What are dandelions?
Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are perennial weeds that often appear on road verges and waste ground. They are also common in garden borders and lawns.
Although dandelions are generally considered a weed in gardens, they do have benefits, especially for wildlife:
- Dandelion flowers are among the top food sources for bees and other pollinating insects early in the year.
- Dandelion seeds provide food for small birds such as goldfinches and sparrows.
In gardens with enough space, it is worth leaving a few dandelions to grow in unused areas.
How to identify dandelions?
Dandelions grow from a low rosette of toothed leaves (soft, mid-to-dark green and sometimes pink near the base), producing an upright stem bearing the familiar yellow daisy-like flower (2.5-5cm across) that develops into a fluffy seedhead. The seeds are dispersed by the wind. Dandelions have a very long tap root that breaks easily and is difficult to dig out.
Dandelions flower from March to October, with the basal leaves persisting all year.
Dandelion symptoms and damage
Dandelions spread by self-seeding, with each flower producing up to 200 seeds. They compete with other plants for food and nutrients and are considered a nuisance in lawns, spoiling the look of the lawn.
Dandelions’ long tap root can regrow from just a fragment if it is not completely removed.
Dandelion treatment and control
Dandelions can be difficult to get rid of by hand because their long tap roots are hard to get out in one piece. The plants can also re-grow from segments of root left in the ground.
How to get rid of dandelions without the use of chemicals
- Dig up dandelions from lawns and borders by hand, removing as much of the long tap root as possible. This is easiest to do when the soil is moist. Dandelion removal tools, called dandelions weeders or dandelion grubbers, have a long thin blade and a sharp tip and are useful for digging out dandelions with the roots intact.
How to get rid of dandelions using weedkiller
- To get rid of dandelions in lawns, use a selective weedkiller such as Weedol Lawn weedkiller.
- To get rid of dandelions in borders, use a systemic weedkiller containing glyphosate, like Roundup Ultra. Glyphosate is a non-selective weedkiller and will kill any plants it comes into contact with, so before spraying, protect surrounding plants with plastic sheeting.
- To kill dandelions in paving, use a proprietary path weedkiller such as Weedol PS Pathclear weedkiller.
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using weedkiller.
How to prevent dandelions?
As it is not possible to prevent dandelion seeds being blown into gardens from surrounding areas, the best way to prevent dandelions becoming a problem is to remove any dandelion seedlings promptly while they are still small, and before they set seed.