Lawn weeds with seeds on top

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

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.

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.

List of Common Weeds That Look Like Grass

You’ve been working hard on cultivating the perfectly manicured lawn, taking all the necessary steps to plant seed or sod, fertilize, and mow appropriately. Despite your best efforts, there seem to be patches of your lawn that don’t match the rest. There are some common weeds that look like grass which tend to blend in with a lawn and thus can be more difficult to identify and target when compared to the average dandelion.

In this article I’ll help you identify these grass-like weeds and offer advice for how to combat and eliminate them from your lawn.

Common Weeds That Look Like Grass

Click to jump to a specific weed that resembles grass

Crabgrass

Also known as finger grasses, crabgrass can be an invasive type of weed that looks very much like grass.

It often sprouts in smaller patches throughout your lawn and has a distinctly coarse texture compared to the rest of your lawn. Thankfully, crabgrass is an annual plant so it only survives for the season and then dies.

That said, it spreads quickly, and because of its thick blades and lateral growth, it can quickly do permanent damage to your lawn by crowding out and smothering the grass surrounding it.

This is why it’s important to be vigilant and act right away if you see crabrass in your lawn.

The best way to get rid of crabgrass is by preventing its germination using a pre-emergent herbicide that can be commonly found in combination with fertilizer that you can spread in early spring.

Once crabgrass has germinated, the best way to get rid of it is by pulling it or using a direct herbicide.

Thankfully, crabgrass is not perennial so it is relatively easy to get rid of it with some diligence, and once you improve your lawn the canopy will be too dense for crabgrass to grow.

Wild garlic and onion

While it looks very much like a tall grass, wild onion and wild garlic are very fragrant and thus these grass-like weeds are pretty unmistakable once you get close enough to smell them.

If you finish mowing and it smells like you’ve been making pasta sauce, there’s a good chance you have some wild onion and/or wild garlic hiding in your lawn.

Wild onion and wild garlic also become noticeable as they grow faster than regular grass and quickly surpass the height of your lawn.

They grow in clumps, so if you have them, the rate of growth and growth habit make them pretty easy to identify.

For those who love garlic and onion as an addition to many dishes, this may be more of a fortuitous find (transplant them!). However, even the biggest garlic fans probably don’t want a swath of it in the middle of their lawn.

Thankfully, these weeds that resemble grass tend to only grow in early spring and late fall, becoming dormant in the summer season.

To remove them from your yard, dig them up (I recommend transferring them to a pot or herb garden) – just make sure to get bulb and all, or they’ll come back.

Herbicides will also work to kill wild garlic and onion, just make sure to check the label of the product your purchase to ensure that wild garlic and onion are included in the list of weeds it treats.

Nutsedge

Before it matures and blooms, nutsedge can look much like a tall grass.

Unlike crabgrass, Nutsedge is a perennial weed that can be quite invasive and difficult to get under control due to its hardy root systems.

It can also be spread throughout your lawn (or from a neighbor’s lawn) both by airborne seeds as well as underground rhizomes or tubers. It will continue to come back year after year unless you get it under control.

Sort of like fight club, the first rule of Nutsedge is not to pull Nutsedge.

If you try to combat it by pulling it, you’re likely to leave behind tubers or rhizomes that will end up sprouting.

One of the most effective ways to prevent Nutsedge is to grow a thick and hardy lawn that will crowd out Nutsedge, and prevent this invasive grass-like weed from being able to properly root and grow those rhizomes and tubers that make it so invasive.

But if you have it, recommending that you hop in your time machine and take steps to prevent it doesn’t help you.

If you have Nutsedge in your lawn, there are specific herbicides that can be applied directly to the base of Nutsedge to kill the entire plant including the underground components, and while I always recommend an organic approach when I can, in this case this will be your best course of action.

Common couch

Another common weed that looks like grass is couch grass or common couch.

Sometimes referred to as quack grass, this is another invasive species that is hardy and can propagate quickly in your lawn via rhizomes as part of a complex and fibrous root system.

This makes it hard to pull in its entirety.

It also spreads via airborne seeds, thus being able to travel longer distances and quickly find a home in thin lawns.

Similar to many of the other grass-like weeds, prevention by crowding out seeds is the most effective way to prevent these species from invading, which is why proper and regular lawn maintenance and improvement are always my best defense against lawn weeds.

Green foxtail

This weed gets its name from the appearance of the mature heads that bloom on these grass-like stalks. The heads look like small fuzzy foxtails!

They can grow anywhere from 10cm to 100cm tall and are very common in prairies and meadows. Despite its cute name, it is an invasive species that can be quite problematic, especially for farmers, and a nuisance to lawn owners everywhere.

This hardy annual plant with hundreds of seeds per foxtail plume spreads easily, as these seeds can travel great distances with enough wind.

Despite how hardy these lawn weeds are once established, they are quite a picky species when it comes to germinating. They prefer moist soil and are easily crowded out by densely planted lawns or fields.

Green Foxtail also prefers warmer soil in the range of 15 to 35 degrees Celsius (59-95 degrees Fahrenheit), but this weed can germinate at any point in the season as long as conditions are favorable.

Like most lawn weeds, Green Foxtail can be controlled with some herbicidal solutions, but the best way to prevent this invasive species is by crowding it out with a thick, healthy lawn.

Smooth bromegrass

Another hardy perennial, Smooth Bromegrass, is highly adaptable and it is able to grow even in cold conditions and survive for quite a long time once established.

Like Nutsedge, Bromegrass can grow rhizomes underground through intricate root systems, which will help it to spread across your lawn quickly … especially if your lawn is thin.

These qualities make it an invasive species that can easily get out of control.

However, Bromegrass serves an important purposes as hay and grazing fields for livestock and it can also help to prevent soil erosion due to this strong root system.

Despite these qualities, most homeowners probably don’t want it in their lawn. To control and eliminate Smooth Bromegrass in your lawn, I recommend mowing it down low and attempting to crowd it out with a thick, healthy lawn canopy. In a worse-case scenario, you should opt for an application of herbicide designed to target this grass-like weed.

Slender rush

Also known as “poverty rush” or “path rush”, this grass-like perennial tends to grow in clumps, which is similar to crabgrass.

It is propagated by above-ground seeds as well as below-ground tubers that form with the help of the root system. The deeper root structure with rhizome propagation makes slender rush a particularly invasive species to get under control in lawns, because it can still be present even if you can’t necessarily see it yet.

Herbicides are not usually an effective way to control slender rush.

Manual weed management tends to be the most effective way of dealing with this invasive weed that looks like grass. This can involve pulling weeds by hand. Do so carefully, and be sure to get the root system as well.

The other options is a mowing routine that doesn’t allow for the plant to mature and spread seeds above ground.

Tall fescue

You’ve likely heard this species discussed in the context of a grass, however it is an invasive perennial that has characteristics of a weed, particularly if your lawn is primarily a different type of turfgrass.

Similar to some of the other species discussed above, tall fescue has the ability to propagate via rhizomes underneath the ground. It is highly drought resistant, and in areas where it has been planted it has often taken over, crowding out other species of grass.

If you wanted to get rid of tall fescue grass that has run wild in your yard, you’d probably have to solarize it. Solarizing involves covering up large areas of grass to deprive it of sunlight and also increase the heat underneath the tarp so that it kills everything underneath.

Herbicides could also be used, but it would take a large amount which could get costly and be harmful to the environment, so I recommend solarizing tall fescue.

Restoring Lawn and Order

It’s interesting to compare various grass-like weeds and perennials that are less desirable than the perfectly manicured lawn.

Eliminating Weeds That Look Like Grass

Careful selection of grass species is important in establishing a lawn.

It’s also possible to crowd out many of these invasive species by planting additional grass seed seasonally (overseeding) to create a thick and lush lawn.

Pre-emergent methods can also be an effective backup method of prevention, and using a pre-emergent every spring for several years as you overseed, fertilize, and use proper irrigation to improve your lawn can help to create that thick, dense lawn canopy that will prevent weeds from taking root in your grass.

Finally, spot treatment with the appropriate herbicide can nip any problematic weeds in the bud.

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by Sarah The Lawn Chick

I’ve learned to love caring for my lawn naturally and enjoying it daily. On this blog I’ll share some of my best tips and tutorials to help you make your lawn the best on the block!

16 thoughts on “ List of Common Weeds That Look Like Grass ”

Need help with naming an invasive looking weed that has leaves that look like a rocket, long thick body with small wings. It’s overtaking my raised beds. I have a photo.

I’ll see if I recognize it! Email me a photo (my first name @ lawnchick.com)

Hello Sarah,
I have a few new spring weed grasses popping up that I didn’t see last year. Are you ok with sending the pics to your email for your opinion?

Thank you
Brian

Sure, Brian – I may not get back to you until this weekend but I’ll take a look as soon as I can!

Hi Sarah!
I just discovered your website/posts while researching ‘weeds that look like grass’. I breed, raise and train springers which are flushing dogs. Recently, I came back from an excursion and one of my springers got a ‘grass thorn’ stuck in her paw. I always check for these things but somehow I missed this one. Nasty little thing but it was removed and after treatment, my dog was right-as-rain!
I was researching lawns / grasses etc. as I’m planning to re-do my yard, making it more ‘dog friendly’. I was shocked to learn that Tall Fescue grass is considered an invasive weed on your website. This was the grass that was ‘highly recommended’ for those who have dogs. As I’m not keen on putting anything in that resembles bamboo in it’s underground system (I’ve had a 30 yr battle with this horrific stuff), can you suggest anything else? Any information you may provide would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for the comment. Springers are great dogs!

There are a LOT of different types of fescue, and as with any grass … what some consider a weed, others consider the foundation of a beautiful lawn. If you like the characteristics of fescue, I’d recommend you consider Turf Type Tall Fescue. It’s an improved variety designed for lawns and something I think you’ll be really happy with if you’re determined to go with a single type of grass for your yard.

You can read more about all of your options for Fescue here, and I have a comparison of TTTF and Kentucky Bluegrass which you may find interesting here.

You also may be interested in my article about how to grow grass with dogs that love to destroy it, which has some good tips on maintaining your lawn with four-legged friends. You can check that one out here.

Finally, I’d suggest that it might be a good idea to get a blend of grass seed, with whatever you settle on as the primary seed. I’m in New England and my lawn is a mix of Perennial Ryegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, and a few different fescues. Getting a seed blend that’s made for your area will give you good results, and provide good coverage in different areas of your lawn (full sun, part shade, shade, wet, dry, etc.). I think that’s easier to maintain than having to baby a single type of grass on parts of your property where growing conditions might not be ideal. With a blend of seed you allow different grasses to become dominant where the conditions are best suited for them, and your whole lawn looks and feels healthier.

Hope this helps – good luck!

Hi Sarah! Thank you so very much for all your help! This is the most information I have ever received! I love the idea of mixing grass seed … this could be a very good solution. My lawn is not very big … I have four ESS and of course they have worn paths to their various ‘barking stations’ ! The lawn is basically sunny and has thrived well. But, over time, some of the grass has worn despite my best efforts at ‘re-seeding’. I was relieved to learn that there are many types of Tall Fescue Grass. I would really like to see some great photos of lawns using this variety: google just doesn’t cut it!
Again, thanks so much Sarah. I live in BC., Canada so our climate is quite different from yours. Fortunately, living in the southern part (coast), we experience quite a mild climate, lots of rain in the winter with very little snow and our summer highs almost never reach higher than 34C. I will take all your suggestions under advisement and begin my research pronto!

You bet, Sharleen! Good luck and have fun with your project!

I have an area of lawn that has really compact soil, where a portion of the section gets scorching sun and the remainder is covered in shade. This year, I’ve tried growing Bermuda grass, but that is only taking somewhat in the sunny area. It has been so bad for so long that I’m now researching “weeds that look like lawns” that I can plant in this area and just be done with it! We are in central Virginia and have hot/humid summers and still some winter.

The transition zone can be tough for grass for some of the reasons you’ve outlined here. I’d try the Combat Extreme Transition Zone seed blend from Outside Pride. I’d plant it in September to give it the best chance of success so it can establish itself as things start to cool down in your area and it can build roots and come back strong and healthy for next season. The Outside Pride website has a calculator specific to this seed that will tell you exactly how much you’ll need to order and spread (I’d go a bit heavy, but that’s me). Here’s a link to an article with some resources to measure the lawn area you plan to re-seed so you’ll know exactly how much you need. I’d give this one (or one like it) a try before you throw in the towel. You need a good blend that can take sun and shade, and a fescue blend should be best for you as it’ll have the deep roots needed to withstand your summer heat.

Do you know what species prefer weeds to monocultures? All pollinators! Please consider why you feel you need a vast monoculture of grass in the first place.

Totally agree with you – I have huge perennial beds filled with native, pollinator-friendly plants that are in flower from spring through late fall for exactly this reason. I’m of the mindset that you can create a beautiful lawn for your family to enjoy while also supporting pollinators.

I have quite a few resources on this site that address this subject, as well. Here are a couple you may enjoy:

Thanks for your comment!

I just happened upon your website, Sarah. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with those of us who want weeds diminished in our lawns. Is there a specific herbicide that we should consider in dealing with nutsedge? Thanks for your attention to this matter. Frank

I’d try the Ortho Nutsedge product. It’s probably something that’s available locally, but you can also get it online (Amazon link). I like it because it comes ready-to-use in a hose-end sprayer. For those of us who don’t really like mixing herbicides, that’s a benefit.

As with any herbicide, I recommend testing it out in a small area before you spray it all over your lawn just to be sure it’s effective and that it isn’t going to kill your turfgrass in addition to the Nutsedge and cause a big headache for you.

We’re trying to identify a grass-like plant in our lawn (we’re in New Hampshire). I think it looks like a flat circle of knives. Pretty, but not the nice soft grass you’d want to walk through barefoot.

We have a picture that we can send.

I’ll see if I recognize it! Email me a photo (my first name @ lawnchick.com)