeding the crabgrass. The best way to combat crabgrass is to be proactive and apply pre-emergent herbicides in the spring.
  5. Dandelion – Who doesn’t enjoy blowing on a mature dandelion bloom and watching the seeds seemingly take flight? Actually, most homeowners, who realize they’re responsible for keeping these weeds from taking over their lawn. Native to Eurasia, dandelions were introduced to America as a salad green in the 1600s. Unfortunately, since then, demand hasn’t kept up with supply. Their strong tap root grows vertically, making it very difficult to pull them out by hand. Using pre-emergents in the spring will help you control them.
  6. Dollarweed – One of the most common types of weed that you can find in your Central Florida backyard is dollarweed. Also known as pennywort, it has round, coin-shaped, and glossy leaves – hence the money connotations of its names. This small weed is often confused with dichondra but the difference can be seen by checking the stems. The stem of the dollarweed is connected to the leaf’s center while the steam of the dichondra is connected to the leaf’s edge.

Often, people keep dollarweed owing to their shiny, pretty leaves. As long as they’re under control, dollarweed can be a nice ground cover plant. Keep reading to learn about a charming flowering weed that’s easy to domesticate!

  1. Florida pusley – This is a common annual weed that usually grows in the summer. Found in turfgrass, it spreads out low, forming thick patches to establish itself in thin or bare spots in your yard. This pesky invader has hairy stems with hairy leaves growing opposite one another. It has white flowers that grow in clumps at the tip of the stems, and six petals that form a tube in the middle, producing a star shape. Florida pusley can be controlled by maintaining a healthy yard and practicing proper irrigation techniques to ensure your grass is thick and healthy. 
  2. Stinging nettles – The worst type of weed to come across in your lawn is stinging nettles. Known for their painful sting when touched, these weeds are covered in tiny needles that have a chemical that irritates your skin on contact and causes a painful burn. The burning sensation can last for an hour or longer. Fortunately, they are rarely dangerous, but it is a good idea to keep them out of your lawn. These weeds come with a shallow root system that makes it easy to pull them out by hand – but wear thick gardening gloves while doing so! 
  3. Yellow woodsorrel – The leaves of yellow woodsorrel look similar to clover, except that the leaves are curved at the center of each leaf. The leaves open in the morning and fold during the night. This weed is notoriously hard to control because it grows year-round in Florida. The best way to get rid of woodsorrel is by digging them out as soon as possible, taking as much root as possible.

Now, as promised, here is one weed that can be tamed to play nice in your garden!

Wild petunia – This Florida native plant is considered a desirable ground cover by some homeowners and is available commercially from Florida native ornamental growers. It is a perennial that grows in spring and goes dormant in winter. If you find it growing naturally on your lawn, dig it up and move it to a plant bed, where its lovely blue-to-purple flowers can add color and fullness in a defined area! 

How to Kill and Control Weeds

Weeds are categorized based on their life cycles, appearance, habits, and growth. Weed life cycles can be perennial, biennial, or annual. Recognizing the characteristics of weeds can help you control them better.

There are three traditional ways to control weeds:

Removal by hand – This method is practical only for small yards or flower beds. The obvious drawback is that it’s labor-intensive and time-consuming, should you decide to do it yourself. The best time to hand-pull weeds is when the soil is moist. For this method to be effective, you should make sure you remove the whole plant with its roots. However, removing pervasive weeds like Florida pusley may require you to dig them out of the ground using a trowel.

Proper lawn care – Fertilize your lawn frequently every six to eight weeks during growing season. This helps your lawn stay thick, leaving little space for the unwanted weeds. Also, mowing your lawn at a taller height shades the soil, making it harder for the weed seeds to sprout, since their growth relies heavily on sunlight. Proper irrigation is another important component. Watering heavily and infrequently is the key to a thick grass and deeper roots, giving weeds tough competition.

Herbicide application – Usually, two types of chemical treatments are used to control the spread and growth of weeds– post-emergent and pre-emergent herbicides. Post-emergent chemical treatments kill a weed that is already growing, while pre-emergent herbicides are formulated to prevent germination.

Post-emergent herbicides can be selective, only targeting weeds, or non-selective, killing everything they come in contact with. As for pre-emergent herbicides, be aware that they will also prevent grass seeds from growing, if you plan to reseed any area of your lawn.

Feeling Outnumbered by Weeds? Leave it to our Pros!

 Maintaining a perfect lawn is often a challenge for most homeowners. Successfully combating the numerous weed species that spread and take root in Central Florida yards requires knowledge, the right products and equipment, time, diligence, hard work and expense – which often is compounded by trial-and-error efforts for those who take the do-it-yourself approach.

Save yourself the toil and frustration of DIY weed control! Our experts at Daniel’s Lawn Service & Pressure Washing have the local experience and knowledge to understand weed growth cycles, seasonal variations and efficient weed control methods to keep your lawn healthy and beautiful throughout the year.

Our full-service company also provides landscape design, tree installation, tree trimming, yard maintenance, pressure washing and so much more. Contact us today so we can do the work, and you can do the enjoying! We proudly serve all of Central Florida – including Orlando, Sanford, Longwood and Lake Mary! We look forward to helping you achieve your goals and bring your vision to life!