How to Get Rid of Dandelions in Your Yard

Dandelions may be a delight for the kids, but they can mar turf and compete with native plants. Our expert weighs in why you might want to get rid of the broadleaf weeds, and how to get the job done without harming your yard.
Small group of dandelions on green grass.

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Though young children might love their fluffy seed heads, most lawn-tending grown-ups dread the sight of dandelions. According to Kim Eierman, an ecological landscape designer in Bronxville, N.Y., dandelions can appear anywhere, and the weeds “especially like sun,” she says. Eierman, who is the author of The Pollinator Victory Garden: Win the War on Pollinator Decline with Ecological Gardening, has plenty of ideas for preventing and eliminating dandelions, which she calls “prolific reseeders, even invaders,” and not as helpful to pollinators as many published hacks and memes might suggest.

Dandelions are broadleaf perennial weeds, with a taproot that will regrow if not removed completely. When considering how to kill dandelions, one option is to control the plants’ regrowth by digging deeply enough to pull up those roots (which can grow to 3 feet long). The plants also spread by seed. On a single plant, those puffy heads that appear after the yellow flowers fade can carry 20,000 viable seeds. “Don’t let [a dandelion] go to seed and you’re already ahead of the game,” says Eierman. In general, the best way to kill dandelions is a natural and multipronged approach.

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Project Overview

Working Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour to 12 weeks, depending on method
Skill Level: Beginner
Estimated Cost: $0 to $40

Before You Begin

Lawn owners often hear that they should let dandelions be. The plants do have some edible parts, their taproots help aerate the soil, and the flowers contain some pollen—though not helpful food.

“Contrary to popular opinion, dandelions fail to provide nutritious pollen for bees,” says Eierman. She explains that bees rely on pollen to feed their young, but that of dandelions is not as nutritious as that of native plants. “At least 25 percent of our native bee species in North America specialize in the pollen of particular native plants that they have evolved with,” she says. Dandelion is not among the specialist plants.

Eierman says that dandelions also have some allelopathic tendencies, which means they can deter growth of some plants around them, and they compete with those native pollen producers for resources like nutrients and water. The dandelion debate boils down to personal preference, how many dandelions are present, and how much work a gardener can do to control and prevent them naturally.

If you can tolerate a few in your otherwise pristine turf and are willing to control their spread, let the dandelions be. If not, try our steps below, relying on natural methods before deciding whether to resort to chemical treatments.

How to Get Rid of Dandelions Naturally

Person holding dandelion removal tool and plant.

Eierman’s approach to landscaping is “always do no harm,” so she advocates natural control methods. She also encourages her clients to grow a diverse set of plants to support native bees and wildlife, rather than a large lawn of non-native turf. Start with the steps below to get rid of the weeds naturally.

Step 1: Dig up the dandelions.

First, use a watering can to dampen the soil around the dandelion, and wait a few minutes (or take on this task after it rains). The taproot will come up more easily if the soil is soft and moist. Then, work a weeding knife down along the base of the weed in two or three places. Push the soil away from the root of the plant by wiggling the knife. Finally, grasp the base of the plant between your fingers and pull gently. If it still feels stuck, work the weeding knife around some more, and then gently pull out the entire taproot with the dandelion.

Or, use a tool specifically designed for pulling dandelions by hand or removing dandelions while standing. Moisten the soil as described above and employ the tool according to its directions. In general, you have to dig as deep as the weed’s taproot to keep it from growing back the next year. “Get the dandelion weeder and go to town; it’s very meditative,” Eierman says.

RELATED: 5 Things to Do With Weeds After You Pull Them

Step 2: Carefully target the dandelion root with an organic herbicide.

If hand-pulling is not an option, or the root breaks, you can try an organic herbicide. Most natural herbicides you’ll find at the store are nonselective, meaning they will kill any plant they contact, including your grass. Keeping that in mind, carefully apply herbicide (either a commercial herbicide or a homemade solution) only into the hole from which you just pulled the dandelion. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for use and safety when applying organic (or any) herbicides.

RELATED: 3 Surprisingly Good Reasons to Let Dandelions Grow in Your Yard

Although homemade methods like boiling water, vinegar, and corn meal often are touted as weed-control methods, they typically are not tough enough to penetrate dandelions’ long taproots and generally work best on young weeds that are just emerging. However, those willing to take time to try these natural methods may have success, especially with stopping the weed from forming a viable seed puff. Combining limited use of a natural herbicide with hand-pulling could be the best answer to how to get rid of dandelions permanently.

How to Get Rid of Dandelions Using Herbicides

Person spraying herbicide on dandelions.

If natural methods fail to control dandelions, or the weeds have taken over an area of the landscape, more drastic measures might be in order. It’s best to use any commercial nonorganic herbicides as a last resort, and only if necessary. and our parent company, Recurrent Ventures, put conservation and sustainability at the forefront of much of what we do. Though the solutions offered in this content are all effective, not all of them are organic or sustainable. The staff of encourages readers to make informed choices about maintaining their home and property. We recommend starting with the least extreme solution, escalating only if necessary, and prioritizing solutions that will not have detrimental effects on the health and longevity of this planet and its inhabitants.

Step 1: Apply a pre-emergent herbicide to the hole after digging, or to bare areas of soil.

Despite efforts in a given year to stop seeds from forming on dandelions, hundreds of seeds might already lie in wait in your yard from previous years, or blow in from surrounding lawns or fields. Pre-emergent herbicides can keep those dormant seeds from becoming viable weeds. Just be aware that these herbicides are non-selective, so herbicides also will prevent grass or flower seeds from growing in treated areas for at least 8 to 12 weeks. If the grass type has runners, these might fill in, or you can choose plugs or sod over seeding bare spots.

The first spots to hit are the holes left after pulling up a dandelion plant and root. Follow the package directions for timing, amount, method of application, and safety. Loose soil and bare soil also are vulnerable to aggressive weeds. Only spread a pre-emergent broadly when absolutely necessary, and consider replacing bare soil with native landscape plants to prevent the need to continue using an herbicide.

Step 2: Apply a broadleaf weed killer, only if necessary to stop re-emerging dandelions in turf.

If a dandelion grows back from a portion of root left in the ground or manages to grow from seed despite applying pre-emergence herbicides nearby, try targeting the weed with a natural herbicide first.

As a last resort, choose a broadleaf weed killer containing chemical herbicides such 2,4-D, dicamba, and MCPP if the organic dandelion killer fails after several tries. Commonly labeled as “weed-and-feed” or “turf-builder,” these products contain nitrogen to feed grass along with the ingredients that attack dandelions.

Spray any weed killer sparingly, only on the problem weeds, and always according to all package instructions for use and safety. Again, hand-pulling is the most eco-friendly and safest choice, along with weed prevention.

RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Dandelion Killers

How to Prevent Dandelions From Growing Back

Woman watering flowers.

Eierman says one of the best ways to prevent dandelions and support bees and the environment is to have less (or no) lawn and more diverse plants, particularly natives. “Keep the lawn that you really use,” she says. These might be spots the dog uses, where the kids play, or grassy areas for entertaining and recreation. “Lose the rest, and replace it with native plants,” says Eierman. She also suggests that people stop focusing on perfection in landscapes, which are ecosystems. Avoid getting too hung up on a few weeds or a large and pristine turf. Create a healthy ecosystem with diverse native plants in sufficient quantities to attract bees and butterflies.

“The part you keep, manage it organically,” says Eierman. A strong and healthy lawn will be less susceptible to weed invasion and will better compete with weeds like dandelions. Think long term and follow these standard practices for good lawn care that supports the environment:

  • Keep plants as diverse as possible, and choose pollinator-friendly plants that are native to your region.
  • Water the remaining grass deeply but infrequently to encourage a strong, deep root system.
  • Cut no more than a third of the length of the grass blades at any one time, but keep up with mowing to cut off flowers (which become seeds) on weeds in the lawn.
  • Properly schedule fertilizing based on your grass type, and use natural, organic products.

RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Stand Up Weeders

Final Thoughts

This routine for eliminating dandelions is time consuming, but with a little patience, you can control and prevent dandelions and similar weeds with natural methods, especially by pulling them. If you choose to embrace dandelions for their touted benefits, just don’t give them too much credit or leeway. Be vigilant and consistent about keeping dandelion seeds from spreading, which your neighbors also will thank you for.

Then, consider some long-term prevention. “If we want to support bees, reducing lawn (and non-native lawn weeds) and planting ecologically supportive native plants is essential,” says Eierman.