By: Teo Spengler
Lawns can be deep and lush, but as every gardener knows, a beautiful lawn is both thirsty and labor-intensive. Many people are looking for lawn alternatives to create a pretty front area without all the watering, fertilizing, and mowing. Wildflower lawns or areas of flowering lawn weeds can be charming and easy-maintenance once established.
The term “weed” may call to mind a scraggly, ugly plant that is hard to get rid of. But the word simply means a plant you don’t want on your land. This group generally includes wildflowers; yet, wildflowers have many of the advantages gardeners seek when they go looking for lawn alternatives.
Although individual plant requirements vary, most native plants require neither fertilizer nor extra irrigation. If they depended on human maintenance, they wouldn’t bloom wild in nature to begin with.
Flowering lawns built of wildflowers also have the advantage of establishing nicely where a turf lawn would be difficult. Think of steep slopes, rocky areas, or sand dunes. The odds are that wildflowers can grow in these areas, whereas a gardener would have to work effortlessly to keep a lawn alive in such inhospitable terrain.
If you gaze at neighbors’ flowering lawns with envy, maybe it is time to make a move toward changing your own vegetation. Moving from pure grass lawns to wildflower lawns requires an initial effort, as you dig up all or some of the lawn and plant the seeds of flowering lawn weeds, but after that, your work is done.
If you want to plant wildflowers on your lawn, experts suggest that you plant the seed on top of your existing grass. Pick a site with moderately fertile earth, an excellent sward structure, and very limited amounts of perennial weeds or vigorous grasses.
Cut the grass very low in late summer, creating bare spots – up to 50 percent of the lawn – by raking. Mix wildflower seed with sand and broadcast by hand over the bare spots in autumn.
What wildflowers should you try? For best results, pick plants that are native to your region, low to the ground, and that spread rapidly. Gardeners in appropriate regions commonly use these plants in wildflower lawns to good effect:
Additionally, creeping thyme is one of the best low-growing ground covers since it requires no help to rapidly fill in bare spots between rocks or borders. It provides provide color, fragrance, and requires very little maintenance.
This article was last updated on
Read more about General Lawn Substitutes Information
If all that stands between you and a beautiful lawn is a handful of pesky weeds, you’re not alone! In general, garden soils contain a great many weed seeds waiting for their chance to germinate.
Some weed seeds will last for many years in the soil and sprout and grow only when the conditions are right. Unfortunately, weedkillers will not affect weed seed in the soil, only flowers and roots of a germinated weed.
Here are some of the most common lawn and garden weeds and what you can do to control their spread.
Dandelion is a very common perennial weed and one that can be surprisingly hard to get rid of because it germinates throughout the year. You can recognise it from its teeth-shaped leaves, which form in a rosette, and multiple yellow flowers that grow from its centre. You most commonly see them from March to November.
Beware when pulling Dandelion - it has a long, stout taproot and is difficult to pull. Any taproot left in the ground will grow into a new dandelion in no time! The simplest way of killing lawn weeds like dandelion is with a product like Weedol Lawn Weedkiller or Miracle-Gro EverGreen Complete 4 in 1, which also contains fertiliser to green up the grass as well as killing weeds.
Creeping buttercup is one of the most common lawn weeds in the UK, and you can find it in bloom from mid-spring to late summer. You can recognise it by its divided leaves, creeping stem and bright yellow flowers, each with between 6-9 petals.
This weed is very difficult to remove permanently thanks to its fibrous roots. To control this weed use Miracle-Gro EverGreen Complete 4 in 1 or Miracle-Gro EverGreen Premium Plus Weed Control Lawn Food in April. You can apply EverGreen Complete 4 in 1 three months after the first treatment if any stubborn weeds return.
Alternatively Weedol Lawn Weedkiller will give season long control of weeds with just one treatment.
White clover is a very common and easy to recognise weed that’s commonly found in lawns and turf. It’s a perennial weed and grows low to the ground with creeping runners. It can quickly choke out grass. You’ll recognise it by its distinctive three-leaf shape and small white flowers.
White clover grows in areas where competition is low, so having a healthy, well fertilised lawn is key to stopping its spread.
The most effective way to remove white clover is to treat it when it is in new growth stage, as it is softer and will absorb weedkillers more readily.
Rake up the runners then mow off established weeds before allowing it to grow back. To control this weed use Miracle-Gro EverGreen Complete 4 in 1 or Miracle-Gro EverGreen Premium Plus Weed Control Lawn Food in April. You can apply EverGreen Complete 4 in 1 three months after the first treatment if any stubborn weeds return.
Alternatively Weedol Lawn Weedkiller will give season long control of weeds with just one treatment.
Daisy is one of the easiest weeds to recognise when its flowers are in bloom in spring to early autumn. They have white petals and a yellowish centre. They can be found in nearly any soil condition and often grow very close to the ground, even on closely mowed lawns.
You can remove daisy plants by hand with a daisy grubber if you only have one or two on your lawn. If it’s a large infestation, you’re best to use a herbicide solution or spot treatment such as Weedol Gun! Lawn Weedkiller.
Ribwort plantain or narrow leaf plantain is a very common weed in the UK and can survive in drought conditions thanks to its large, fibrous root system. You can identify this weed by its long, narrow leaf, which are also oval in shape. It flowers from late spring to late autumn, with short flowers that grow in a spike shape at the top of a long stem.
Plantain might indicate that the soil has a compaction problem because these weeds tend to thrive in alkaline dry and compacted soils. You can weed them by hand, but take care to remove all the roots or it will grow back.
You can also use a herbicide to manage the problem, such as Miracle-Gro EverGreen Complete 4 in 1 or Miracle-Gro EverGreen Premium Plus Weed Control Lawn Food. Either of these products will not only kill the weeds, but also feed the grass. Once treated, aerating your soil and mowing regularly will help prevent it from growing back.
Common Mouse Ear is another perennial weed that you will commonly see growing unwanted on lawns around the UK. It spreads quickly and can smother grass in the process, and will also survive close mowing. You’ll recognise it from its dark green leaves, which have small hairs all over them. They have small, upright white flowers and appear from late spring through to autumn.
The simplest way to treat common mouse ear is by using a treatment like Miracle-Gro EverGreen Complete 4 in 1. Common mouse ear can also be pulled by hand, but this is typically only effective when it’s only in a very small area.
Medick or black medick can be both an annual and perennial weed and is most often found in neglected lawns with dry soil. They are very similar in appearance to Lesser Trefoil, and people often confuse the two one of the simplest ways to distinguish medick is by its seed pods, which turn black at the end of the season.
For small areas, you can pull black medick by hand if the plants are few in number. They can also be treated with herbicides such as Miracle-Gro EverGreen Complete 4 in 1 or Miracle-Gro EverGreen Premium Plus Weed Control Lawn Food. You can discourage this weed from returning by maintaining a good lawn with thick, healthy grass, making it harder for it to invade.
Bird’s foot trefoil is a member of the clover family, and can sometimes be confused for white clover when it’s first growing because of its similarities. You’ll know bird’s foot trefoil by its 3-leaflets shape, which grows on a short stalk, followed by three more leaflets at the base of the stalk. Flowers are bright yellow and look similar to honeysuckle. This weed grows in a variety of soils but prefers dry soils that are non-acidic.
It’s a perennial lawn weed, and can cause major problems as it tends to form in large patches and then spreads both above and below ground.
Bird’s foot trefoil has a deep root system and can be controlled by hand weeding if there are just a few plants. For larger patches it’s best to use a herbicide like Miracle-Gro EverGreen Complete 4 in 1.
Please note when using lawn weedkillers to read the instructions carefully before use.
At one time, most yards had at least some white clover growing in them. It was a world before chemicals, and clover was part of seed blends because it improved the soil—and the condition of the lawn. Gardeners are returning to recognizing the benefits of clover in lawn grass mixtures—or even as a replacement for grass. Learn more.
Move on from the quest for a perfect lawn of just turf grass. It’s not natural and ends up requiring chemicals. Before World War II and the advent of chemicals, clover was used as a great companion with turf grass. It was added to seed blends, along with fescues, ryegrasses and Kentucky bluegrass, because it helped grass thrive.
See the incredible benefits of clover below and you’ll wonder why you don’t grow clover!
You can plant clover by itself for ground cover, but it stands up better to foot traffic when combined with lawn grass.
Finding a four-leaf clover is considered good luck. Surely it must be, because on average there is only one of them for every 10,000 clovers with three leaves. But even if you never find a four-leaf specimen, just having clover growing in your lawn will keep it greener longer with minimum care, which we consider to be extremely good luck.
Looking for more ground cover options? See a few more hardy ground cover plants.
I was out in my garden over the weekend, not planting anything or even watering (we had plenty of rain this summer) . but . just pulling weeds . and more weeds.
I haven't been that attentive to the back yard this year and the weeds started to take over.
Here are a few I hate. I hate them! Yes, I know a "weed" is just a plant growing in place you don't want it to grow and that so-called weeds often have beneficial attributes. Some of these are invasive, however and are choking out native plants.
Okay, here's my list. I want to read your list. Maybe we can compare notes!
Potato Vine or "Air Potato" (Dioscorea Batatas) - this aggressive vine is just growing everywhere! "Heart" or "arrow" shaped leave and wee little brown "potatoes" growing on the vine. I hear they're actually edible.
Plantain Weed (Plantago Major) - common in lawns. In order to pull it up you got to get a firm hold of most or all of the leaves at the soil line. I hear the leaves are edible too.
Poke Weed (Phytolacca Americana) - I hate this one most of all. It produces deep purple berries that can stain everything. If you ignore it, you will discover they grow into small trees in just a few weeks!
Porcelain-berry (Ampelopsis Brevipedunculata) - despite the pretty sounding name, the berries don't look like porcelain but rather like grayish blue or purple beads. An aggressive vine.
If you want to kill the weeds in spring before the growing season, it is recommended to get a pre-emergent formula applied in the fall or early spring. For existing weeds, however, we suggest you get a post-emergent product with fertilizer. There are also great spot treatment weed killers with triggers for convenience.
Below are a handful of popular weed killers for your lawn.
Last update on 2021-03-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Weed Killer Warning! Always read the manufacturer’s recommendations when choosing and applying any chemical herbicides to your lawn or landscape beds. Wear protective gloves and remember that some weed killer applications can kill flowers, grasses, and shrubs.
Got weeds? Learn how to identify common weeds, including tips on why they’re thriving and how to get them under control.
When it comes to violets, opinions are divided. To some, it’s a weed of the vilest kind to others, it’s a dainty wildflower. No matter which camp you support, it’s vital to know that while violets have a literary reputation of being shy, in the landscape, they are anything but that. This perennial bloomer boasts a prolific personality, spreading easily by underground stems and seeds. In the lawn, it adapts quickly to lowered mower heights, growing shorter as needed to dodge the blade. Violets thrive in moist, shady sites, but mature plants are drought tolerant. The solution to eliminating violets? Vigilant hand-weeding (be sure to remove all the rhizome) and targeted herbicide use.
These perennial weeds smell like their namesakes, and there’s no mistaking their presence when you mow over them. Wild onion has flat leaves, while garlic is round. They both grow from bulbs and form clusters similar to chives. To remove them, avoiding hand-pulling. It only serves to separate the main bulb from the tiny bulblets surrounding it, which remain in soil and sprout. To dig wild onion or garlic, excavate about 6 inches deep to get the whole bulb. Otherwise, spray with herbicide. The kind that kills nutsedge works on wild onion and garlic. In late spring, these weeds produce small bulbs atop long stems. Snip these and destroy them. They contain new bulbs—they’re this weed’s way of spreading and covering new ground.
Keep an eye peeled in lawns and planting beds for sapling trees. Often these trees, like this walnut sapling, sprout thanks to the diligent digging of squirrels. It’s especially easy to miss these beneath mature shrubs or roses, until you spot the leaves poking through the plant. The other place that seedling trees pop up are along fencelines, courtesy of birds who have been gobbling fruit, such as mulberry, cherry or holly. Small trees are easy to hand-pull. Grab a spade if they seem firmly anchored in soil. Keep an eye out for seedlings in spring when weeding or mulching. Remove any you see before they have a chance to develop a tap root.
The nightmare of dandelions is the deep taproot (up to 15 feet long) and puffball seedhead, which disperses seeds on every breeze. The best defense against dandelions in the lawn is growing thick, healthy turf, which means mowing at the right height and fertilizing correctly. In planting beds and paths, these familiar weeds tend to show up in the worst places, such as rooted in the center of a perennial clump or tucked right in the edge row of paving stones. The best ways to get rid of dandelions? Spray them or dig them. When spraying, kick dandelions a bit first to scuff and wound the leaves—it helps the spray penetrate better. With digging, make sure you get at least 2 inches of taproot or they’ll return as two plants.
A non-native, invasive plant, garlic mustard grows in sun or shade, dry soil or wet. Its roots produce a chemical that inhibits other plants from growing. Thanks to these adaptations, it quickly colonizes areas. In many regions it’s displacing native forest plants, and in backyard gardens, it can quickly take over planting beds. Garlic mustard is a biennial, producing a small rosette of toothed, kidney shape leaves in Year 1, followed by a tall stem topped with flowers in Year 2. Remove (pull up stems and roots) and destroy any garlic mustard that appears on your property, putting it out with the trash.
Canada thistle brings a thorny problem to any landscape where it appears. This prickly beast grows from seed that can blow into your yard, or it can sprout from root pieces, which sneak in with bulk topsoil or mulch loads. Size varies, with many mature plants reaching 5 to 8 feet tall. In a single season, one plant can produce a 20-foot-long root system, and it only takes one piece of root to produce a plant. Control through weeding, but dig carefully and deeply to get the horizontal root. After digging, if another sprout appears, pull it, too. Or use an herbicide. The best time to spray is as soon as leaves break ground. Spray repeatedly through the growing season, and you will eventually kill it.
Braod-leaved dock appears harmless enough when the red-veined leaves pop through soil in early spring. What’s important to know is that this non-native weed has the capacity to produce 60,000 seeds per plant, with each seed able to remain alive (ready to germinate) in soil 80 years. This is one weed you do not want to set seed. Plants start out small, but grow up to 4 feet tall. Dock is a tap-rooted weed, and that weed reaches up to 4 feet deep into soil. Digging it out is mostly impossible. The best control is using herbicide or vinegar on the young leaves as soon as they appear. Scuff leaves a bit before spraying to ensure spray penetrates the leaf coating. Repeat spray as needed. The taproot can generate more leaves over time, but keep spraying. The root will eventually use all its stored energy and stop growing.
Also known as wild morning glory, bindweed is bad news. Hedge bindweed spreads by seed and creeping underground stems field bindweed spreads by weeds and roots, which grow up to 30 feet deep. These plants open flowers that look like morning glory, which is why many gardeners let them grow. They’ll grow along the ground like a ground cover, but if there’s a support nearby, like a rose, fence or tree, the vines twine and climb. Since these plants are tough to eradicate, it’s important not to let any get a foothold in your yard. Pull them as soon as you see them, and continue pulling each time they emerge. It will take possibly years for the roots to exhaust, but you can eventually beat them this way. For quicker kill, apply an herbicide that kills the root. It may still take more than one treatment, but you will kill these persistent plants.
Native Americans called broadleaf plantain “white man’s foot,” because it seemed to appear everywhere white settlers went. Touted as a healthy backyard weed with various benefits, broadleaf plantain can create a small colony that resembles a ground cover if grass is thin and soil is dry and compacted. Hand pulling this weed is an effective solution, especially with small infestations. Plants have a fibrous root system and come up easily with a Three-Claw Garden Weeder. Or spray plants with an herbicide any time they are actively growing.
This weed grows in poor, wet, compacted soil (think heavy clay). When nutsedge arrives in your garden or lawn, left to its own devices, it can quickly take over, establishing a colony. It looks like a grassy weed, but it’s actually a sedge. The individual blades have a strong center rib and are triangular in shape—a shape you can feel and see. The worst thing about nutsedge is that it not only produces seed heads, but also forms small bulbs or nuts underground. You can pull a nutsedge plant and still leave a network of nuts in the soil, each one capable of generating a new plant. The best approach is to spray plants with an herbicide. For nutsedge that’s growing in lawn, be sure to choose a chemical that won’t kill grass. A popular chemical is Sedgehammer, and it usually kills nutsedge with one to two sprays.
This annual weed thrives in shady areas with moist, fertile soil, but it’s adaptable and can also sprout in dry areas. Chickweed forms a low-growing crown of stems that spread and sprawl. In a planting bed, the stems crawl through perennials and annuals, showing up as far as 12 to 18 inches from the plant’s crown. In lawns, it usually shows up in thin grass with heavy, moist soil. For a small infestations, hand-pulling works fine. Try to get plants up before they set seed, which can number up to 800 per plant. For heavy infestations, look for herbicides that list chickweed. There is also a perennial chickweed that spreads by seed and stem or root pieces.
Also known as oxalis, this is a versatile weed that grows in sun or shade, moist or dry soil. It’s a clover look-alike, with heart shape leaves and yellow flowers. Blooms fade to form upright seed pods that explode when ripe, flinging seeds away from the mother plant. It also roots from stem pieces. It’s happy to grow in lawns, planting beds, gravel drives or vegetable garden paths. Oxalis is a common weed in nursery pots, so be sure to check before adding plants to your landscape. The best way to beat it in the lawn is to mow high and fertilize to grow a healthy, thick lawn. In planting beds, carefully hand-pull or spray with herbicide.
If the conditions are right this weed can be present in the lawn all year though it is most obvious during its flowering period in the early spring. Often mistaken for coarse grass this stubby grass like weed has very hairy coarse leaves with a dark ‘bobble’ like seed head from late March onwards. Forms large patches in the lawn by sending out stolons to form new plants.
This plant favours wet acidic conditions and with the wet summers of 2007 and 2008 has spread far and wide. In addition, it appears now to establish in any lawn to some degree regardless of acidity.