Dandelion

The bright yellow flowers and ‘clock’ seedheads of dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) make this plant easily recognisable. Dandelions may be considered a nuisance in parts of the garden, especially in weed-free lawns but have many herbal uses and are a good early source of nectar and pollen for insects so worth tolerating where possible.

Dandelion

Quick facts

Common name Dandelion
Botanical name Taraxacum officinalis
Area affected Lawns, hard surfaces and cultivated ground
Caused by Spread by seed and regenerates from tap root
Timing Flowers March to October

What is dandelion?

Dandelion (Taraxacum) is a British native perennial plant common to roadside verges. In gardens it can be a cheerful addition to a flower-rich lawn and a welcome source of pollen to many insects. Learn more about making the most of lawns as a wildlife habitat and ways to help our bees;

Taraxacum is found throughout the British Isles and over 200 microspecies has been identified. Dandelions have many uses including as a diuretic, the blanched leaves can be added to salads, roots are used to make dandelion ‘coffee’ and dandelion wine is made from the flowers.

However, dandelions also readily selfseed and can become a persistent weed of lawns, borders and hard surfaces. This page looks at options for gardeners when dandelions are becoming a problem.

Appearance

Dandelion has a rosette of basal leaves sprouting from a stout tap root and exudes a milky latex when damaged. The leaves are soft, mid-to-dark green lobed or unlobed with a midrib sometimes pink especially near the base.

Flowerheads are mid-yellow, 2.5-5 cm (1-2in) across; the flower stalk pinkish and hollow. The seedhead is a large conspicuous ‘clock’ composed of cylindrical seeds with a long-stalked pappus or parachute to aid dispersal. Flowers from March to October and the basal leaves persist all year.

The problem

Dandelions can become a problem because they are quick to flower and produce masses of windborne seeds. And the long tap root of dandelions is able to regrow from a fragment if not completely removed.

Control

Where dandelions are out of control in a garden or are simply growing in the wrong place, control may be necessary. First, consider whether this can be done using non-chemical means such as digging out and where this method is are not feasible, chemical controls may need to be used.

The RHS believes that avoiding pests, diseases and weeds by good practice in cultivation methods, cultivar selection, garden hygiene and encouraging or introducing natural enemies, should be the first line of control. If chemical controls are used, they should be used only in a minimal and highly targeted manner.

Cultural control

Dandelions are difficult to control by cultural methods once established.

Try digging out isolated specimens, removing as much of the tap root as possible early in the spring. Dandelions can regenerate from fragments of root so it may require several attempts to completely remove a deep or awkwardly positioned plant. There are many specially designed tools to help with removal. Dig plants out as soon as they appear and don’t allow to flower and set seed.

Weedkiller control

Grassed areas

Selective weedkillers in lawns:
Dandelions can be controlled with one or two applications of weedkillers containing 2,4-D, dicamba, clopyralid or fluroxypyr (Doff Lawn Weedkiller, Vitax  LawnClear 2, Westland Resolva Lawn Weedkiller Extra, Roundup Lawn Ultra Weedkiller, Roundup Lawn Optima Weedkiller or Weedol Lawn Weedkiller). Lawn weedkillers based on mecoprop-P may check the growth of dandelions but not completely kill them.

Apply lawn weedkillers in summer after cutting off the flowering heads to prevent seeding, then re-spray leaves that re-grow 14 days after cutting back. Treat again in autumn if basal rosettes are present.

Treated clippings
Do not add the first lawn clippings after application to the compost heap. The first clippings from products containing clopyralid (which is especially persistent including Vitax LawnClear2, Vitax LawnClear2 Feed & Weed and Weedol Lawn Weediller) should not be composted and the next three mowings should be used as a mulch only after composting for at least 9 months. To avoid possible contamination of compost, do not collect the clippings at all but mow frequently and allow the short clippings to remain on the surface of the lawn. These will quickly disperse to leave an acceptable finish.

New lawns
New lawns can be easily damaged by lawn herbicides so avoid using them within six months of seeding or turfing. However, products containing fluroxypyr (Weedol Lawn Weedkiller) is claimed to be safe if applied two months after sowing or laying turf. The new lawn must be growing well.

Selective weedkillers in rough grassland:
Use a selective weedkiller which contains triclopyr (SBK Brushwood Killer) as this would leave the grass unharmed. However, other broad-leaved plants will be damaged (e.g. wildflowers) and so should only be used in grass where such action is acceptable

Non-selective weedkillers for spot treating in grass:
Glyphosate is a more effective treatment for established dandelions but is not selective and any spray coming into contact with grass around the dandelions would be killed or severely checked. Use a ready-to-use spray or a gel formulation (Roundup Gel) to spot treat individual weeds. Apply when growing strongly from midsummer onwards.

Borders

  • Apply glyphosate as a spot treatment to individual plants or spray areas that have been cleared of cultivated plants
  • Glyphosate is a non-selective weedkiller applied to the foliage, where it is translocated throughout the weed. Tougher formulations are worth trying (e.g. Roundup Ultra, SBM Job done Tough Weedkiller (soluble sachet only) or Ecofective Rootblast Super Strength Total Weedkiller)
  • Being non-selective, it is essential to avoid spray drift onto neighbouring plants. It is important to have good leaf coverage so that as much chemical is absorbed as possible
  • Sprays are most effective if applied from early June to mid-August
  • As this weed is so persistent several applications may be necessary

Hard surfaces

To control dandelions growing in cracks between paving or on other hard surfaces, use a proprietary path, patio or drive weedkiller. See our page on controlling weeds on hard surfaces.

Inclusion of a weedkiller product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by the RHS. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener.

Download

Weedkillers for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining weedkillers available to gardeners; see sections 1a, 1b, 1c and 4)

Links

Chemicals: using spot and broad-scale weedkillers
Chemicals: using a sprayer
Chemicals: using safely and effectively
Weeds: non-chemical control

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