Common weeds pink seed

The Only Weed Identification Guide You’ll Ever Need: 33 Common Weedy Plants to Watch For

Don’t let these pesky plants crash your garden party! The first step is to know your enemy. Then you’ll know the best way to deal with your weed problem.

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What is a Weed, Anyway?

A weed can be any plant growing where you don’t want it to. However, there are some particularly weedy species to keep an eye out for. These aggressive plants not only make your yard look messy, they can also choke out the garden plants you’ve worked so hard to grow. Whether you’re trying to identify lawn weeds or garden weeds, this handy guide will help you identify more than 30 common weeds by photo, plus give you tips for how to best remove them.

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Dandelion

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: 12 inches tall, 6 – 16 inches wide

Where It Grows: Lawns and gardens in sun or shade

Appearance: This common lawn weed has a long taproot; leaves are deeply notched. Yellow flowers mature into puffballs. Dandelion seeds are like parachutes that fly away in the wind, helping them invade new spaces in lawns and garden beds.

Weed Control Tips: Mulch to prevent dandelions in gardens. Pull dandelion weeds by hand or treat lawns with a broadleaf herbicide, which won’t kill grass.

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Oxalis

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: To 20 inches tall

Where It Grows: Sunny or shady landscape, lawn, or garden areas

Appearance: This garden weed has light green leaves that look a little like clover and cup-shape yellow flowers in summer and fall.

Weed Control Tips: Mulch garden areas in spring to prevent weeds. Pull oxalis weeds by hand or spray weeds with a broadleaf herbicide in spring or fall.

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Crabgrass

Type: Grassy annual

Size: To 18 inches tall and 20 inches wide

Where It Grows: Lawn, landscape, and garden areas in sun or shade

Appearance: Crabgrass is exactly what it sounds like: A grassy weed. This lawn weed grows roots anywhere the stem makes soil contact. Seed heads spread out like four fingers.

Control: Use a preemergence weed preventer to prevent seeds from sprouting, pull crabgrass by hand, or spot-treat with a nonselective herbicide if growing in sidewalk cracks or other places where nothing else is growing.

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Bindweed

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: Climbs 6 feet or more

Where It Grows: Landscape and garden areas in sun

Appearance: Identify this garden weed by its arrowhead-shape leaves on twining vines. Bindweed also produces white to pale pink morning glory-type flowers.

Control: Mulch your garden to prevent bindweed. Repeatedly pull or cut down growing bindweed plants and/or spot treat with a nonselective herbicide designed to kill roots, not just above-ground growth.

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White Clover

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: 8-10 inches tall, 12 inches wide

Where It Grows: Lawn, landscape, and garden areas in sun to partial shade

Appearance: White clover has three-lobe leaves and round white flower clusters. The plants quickly spread outward to form dense mats of foliage.

Control: Mulch your garden beds to prevent white clover in landscape areas. Use an iron-based herbicide to get rid of clover growing in lawns or dig out the weeds in garden beds.

Test Garden Tip: Clover adds nitrogen to the soil plus the flowers feed many pollinators so some gardeners use this plant to create a more environmentally friendly lawn.

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Nutsedge

Type: Grass-like perennial

Size: 2 feet tall, 1 foot wide

Where It Grows: Lawn, landscape, or garden areas in sun or shade

Appearance: Nutsedge has slender, grassy leaves, triangular stems, and small, nutlike tubers on the root system. When these weeds pop up in lawns, they often grow faster than turf grass, so they are easy to spot.

Control: Mulch garden areas in spring to help prevent nutsedge. Plants are easy to pull up by hand, but it will take repeated weeding to get rid of an infestation. Various herbicides are labeled for use on nutsedge in lawns but it is important to use the right one for the type of turf grass you have to avoid damaging it.

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Creeping Charlie

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: 4 inches tall, several feet wide

Where It Grows: Shady lawn, landscape, or garden areas

Appearance: Identify this lawn weed and groundcover by its scalloped leaves, creeping stems, and clusters of purple flowers in late spring.

Control: Mulch garden areas in spring to prevent creeping charlie. Pull plants by hand or spray with a postemergence herbicide in spring or fall.

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Lamb’s-Quarter

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: To 4 feet tall and 18 inches wide

Where It Grows: Landscape and garden areas in sun or shade

Appearance: Lamb’s-quarter’s scalloped, triangular leaves have gray undersides.

Control: Mulch your garden to prevent lamb’s-quarter. Pull weed plants by hand or use a postemergence herbicide.

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Plantain

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: To 8 inches tall and 12 inches wide

Where It Grows: Moist lawn and garden areas in sun or shade

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Appearance: When you’re identifying weeds in your garden, if you spot broad, flat, oval-shape leaves arranged in a low rosette, you’ve likely found a plantain.

Control: Mulch to prevent plantains growing in the garden. Pull these weeds by hand or use a postemergence herbicide in lawns.

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Dayflower

Type: Annual grass relative

Size: To 30 inches tall and wide

Where It Grows: Sunny or shady landscape areas

Appearance: Dayflowers have dark green leaves sprouting from a stem and brilliant blue flowers through the summer.

Control: Mulch the garden to prevent weeds or use a preemergence herbicide in spring. Pull weeds by hand or spot-treat with a nonselective postemergence herbicide.

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Purslane

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: To 6 inches tall and 2 feet wide

Where it grows: Dry, sunny landscape and garden areas

Appearance: Identify this weed groundcover by its fleshy, dark green leaves and small yellow flowers at the ends of the stems.

Control: Mulch your garden to prevent purslane or use a preemergence herbicide in the spring. Pull plants by hand or spot-treat with a nonselective postemergence herbicide.

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Velvetleaf

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: To 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide

Where It Grows: Fertile, sunny landscape and garden areas

Appearance: Velvetleaf gets its name because of its large, velvety heart-shape leaves up to 10 inches across. The weed blooms with yellow flowers in summer.

Weed Control: Mulch your garden to prevent velvetleaf or use a preemergence herbicide in spring. Pull existing plants by hand or use a postemergence herbicide.

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Wild Violet

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: 6 inches tall, 6 inches wide

Where It Grows: Shady lawn, landscape, or garden areas

Appearance: Wild violet is a groundcover with heart-shape leaves and purple flowers in late spring.

Control: Mulch garden beds in spring to prevent wild violet. Pull weeds by hand or spray with a postemergence herbicide in spring or fall.

Test Garden Tip: This plant is sometimes grown as an ornamental in shade gardens.

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Smartweed

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: To 42 inches tall and 30 inches wide

Where It Grows: Sunny landscape and garden areas

Appearance: Identify garden weeds like smartweed by its lance-shape leaves often marked with purple chevrons. It’s an upright plant with pink or white flowers in summer and fall.

Control: To prevent this weed, mulch garden beds in spring. Pull plants by hand or apply a postemergence herbicide once it grows.

Test Garden Tip: This weed is native to areas of North America. Unlike many exotic weeds, it does support local wildlife.

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Quickweed

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

Where It Grows: Sunny landscape and garden areas

Appearance: Quickweed has jagged, hairy leaves and small white daisy-shape flowers in summer.

Control: Use a mulch or a preemergence herbicide in spring to prevent quickweed. If plants do grow, pull them by hand or spot-treat them with a postemergence herbicide.

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Pigweed

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: 6 feet tall, 2 feet wide

Where it grows: Sunny landscape or garden areas

Appearance: Pigweeds are tall plants with a taproot. Identify weeds by their hairy-looking clusters of green flowers (though some varieties are grown as annuals).

Control: Mulch garden areas in spring to prevent pigweed or use a preemergence herbicide in spring. Pull weeds by hand or spray with a postemergence weed killer.

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Canada Thistle

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: To 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide

Where It Grows: Sunny lawn, landscape, or garden areas

Appearance: Canada thistle has spiny, gray-green leaves and purple flowers.

Control: Mulch your garden to prevent it in landscape areas. Use a postemergence herbicide in lawns in spring or fall, or dig the weed out by hand.

Test Garden Tip: Thistle has an extensive root system that can grow several feet out from the main plant.

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Knotweed

Type: Broadleaf annual

Size: To 8 inches tall and 2 feet wide

Where It Grows: Sunny or partly shaded lawn, landscape, or garden areas

Appearance: Knotweed is an invasive groundcover with blue-green leaves sparsely appearing on long stems.

Control: Prevent knotweed with a deep layer of mulch or apply a preemergence herbicide in spring. Once the plant grows, hand-pull or spot-treat it with a nonselective weed killer.

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Pokeweed

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: To 10 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Where It Grows: Sunny landscape or garden areas

Appearance: Identify this garden weed by its light green leaves, clusters of white flowers, and dark purple berries.

Control: Prevent pokeweed with a deep layer of mulch. Once the plant grows, hand-pull or spot-treat it with an herbicide.

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Poison Ivy

Type: Broadleaf perennial

Size: To 15 feet tall and wide

Where It Grows: Sunny or shady landscape or garden areas

Appearance: Poison ivy can be a vine, shrub, or groundcover. The weed has leaves divided into three leaflets and can sprout clusters of green berries.

Control: Prevent poison ivy with a deep layer of mulch. If the weed starts to grow in your yard, spot-treat it with an herbicide or wrap your hand in a plastic bag, pull the plant up, roots and all, and carefully invert the plastic bag around the plant, seal, and throw away.

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Test Garden Tip: The plant contains oils that cause a severe allergic skin reaction in many people when touched. These oils are present even on dead leaves and can become airborne and inhaled if the plant is burned.

17 Common Types of Weeds

David Beaulieu is a landscaping expert and plant photographer, with 20 years of experience. He was in the nursery business for over a decade, working with a large variety of plants. David has been interviewed by numerous newspapers and national U.S. magazines, such as Woman’s World and American Way.

Kathleen Miller is a highly-regarded Master Gardener and Horticulturist who shares her knowledge of sustainable living, organic gardening, farming, and landscape design. She founded Gaia’s Farm and Gardens, a working sustainable permaculture farm, and writes for Gaia Grows, a local newspaper column. She has over 30 years of experience in gardening and sustainable farming.

Jillian is a freelance journalist with 10 years of editorial experience in the lifestyle genre. She is a writer and fact checker for TripSavvy, as well as a fact-checker for The Spruce.

Once you’ve identified nuisance plants, you can more readily access information on eradication. In some cases, however, finding out more about the plants in question may persuade you to show more tolerance toward them. There are even some edible weeds. Some are worth your time to remove while others don’t cause much harm (and may even have beneficial aspects).

Warning

Several of these weeds can cause rashes. Use proper clothing and gloves when working around these weeds, or enlist professional help to eradicate them.

Here are 17 types of weeds you might encounter in your garden.

Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron Vernix)

The Spruce / David Beaulieu

Poison sumac is a shrub (some consider it a small tree) that grows in wet areas, often next to Cinnamon ferns and cattails. You will not find it trailing over the ground or climbing trees, as you sometimes find poison ivy. Every part of the plant is poisonous, meaning it can cause serious rashes if touched. As is often the case with toxic plants, it can also be very attractive; its white berries and bright fall foliage is pretty as well as dangerous.

Japanese Knot Weed (Polygonum cuspidatum)

The Spruce / Jordan Provost

Polygonum cuspidatum goes by several other common names, including Japanese knotweed and fleece flower. Several other common names include the term, “bamboo,” such as “Mexican bamboo.” While its autumn flower does, indeed, look fleecy, “fleece flower” is just too dainty a name for so tenacious a weed!

Crabgrass (Digitaria)

Being an annual weed, crabgrass perpetuates itself via seed—millions of seeds. To control crabgrass, you’ll need to address the issue in spring when the plant is at its most vulnerable. The best option to kill crabgrass is to remove the plants by hand, roots and all. After that, use an organic fertilizer to encourage the growth of lawn grass which will crown the crabgrass out.

Dandelions (Leontodon taraxacum)

The Spruce / Candace Madonna

Dandelions are a harbinger of spring. Their bright yellow flowers often poke up through lawns and appear between cracks in driveways and sidewalks. The seed heads of dandelions are probably better known than those of crabgrass, but dandelions are perennial, not annual weeds.

While dandelions have multiple medicinal uses and can be eaten in salads or used to make wine, many homeowners would prefer to eliminate dandelions. Keeping dandelion seeds from germinating won’t be enough to get rid of dandelions. It’s possible to use herbicide to eliminate your dandelions, but the most effective and least harmful approach is to dig the flowers up from the roots.

Plantain Plants (Plantago major)

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

A rather innocuous plant, common plantain can simply be mowed whenever you mow the lawn. Its relative, Plantago lanceolata is a similar weed, but with narrow leaves. Now a ubiquitous lawn weed in North America, broadleaf or “common” plantain was brought to the New World by colonists from Europe for its medicinal uses. Common plantain has many medicinal uses. Mashed, it can be used as a poultice for bee stings; the leaves can also be dried and made into a tea to treat diarrhea.

Common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)

Bgfoto / Getty Images

Common ragweed may be an important weed for you to identify, even if you don’t care about keeping your yard weed-free for aesthetic reasons. If you’re an allergy sufferer, you should be aware that common ragweed is a major source of hay fever.

Giant Ragweed (Ambrosia trifida)

It’s not for nothing that this plant is named, “giant ragweed.” It can grow up to 15 feet tall, with thick roots and branches. Like its ragweed cousin (and unlike goldenrod), giant ragweed produces a great deal of pollen which causes serious allergies.

Hedge Bindweed (Convolvus arvensis)

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Hedge bindweed has a fairly attractive bloom, similar to that of the morning glory, which can be white or pink and have a pleasant fragrance. But this is no innocuous weed. If you let hedge bindweed get out of control, your yard will feel like Gulliver in Lilliput. There is a reason for that “bind” in “bindweed.”

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Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea)

The Spruce / David Beaulieu

Ground ivy, a common lawn weed, goes by a number of names. For instance, it is also called “gill,” “gill-over-the-ground” and “creeping charlie.” Although considered a weed, ground ivy has a pretty flower and, when you mow this weed, it gives off a pleasing aroma. Ground ivy is also used as a medicinal herb.

Purslane (Portulaca olearacea)

The Spruce / K. Dave

Purslane is the edible weed, par excellence. Purslane contains five times the amount of essential omega-3 fatty acid that spinach has, and its stems are high in vitamin C. A succulent mat-forming plant, it has a crispy texture and interesting peppery flavor. It is often served raw in salads but can also be cooked as a side dish.

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

The Spruce / Lindsay Talley

The flowers of stinging nettle plants are inconspicuous. You’ll pay plenty of attention to its barbs, however, if you’re unfortunate enough to brush against stinging nettle! The discomfort these weeds can cause seems incongruous with the fact that stinging nettle is edible. But the young leaves of stinging nettle are, indeed, cooked and eaten by wild foods enthusiasts. Just be sure to pick at the right time and prepare properly to ensure safe consumption.

Curly Dock (Rumex crispus )

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Curly dock (also called “curled dock” or “yellow dock”) is more than just distinctive, it’s also useful: curly dock serves as a home remedy to treat stinging nettle burns-though it can be toxic to consume. You’ll be able to identify curly dock by its greenish blossoms that cluster long thin flower stocks. After the flowers have dried and turned brown, they remain in place, making the plant easy to recognize. The flowers start out a much less distinctive light-greenish or reddish color. Blooming occurs in clusters in the form of multiple, long, skinny flower stalks at the top of the plant.

Wild Madder (Galium mollugo)

Wild madder is, like sweet woodruff, in the Galium genus. Wild madder is also called “bedstraw.” Apparently, people did actually once use this weed as a bedding material. Sweet woodruff is a creeping, mat-forming perennial that pretty clusters of white star-shaped flowers in spring and has very fragrant, lance-shaped dark-green leaves.

Clover Leaf (Trifolium )

The Spruce / K. Dave

While many consider clover a “weed,” there’s really nothing wrong with having a little clover mixed into your lawn. The Irish consider various tripartite clover leaves (such as the one in the photo here) to be “shamrocks.” The tradition behind the shamrock is quite distinct from that behind four-leaf clovers.

Orange Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Like curly dock, orange jewelweed (or “jewel weed”) can be used as a home remedy for poison ivy. The taxonomic name of orange jewelweed, Impatiens capensis, classifies it as a wild version of the colorful impatiens flowers sold so widely for shady annual beds.

Bittersweet (Celastrus)

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

There are three plants named, “bittersweet.” American bittersweet is harmless, but Oriental bittersweet should be regarded as a weed since it can harm your trees. The third type of weed that goes by this name (bittersweet nightshade) is one of our most poisonous plants, despite being related to the tomato.

Horsetail Weed (Equisetum arvense)

The Spruce / David Beaulieu

There’s more than one kind of “horsetail.” Equisetum arvense is a thoroughly weedy-looking plant that will spread out of control if given a chance, even in dry soil. Equisetum hyemale, by contrast, is a more useful horsetail plant to the landscaper. It is an architectural plant that can be employed as an accent around water features. If given moist soil, it, too, will spread, so consider potting it up for use around water features so that you’ll have firm control over it.

The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

Phytophotodermatitis. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology.

Brown, Sydney Park. Identification of Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac, and Poisonwood. University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2021.

González-Castejón, Marta, et al. Diverse Biological Activities of Dandelion. Nutrition Reviews, vol. 70, no. 9, 2012, pp. 534–547. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2012.00509.x

Álvarez-Acosta, Thais, et al. Beneficial Role of Green Plantain [Musa Paradisiaca] in the Management of Persistent Diarrhea: A Prospective Randomized Trial. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, vol. 28, no. 2, 2009, pp. 169–176. doi:10.1080/07315724.2009.10719768

Chen, Kuan-Wei, et al. Ragweed Pollen Allergy: Burden, Characteristics, and Management of an Imported Allergen Source in Europe. International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, vol. 176, no. 3-4, 2018, pp. 163–180. doi:10.1159/000487997

Kikuchi, Masao, et al. Glycosides from Whole Plants of Glechoma Hederacea L. Journal of Natural Medicines, vol. 62, no. 4, 2008, pp. 479–480. doi:10.1007/s11418-008-0264-x