It’s that time of year again when the dandelions start to pop up everywhere. But while they may look beautiful, dandelions can cause a lot of problems in your lawn and garden. 

This blog post is going to cover everything you need to know about identifying them, why they are so problematic, and how you can get rid of them without using dangerous chemicals.

This blog post will provide an in-depth guide on what dandelions are, how they grow, and how to eradicate them from your garden.

Quick facts

Common names: piss-a-bed, lion’s tooth, blowball, puffball, dent-de-lion, piss-en-lit, common dandelion, one-o-clocks
Scientific name: Taraxacum officinalis
Family: Asteraceae
Origin: native
Flowering season: April through to the end of September
Habitat: roadsides, lawns, grasslands, farmland, beds, borders, gravel paths, hard surfaces, waste ground and between slabs
Identification of Dandelions ahead of weed treatment

Dandelion Identification

This article will teach you everything there is to know about the Dandelion, and how best to remove them from your lawn.

It is a herbaceous perennial that grows in temperate climates all over the world but especially loves North America. It blooms in many colours of both flowers and leaves – typically yellow with white petal edges or greenish-yellow/mustard colour for its foliage.

The humble dandelion is not just a weed, it’s also a herb.

What does a Dandelion look like?

Characteristics that make up the Dandelion leaf, stem, root and flower are detailed below.

Dandelions are perennial weeds that form in early spring. Identification is easy if you know what to look for, and the first stage in an effective dandelion removal method.

Besides being a prolific plant that can grow up to 2 feet tall, before flowering it looks like a bright yellow flower with many leaves around its base.

After this, it becomes a globe-shaped seed head full of seeds ready for dispersal. The leaves are jagged and tear easily from their roots which means the whole plant will come away when pulled out.

Dandelion leaves shown in isolation
Dandelion leaves shown in isolation

Leaves: Dandelion leaves are very distinctive, consisting of deeply toothed margins with small white hairs beneath. They can be up to 12 cm (5 in) long and 3 cm (1.3 in) wide, but they are normally around 7-8 cms long with a width of 1 inch, covering the stem in groups of three near its base.

Dandelion grown from seed may have either green or yellow leaves; plants grown from root cuttings have a mixture of both green and yellow varieties on the same plant.

The pale underside is also visible when there is no leaf above it for comparison; this makes it easier to recognize that you are looking at dandelions when walking through woods or fields.

The major identifying factor of dandelions (besides their characteristic flowers) is the round to oblong light to dark green leaves that have jagged edges with deep veins running throughout them.

The leaves are arranged alternately along the stem, growing in a rosette. The ends of the stems bear flower heads consisting of bright yellow flowers with some brown or purple tinting.

It is these flowers that give dandelion its name; “dent-de-lion” [or ‘tooth of the lion’] refers to the jagged shape and pronounced midvein on each petal which resembles tooth marks.

Stems: Long, thin and hollow stem for the flower, the leaves have no stem and grow from the base of the plant.

The stem of a dandelion will always have at least one light green leaf (not always on every leaf) and grow up to 30 inches tall. As it grows larger, it will produce white “parachutes” or seeds that are swept away by the wind when they are ready to leave the mother plant.

The stalk and flower can be either yellow or white, depending on which form they grow as (dandelions are biennial plants).

Fresh roots of dandelion Taraxacum officinale with dirt and on garden soil
Fresh roots of dandelion Taraxacum officinale with dirt and on garden soil

Roots: Dandelion roots look like white, spindle-shaped tubers about 2–4 cm in diameter and 5–13 cm long. They have brownish skin on the outside and a whitish pulp inside. The main root is straight (but may be curved) with thin, fine offshoots that spread out in the soil.

The roots are thick like those of other root vegetables such as carrots or potatoes. and can spread as far as 50 feet from the original spot that it grew from.

This flower’s most identifiable feature however is its deep taproot that can easily grow through concrete or even tarmac which means that it is a common weed to find growing in paved areas around the world.

Dandelion heads with green leaves
Dandelion heads with green leaves

Flowers: Dandelion flowers start to appear around mid-April into May, depending on the climate and weather conditions of the year. Flowering lasts from 2 weeks to almost 3 months, depending on regional climate.

Most dandelions bloom between May and June. Dandelion plants can have up to 5 flower heads per plant at one time. Each flower head has numerous yellow-orange flowers with a white centre (25 – 35 per head). Each flower can be as wide as 2.5 – 5cm in diameter.

There is normally one flowering period per year with successive generations replacing the previous ones as they die off over time if left unchecked.

Close up macro of dandelion seeds
Close up macro of dandelion seeds

Seeds/Fruits: The dandelion fruit consists of a white pappus attached to a single tan-coloured seed. When ripe, each seed is carried away on a small parachute made from fluffy fibres that look like tiny hairs.

This structure enables them to be easily blown by the wind to some distance from their parent plant; in this way, they can propagate even if mowing or cutting occurs nearby but not directly on top of them.

A single dandelion plant can produce anywhere from 100 to 1,000 seeds at a time. The seed head is made up of many small flowers that look similar to the flower on top of the stem.

The Problem

Dandelions can slowly take over a lawn by shedding their seeds when knocked or when there is a windy day. They have a deep tap root which also allows them to continue growing through the summer months when grass growth slows.

Dandelion Seasonal Changes

The dandelion is a beautiful plant that many people don’t know much about. The time of year changes the appearance of the dandelion, and it’s important to understand what those changes mean so you can keep your lawn looking its best.

The life cycle of a common dandelion
The life cycle of a common dandelion

Dandelion in Spring

During the springtime when most flowering plants are blooming, the dandelion dominates the landscape by producing bright yellow flowers to attract pollinators. Its leaves are lush green.

In spring, when the flowers first appear on this weed-like plant, they are white in colour with yellow centres and tufts on top. But as summer approaches and days get shorter, these same flowers turn into an orangey-pink hue.

That’s because there is less sunlight to make them produce chlorophyll – which carries out photosynthesis and turns green plants green.

Dandelions flower most profusely in the spring, although they can even re-flower in the autumn. Flowers bloom in the morning and close up in the evening. They close after a few days in blossom, and the seeds develop inside the closed head.

The seeds, or “cypselae,” are generated on the flower stalk, with each seed representing one of the florets in the flower head. Each bears a pappus, which is a pair of feathery bristles that act as a sail or parachute, allowing the seed to be dispersed by the wind.

The flower stem elongates as the seeds mature, raising the fluffy seed head into the breeze.

Dandelion in Summer

Come summertime though, these plants take on an entirely new appearance – their leaves turn brown or tan while their flowers become bright yellow with more noticeable tufts of fuzz.

Dandelion in Autumn

As autumn approaches the leaves on this plant start to change colour and turn into a beautiful range of reds, oranges, yellows and purples before they drop off for winter.

The flowers also die back during this time so only the stem remains with its seeds ready to scatter across the ground when it finally dies away.

Dandelion in Winter

In the winter months, this flower has long stems and fluffy white petals.

The plant goes dormant during winter but leaves behind a white clump of seeds on top of its stem called “blowballs.

Dandelions go into dormancy during winter months where temperatures fall below 37 degrees Fahrenheit (-2°C).

Life cycle of a dandelion through the seasons
The life cycle of a dandelion through the seasons

How to get rid of Dandelion

Dandelion removal is challenging because they come back each year with their buds and seeds. Usually, it may be easiest to cut the whole plant down in mid-spring when most of the leaves are young and tender.

Method One – Herbicide Treatment

Dandelions can be treated with a variety of weed control methods. There are now a variety of more natural weedkiller options available in addition to typical weedkillers.

Contact weedkillers will burn and destroy the foliage, but not the taproots, which will continue to develop, create new green growth, and spread. Constant spraying every time new leaves appear will weaken and eventually kill it.

Spray with a systemic weedkiller for the greatest results. A systemic weedkiller that is absorbed by the leaves and then goes down to kill the roots.

To guarantee that the weedkiller is effective, follow these steps:

When the dandelions are actively developing, which is primarily from March/April through September/October, spray the leaves.

The bigger the amount of weedkiller that can be absorbed, the larger the leaf area. So don’t spray when the growth first emerges from the earth; instead, wait until the leaves become larger before spraying.

Spray the leaves with a fine mist to evenly coat them in little droplets.

Spray in the evening during the summer to prevent the spray from evaporating and to let the spray soak as much as possible. Spray earlier in the day in the spring or if dew is expected overnight to let the spray dry before dew falls.

A single weedkiller spray may not be enough to entirely eliminate the dandelion. It’s possible that you’ll need to spray once, wait for it to die down, and then spray any regrowth.

Depending on how widespread the root system is, three or more applications per year may be required to completely eradicate it.

Most contact weedkillers are total weedkillers, meaning they will harm or kill any plant whose leaves they come into touch with. Keep the spray away from desired plants, such as lawns, and protect plants by covering them with polythene or something similar when spraying.

When trying to treat dandelions growing close to desired plants, a gel that is rubbed onto and sticks to the weed leaves may be a better solution than spraying them.

Use an excellent lawn weedkiller on your lawn.

Weedkillers should be used with caution. Before using, always read the label and product information.

When using herbicides such as Roundup, we recommend you only apply them directly onto the weeds themselves.

If you do spray them on top of the ground, be sure that it’s dry out before doing so – otherwise, there is a high chance that this chemical might pollute nearby water sources like rivers and lakes.

We recommend spraying your herbicide when temperatures are between 65°- 80° F. It’s best if you spray them when it’s not windy or if there is no chance of rain for the next 24 hours.

Spraying prepackaged chemical weed killer to kill dandelions in a residential grass lawn.

Method Two – Digging it out

One of the quickest – though not always the easiest – ways to get rid of dandelions is to dig out the roots. You’ll want to pull up as much of the taproot as you can because even small bits will re-shoot and form a new plant.

A fork and hand fork are usually preferable over a spade and trowel, as the latter will cut the roots into smaller pieces.

Long, narrow-bladed weeding tools like rockery trowels and similar weeding tools are especially good for digging around and extracting the entire taproot.

It is possible to remove dandelions from your lawn at any time of the year, although it is best to avoid removing them during frosty weather as you will not be able to pull out all of the roots.

The roots die in early autumn so do not try and dig up dormant plants in late spring. To get rid of dandelions at this point would require extremely deep digging and results may only be superficial if any at all.

Method Three – Organic removal

Covering exposed soil with a weed-control membrane (landscape cloth) or even thick black polythene will block light from reaching the roots, causing them to perish. It may take several years for the taproots to be completely exhausted.

As soon as you see seedlings or immature plants, hoe them. Regularly hoeing new leaves of established plants as soon as they appear will weaken the plant over time, but it will likely take several years to entirely destroy plants with vast taproots – and it will require a lot of effort.

Lawns that are mowed on a regular basis throughout the year may become weak and eventually die. In lawns, however, it has a tendency to shift its growth behaviour, creating very low rosettes of leaves that are not disturbed by the lawnmower.

There are also long-handled lawn weed extraction tools that grab the roots and pull them out.

If a large number of dandelions manage to survive after doing everything mentioned in this article, we recommend pouring boiling water over those weeds instead. The heat from the water will damage its root system and kill off most, but not all weeds at once.

There is, however, a high chance that by doing so you’ll risk killing off nearby plants as well unless they’re further away from where you applied the hot water.

Management of Dandelions

Every effort should be made to prevent dandelion flowering and seeding.

Hoeing is a slow and difficult method of eradication due to the long taproot. Manual extraction of the deep taproot is challenging. In the past, a tool known as a ‘dandelion grubber’ was used to thoroughly remove the roots.

Cutting individual plants below ground with a blade may not be successful since any remaining root can grow, resulting in a cluster of new shoots. At the peak of flowering, root fragment regeneration and survival are at their lowest.

Tillage can help dandelion survive by regenerating root pieces, while ploughing can bury the roots deep enough to prevent emergence. Regular tilling also helps eliminate dandelions since their root structure is easily damaged by the blades.

It’s a similar method to pulling weeds, except you’ll be getting rid of all the dandelion roots as opposed to just pulling out the top portion of the weed.

Make sure you till deep enough so that all parts of the dandelion base are either cut off or covered in soil.

Strimmers or brushcutters are also pretty effective when it comes to this job.

In Conclusion

Dandelions are an interesting and common part of the natural world, but they can also be a pesky weed that is tough to remove. Whether you have just one or want to get rid of them all, we hope these tips will help.

How does Dandelions spread?

It spreads by its seeds and from the regeneration of the taproot.