But do you want to?

dandelion weed

How bad is this weed?

Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) have proved to be one of the most successful pests of the gardener. They have adapted to lawns and gardens all over the world. Although there is a rare California variety (Taxacum californicum), these shaggy, yellow flowered weeds are not native to the United States – or many other places they now call home.

These brightly colored invaders delight in speckling themselves all over your carefully tended lawn, shouldering out your prize flowers and bullying your vegetables out of their rows. They are rarely welcome and even more rarely willing to leave easily. Here are some suggestions how to kill or live with dandelions. It’s your choice!

There are several reasons dandelions are so tenacious. First, they have long tap roots and even pieces of these roots can regenerate. They also grow, bloom and set seed very fast – often before you even notice them they have started to propagate across your landscape. Most types can develop seeds asexually so they are not dependent on cross-pollination and, once the seeds are set, they catch a ride on wind currents and travel aloft for impressive distances.

This means dandelions are well equipped to battle you for your garden space. It is your job to interrupt these growth advantages if you want to get rid of them.

dandelion seed head

The familiar seed head of a dandelion

Stop dandelions by killing the plant before it can set seed. You can use commercial herbicides, natural/organic weed-killing methods, or simply dig out the plant by hand. The safest method is hand pulling since you will be introducing no poisons into your environment. It is labor intensive because you must get all parts of the root out or it will grow from remaining pieces. If you opt for using an herbicide, make sure you follow the directions exactly. You will likely have to treat the weeds more than once using chemicals and remember toxicity can remain in the soil even once the weed is gone. Keep children, pets and edibles away!

Other suggestions are to water with boiling water or pure vinegar. These organic methods will require multiple treatments and won’t necessarily kill the whole plant. They can also injure surrounding plants. They are, however, very safe for people and animals and even the high acidity created by vinegar will not be long-lasting in the soil.

Snipping or pulling all seed heads early – ideally before they open – will keep dandelions from seeding all over your garden. But it will not stop seeds from neighboring properties from parachuting in.

Dandelions have some redeeming traits you can enjoy if you don’t want to battle them. These weeds aren’t all bad guys.

All parts are edible and nourishing. Flowers are attractive and the whimsical seed heads have captured the imaginations of lovers, children and photographers. The roots also offer up a tasty coffee substitute. But think twice before puffing away the spherical seed head in hopes of fulfilling your wishes. You will likely be setting free a whole army of seeds on their way to invade someone else’s garden!