What Are Dandelions?

Dandelions appear in lawns and fields all over the world, and they are a pesky weed that homeowners here in the Portland, OR area are all too familiar with. Though some people think they are relatively harmless and even enjoy the bright bursts of color in their lawns, the truth is that dandelions will destroy the overall appearance and health of your grass. To make sure you know how to identify an invasion early enough to stop it, the Simple Lawns crew has put together this article on everything you need to know about dandelions in your lawn!

Identifying Dandelions


Flowers: Pretty much everyone knows a dandelion when they see one. We are talking about lawn weeds with the same bright-colored flowers and puffy seed heads that you probably played with as a child. As a homeowner, however, it is important to know just how damaging these plants can be in your lawn. Aside from their famously yellow flowers, there are other ways to identify dandelions that you should know because removing dandelions before they flower and produce seeds is the best way to stop an invasion from spreading.

Leaves: Dandelions are perennial broadleaf weeds, and this categorization is actually helpful to know when looking for immature dandelions that have not yet flowered. The leaves of the dandelion are long, flat, and famously serrated in a rosette pattern around the base of the plant. The low, outward growth of these serrated leaves is very recognizable when viewed from above, and it is the easiest way to identify a dandelion that has not yet fully matured and flowered.

Roots: Dandelions have a deep taproot system that you will not be able to notice unless the entire plant is pulled or dug out, roots and all. The taproot of a single dandelion can reach depths of up to 15 feet in open fields, but the dandelions in your residential lawn will likely be only 10-20 inches deep. This root system is notoriously invasive, and it will steal nutrients and water from the surrounding turfgrass, leading to ugly patches of thin and dying grass.

Key Characteristics:

-Single yellow flower

-Delicate, fluffy seed head

-Stems up to 2 feet tall

-Hollow, leafless stems

-Deeply lobed & serrated leaves

-Leaves low to the ground

-Rosette leaf pattern around base

-Deep central taproot

So… Are They Weeds Or Flowers?


Don’t be fooled by the cheerful little flowers that appear at the end of dandelion stems! Many broadleaf weeds produce flowers that look very similar to healthy garden flowers. Dandelions are a member of the Asteraceae family, which also includes sunflowers, daisies, and chrysanthemums. In fields and meadows across the world, certain types of dandelions are considered wildflowers. However, in a residential lawn filled with turfgrass, dandelions will drain the soil of natural resources and cause your grass and gardens to weaken and wilt!

Types Of Dandelions


The kind of dandelion that appears in lawns throughout the Pacific Northwest, as well as the rest of the country, is a species named Taraxacum officinale, otherwise known as the “common dandelion.” It is native to Europe, Asia, and North America, and it has black seeds that can be seen through its fluffy white seed head. Taraxacum erythrospermum, which is also known as the red-seeded dandelion (pictured above), is native to Europe and Asia, and it has reddish-brown seeds. The seed head of the red-seeded dandelion is much less dense and less fluffy than that of the common dandelion, and the reddish seeds are quite visible as a result.

These two types are the most commonly found dandelions throughout the world, but there are over 250 species that have been identified. The different varieties in existence all have unique characteristics that can help you identify which species you may be seeing. However, because of the number of species, it can still be difficult for even a trained eye to identify all dandelions.

Where Do Dandelions Grow?

Weed-control-for-dandelions in Washington

Dandelions famously (or infamously) grow in just about any soil conditions and climates all over the world. They thrive in low-maintenance or poor-quality lawns and gardens, as they are opportunistic weeds that grow quickly wherever they find open space to develop their large root systems. They prefer full sunlight (up to 6 hours per day), but they can also survive in partial shade. Dandelions can even grow in concrete cracks and areas where other plants would not be able to survive. This is one of the reasons why they are often considered to be pesky weeds rather than pretty flowers. Once established, a mature dandelion plant will be able to survive even harsh winter weather, making them a true perennial annoyance.

Life Cycle Of Dandelions


Dandelions sprout in both spring and fall, usually 8-15 weeks after germination. Ideal conditions for dandelion growth are when soil is moist and temperatures reach roughly 50 degrees, but dandelions are incredibly resilient and can thrive in a wide variety of conditions. Dandelions are capable of blooming at any time between early spring and late fall, which is what makes them such a bothersome lawn weed.

Once a dandelion matures, a flower transitions into a seed head in as little as 2 weeks. As most of you already know, dandelion seeds can be dispersed very easily and often get carried long distances via wind and air currents. An individual plant can produce up to 2,000 seeds at a time. In addition to wind dispersal, something as simple as a foot brushing against a seed head or even critters running across your lawn can send hundreds or thousands of seeds off into the wind, where they will be carried into a new lawn to start the life cycle over. While dandelion seeds do not go dormant in winter, the deep taproot system of an established dandelion plant will survive in the soil over winter and allow the weed to emerge again in spring.

How To Prevent & Remove Dandelions


Dealing with dandelions can be a nuisance, but it doesn’t have to be! Preventing dandelions is easier than removing them because of their strong taproot system. Pulling or digging up the dandelion plants can be effective if done properly, but leaving even the tiniest bit of the roots in the soil will likely just cause the weed to regrow, making your efforts fruitless. Chemical weed killers can also be effective, but they should always be applied by a professional lawn care provider to ensure no further harm is done to your lawn. Keep the following tips in mind this season when trying to keep your lawn free of dandelions:

-Regularly mow your grass at 3 inches or higher to help prevent dandelion seeds from getting enough sunlight needed for germination.

-Pluck flowers of dandelions to make sure that the weeds are unable to produce seed heads and spread the invasion even further.

-Fertilize properly to ensure a healthy, thick lawn that will be able to withstand a dandelion invasion and even suffocate germinating seeds.

-Avoid hand-pulling because the taproot of the dandelion is often too deep and has fibrous shoots, making it unlikely you will pull up the entire weed.

-Dig out the roots with a spade or gardening tool to ensure that the weed will not have any material from which to regenerate.

-Apply pre-emergent to your lawn and gardens to create a protective barrier that blocks seedlings from ever emerging in the first place.

-Apply selective weed killer (2, 4-D) designed for broadleaf weeds. Apply the product directly to emerged dandelions, and try not to cover your grass.

-Call Simple Lawns at (360) 907-8100 to give your lawn and yard the very best defense against dandelions in the Pacific Northwest!


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