Dandelions – a Love-Hate Relationship
Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Homeowners have a love-hate relationship with dandelions. Children love to pick the bright yellow dandelion flowers because they are close to the ground, pretty and easy to hold. Pollinators love dandelions for their nectar and pollen. For those that enjoy a beautiful green lawn, they are in a constant battle to remove them from the turf area.
Dandelions are a common perennial lawn weed that spreads by wind-blown seeds and new shoots from roots or root segments. When temperatures reach about 50° Fahrenheit dandelion buds start to appear in your lawn.
The dried flower heads that have gone to seed look like puffballs and are made up of 1/8-inch seeds. The ends of each seed have a parachute-type structure on the tip. This allows the wind to carry them for miles, aiding in dispersion.
Maintaining a dense, healthy, vigorous lawn is the best method of managing many turf weeds. As such, the use of adapted species of grass, adequate fertilization, proper mowing and irrigation practices, and appropriate insect and disease management all help to minimize dandelion occurrence. Low nitrogen fertility may result in high populations due to less competition from desirable turfgrass species. Mowing the turfgrass area as soon as the first dandelion flower-heads appear can help to reduce further infestations. In small areas, dandelion plants can be managed by hand, provided that the taproot, which grows 6” to 18” into the ground, is removed.
Guidelines for Using Postemergence Herbicides
When choosing an herbicide, be sure that it will control the targeted weed and that it is recommended for your turf. Before using, read the entire label and follow it precisely for rate and timing. The following tips will help you achieve optimum control.
- Most broadleaf weeds are best treated in the spring or fall when air temperatures are between 65°and 85° F. During hotter temperatures, turf damage is more likely to occur.
- At the time of treatment, soil moisture should be adequate. When stressed by drought, weed control is poor and turf damage may occur.
- Do not mow immediately prior to or after application. Mowing lessens the amount of herbicide that contacts weed leaf surface area.
- Treat weeds when no rain is expected for at least 24 hours with spray applications.
- Avoid treating on windy days because herbicide drift can injure ornamental plants.
- Best results occur when weeds are young.
- For acceptable control, repeat applications 10 to 14 days apart may be required.
See NC State Turffiles factsheet on Common Dandelion for complete herbicide control recommendations.
Dandelions as a Pollination Source
Dandelion’s peak flowering time is from late March to May, when many bees and other pollinators emerge from hibernation. Each flower in fact consists of up to 100 florets, each one packed with nectar and pollen. This early, easily available source of food is a lifesaver for pollinators in spring.
Bumblebees, solitary bees and honeybees all visit dandelions for food, along with hoverflies, beetles, and some butterflies. Goldfinches and house sparrows eat the seed.