Weeds in Your Lawn

Whether weeds are good or bad depends on your perspective and goals for your lawn.

Learn create and manage top-notch lawns and landscapes in ways that respect the environment.

Weeds are not necessarily bad as they provide food and habitat for many beneficial insects and animals. Some lawn weeds, such as clover, can also improve soil health by fixing nitrogen and reducing the need for fertilizer. A perfect lawn is ultimately a food desert for pollinators. The increase in plant diversity in a more weedy lawn is actually beneficial for your lawn ecosystem.

However, from a homeowner's perspective, weeds can be considered undesirable. They may compete with the grass for nutrients, water, and sunlight, leading to a less healthy and unsightly lawn. Some weeds can also multiply and spread quickly, making them difficult to eliminate.

Some lawn weeds are invasive species that, while annoying in the lawn, cause real damage to nearby natural areas. For example, lesser celandine pops up in early spring before grass begins to grow and disappears with warm weather. However it easily invades wooded areas where it can crowd out early spring wildflowers.

Ultimately, whether lawn weeds are good or bad depends on the weed and your priorities and goals for your lawn. Some people may choose to embrace the natural and beneficial diversity of their lawn, while others may prefer a more uniform appearance without weeds.

Invasive Weeds

Lesser Celandine

Also known as fig buttercup, this invasive weed is originally from Europe and Asia. It appears in late winter in yards as well as moist woodlands, forming dense carpets of wide leaves that prevent the emergence of spring wildflowers. Removal by hand is recommended, but will require persistence. The roots have small tubers that will sprout new plants. Remove the whole root ball with the soil and discard (do not compost). Eradication may take several years, but eliminating this risk to wetlands is worth the effort.

Frustrating Weeds


Unsightly and usually a much lighter color than turf grasses, crabgrass stands out as one of the most common and frustrating weeds of the lawn and garden. It can remain low growing when mowed regularly or stand 2 feet tall in unmowed areas. The flowering stems release thousands of seeds in mid-summer that can last more than 3 years in the soil. Crabgrass is an annual, meaning the plants die at the end of the season and seeds germinate the following spring.  Controlling crabgrass before it sets seed can reduce the number of future sprouts.

Fertilizing Weeds

White Clover

Clovers belong to the legume family, which includes beans, peas, alfalfa and many other familiar plants. Legumes can draw nitrogen from the air and convert it to a type that is available to plants as fertilizer - a unique super power! The beauty of clover flowers combined with an increase in soil fertility has resulted in deliberate use of clover seeds in lawn seed mixtures. White clover is common in lawns with acidic, low fertility and compacted soils. Improving soil conditions and increasing mowing height can help reduce white clover dominance. Since the flowers are so attractive to bees, it is wise to mow flowers before using any product that might harm pollinators.

Nutritious Weeds

Broadleaf Plantain

Native to Europe and Asia, this perennial plant is very common and thrives in compacted and disturbed soils, especially in areas with lots of foot traffic. Despite its weed status, broadleaf plantain's leaves and seeds are nutritious and the plant contains useful medicinal compounds. Hand-pulling with a weed tool before seeds are set will help reduce plants and future seedlings.


plants with heart-shaped leaves and yellow flowers
grass-like plants
plants with white flowers growing in grass lawn
plants with wide leaves and long spikes of small flowers