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How to Identify and Get Rid of Lawn Weeds

Identifying and addressing lawn weeds can be a special sort of landscaping nightmare. If you have ever found yourself trying and trying to get rid of these pesky plants, only to see them crop up yet again after another mowing, digging, and uprooting session…we know your pain.

Read on to learn how to identify different categories of lawn weeds…and how to get rid of them once and for all.

A lawn overrun with different kinds of lawn weeds.

How Lawn Weeds Are Categorized

There has been some debate over time on the best ways to identify various types of weeds. After all, there are quite a vast array of different weeds! And sometimes, you will find that how you addressed your lawn weeds didn’t stop them from returning.

Crawling weeds, creeping weeds, hedge weeds, broadleaf weeds…what’s the difference? What’s the actual methodology for removing them?

The trick to identifying–and getting rid of–lawn weeds is to get to the root of the problem. Literally!

Most weeds are categorized by their roots. This is considered best practice for identifying different kinds of weeds because addressing the root is generally how you’ll rid your lawn of them. And it’s how you’ll stop them from growing back.

Woman holding a weed, showing the root system.

If you fail to address the rooting system of your lawn weeds properly, chances are they will grow back quickly. And often, they come back with a vengeance!

Starting from the roots up will help you find the best solution for getting rid of lawn weeds in such a way that it eliminates their life cycle altogether.

Identifying Lawn Weeds By Their Roots

While you may find it difficult to look at the roots of a lawn weed and identify what type of roots they are, this is valuable information to learn. Knowing certain types of root systems and the weeds that have them will help you fight weeds effectively.

It’s important to note that while many kinds of weeds are less commonly found on your lawn, they all have the chance of getting there. Because lawns are so highly trafficked by people and pets, seeds from various types of weeds can always find their way into your landscape.

Whether they’re carried in on clothing, tangled in pet fur, or carried on the wind, chances are you will encounter many different types of lawn weeds coming in from all over. So learning which root system category they fall into–and how to address them properly–will help you prevent these invaders from taking over.

Check out the four categories of lawn weed roots:

Tap Root Lawn Weeds

Puncturevine that has overtaken a bare lot.

These are widely considered by gardeners and landscapers alike to be the most difficult root system among weeds. Despite being sturdy enough to anchor the weed into your lawn or garden bed, tap roots are incredibly fragile when handled and can separate easily.

Unfortunately, if any piece of a taproot breaks off and is left in the ground during removal, it will rapidly grow into more weeds. This makes tap root lawn weeds among the most obnoxious of their kind.


Dandelions, puncturevine, purslane, lambsquarters, pigweed, broadleaf dock, pokeweed.

Creeping Root Lawn Weeds

Wild violet growing in a lawn.
Wild violet.

Also known as rhizome roots, this type of root system can be quite sinister in its spread. Creeping root lawn weeds fan out horizontally through the soil and can be notoriously difficult to stop. In some cases they can grow many inches each day!

And if you fail to get all the roots out when weeding out these lawn weeds, it will be like you never did the work at all. They will continue to spread prolifically out from any leftover root particles. Soon you will see fresh patches of weeds cropping up all over.


Creeping Charlie, Japanese knotweed, Canadian wild ginger, goldenrod, creeping buttercup, smooth bromegrass, wild violets, field horsetail.

Bulb Root Lawn Weeds

Grassy nutsedge in a lawn.

Because they are much more compact than some of their lawn weed root system contemporaries, bulb roots are considered among the easiest to remove. These are typically found on flowering weed types and don’t usually require as deep or far-reaching work to remove.

However, you still have to be careful when handling them. Like a tap root, a lawn weed’s bulb root can regrow from any fragments that break off and are left in the soil during removal. So you want to make sure to get the whole root intact to prevent fresh weed growth in the same area.


Wild garlic, wild onion, lesser celandine, grape hyacinth, star of Bethlehem, nutsedge, oxalis, montbretia, slender false garlic.

Fibrous Root Lawn Weeds

Clumps of crabgrass along the edge of a lawn.

Another of the easier lawn weed root systems to address, the fibrous root is commonly found among annual weeds. Arguably, besides dandelions, you will find your most common lawn weeds in this category.

These types of lawn weeds sport a slender, shallow, and almost hair-like root structure. This makes them quite easy to pull up, and you can typically get the whole root system in one go. However, they can also be rampant in your lawn and can become so entangled with your landscaping it becomes a hassle to remove them without damaging your cultivated grass as well.


Green foxtail, crabgrass, quackgrass, chickweed.

Addressing Weeds in Your Lawn

How to Address Tap Root System Weeds

Gardener using a weeding tool to remove taproot weeds.

To start with, you will need the proper weeding tools to effectively remove standing tap root lawn weeds from your landscaping. The key here is to do your very best to get the entire tap root all at once without damaging it at all.

Remember, even the smallest broken off piece of a tap root has the potential to grow more lawn weeds!

Once you have removed all of the tap root lawn weeds from your landscaping, you have the option of using a weed killer spray to keep weed levels low. However, some folks do not like to have weed killer on their lawn where kids and pets play, or near a garden or trees full of food they intend to eat.

If this is the case, you can also help mitigate the germination of seeding tap root weeds like dandelions by keeping a fine layer of cut grass spread atop your lawn. This is easy to do after mowing if you don’t bag your grass shavings. Having this grass layer in place will help prevent tap root lawn weed seeds from germinating.

How to Address Creeping Root System Weeds

A woman using a garden trowel to remove lawn weeds.

Typically, creeping root/rhizome root weeds can be managed by a lot of mowing or digging up of the weeds. You can also use common and safe household products like salt, vinegar, or hot water to dry up the leaves and roots.

If you’re using a garden trowel or other weeding tool to remove the rhizome root system, just remember not to leave any behind! It’s also wise to bag these types of weeds up as you remove them in order to prevent the roots from taking hold wherever you toss the discarded weeds.

How to Address Bulb Root System Weeds

Woman holding a bulb root lawn weed with a lawn in the background.

Addressing bulb root lawn weeds is among the most straightforward of all lawn weed removal tactics. You can use a garden trowel or spade to dig down deep and get beneath the bulbs of these weeds. Then, remove the whole weed, bulb and all.

You can use various herbicides to reduce the likelihood of bulb root lawn weeds recurring in your lawn or garden. However, be sure to read ingredients closely and look for as nontoxic an herbicide as possible, as these can harm children, pets, and even folks with physical sensitivities.

How to Address Fibrous Root System Weeds

Man using a garden spreader to feed a lawn to keep it healthy.
Feeding a lawn to keep it healthy.

Although fibrous root lawn weeds can be easy enough to dig up and remove, especially from a garden bed, the difficulty is that many types of them closely resemble your lawn grass. This can make removing them without damaging your lawn very difficult.

If you find you have a proliferation of fibrous root lawn weeds such as crabgrass and quackgrass around, you may need to hire a professional lawn care service to weed out the invaders, so to speak. The good news is that once you control your fibrous root lawn weeds, keeping them that way can be quite easy!

The best solution to these kinds of weeds is to keep a dense, healthy lawn. This will leave little room for these lawn weeds to set down those shallow, fibrous roots. Ultimately, the effort to keep a healthy lawn will create less weeding work in the long run.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there any “one size fits all” method I can use for weeding?

Technically, many weed killers on the market claim to eliminate all types of weeds. Or at least a few hundred of them! The problem is that, as we have seen, various types of lawn weeds spread in various ways. So inevitably, some might slip through the cracks.

When perusing user reviews, you will also find that consumers who have purchased various commercial-grade weed killers have found them to vary wildly in their actual effectiveness. More than that, there are other factors to consider when using a weed killer.

It’s important to consider contact issues with your own children or neighborhood kids, folks with allergies or sensitivities to weed-killer contents, pets or free-roaming animals, and edible plants or fruiting trees. Sometimes, these broad method weed killers can do as much harm as good.

If you want to go the broader weed-addressing route, using an organic weed killer is a great option. This can help mitigate a lot of the concern for contact with plants, animals, and people outside of your weeds.

How often do I have to weed before all the weeds are gone?

Removing lawn weeds permanently can feel like a never-ending uphill trudge. After all, weeds earn their classification for a reason. They are stubborn and widespread plants and do not let go easily!

You may have to address the same sorts of weeds several times, often in the same general area, before you start to get the upper hand. But don’t let this hard work dishearten you! Weeds can only spread for so long, and with diligent effort, you can suffocate them in time.

What’s the best way to help prevent weeds before they start growing?

A woman spreading mulch around plants.

One of the easiest ways to reduce your time spent weeding is to stop weeds from laying down roots! There are a few different ways to do this effectively.

Among the best methods to reduce weeds is to mulch, mulch, mulch! Gardeners know this well and will often lay down a good mulch layer in their gardens. However, you can also use this method in your landscaping.

Using mulch around trees and flower beds can stop many weed types in their tracks. You can use wood, pea gravel, or river rock…all of these help prevent weed growth.

While you may not be able to mulch your yard, allowing grass trimming from mowing to remain on the surface of your lawn can help stop seeding from certain weeds. This can be particularly helpful against dandelion growth.

You also have the option of using preemergent herbicides. These help stop weed growth at the germination stage. You can use an all-natural corn gluten preemergent herbicide to go the more natural route.

Using drip irrigation or a soaker hose to water your landscaping plants but starve weeds is also a great solution where applicable. This is especially useful in areas experiencing frequent summer drought.

How should I dispose of my pulled weeds?

It can be super tempting to try and make pulled-up weeds useful by breaking them down for organic matter. Think, tossing them into the compost pile! This is quite a common mistake many landscapers and gardeners make.

If you do this, you will be sabotaging your own efforts. Even pulled-up weeds can lay down roots again. If you allow seeding weeds into your compost heap, things can get out of control — fast!

The best way to dispose of pulled-up weeds is to bag them and toss them in the garbage. Don’t leave them on your lawn or put them in a spot in your yard to break down. The risk of them taking over in a new location is too great.

Wrapping Up Lawn Weeds

Closeup of a dandelion in a lawn.

Feeling ready to identify and get rid of lawn weeds in your yard and landscaping? Before you get started, check out our picks for the Top 8 Weeding Tools. This will help ensure you have the best tools to make the most of your weeding efforts.

If you feel like you need to learn more about these pesky garden tenants, check out our weeds page to learn all about different weed varieties, treatment options, and surprising information.