UK Weeds – The 14 Most Common

The United Kingdom houses a wide range of weeds, and perhaps many of these are not easy to control. Only if you are well aware of the different weeds, can you effectively manage and prevent their growth. This article focuses on some of the most common weeds you can find in the UK, supported by some useful information on their appearance, type, and control measures.

small yellow flowers

Table of Contents

uk weeds

Name of Weed Family
Bugloss Boraginaceae
Cleavers Rubiaceae
Common Chickweed Caryophyllaceae
Common Dandelion Asteraceae
Creeping Buttercup Ranunculaceae
Daisy Asteraceae
Dock Polygonaceae
Giant Hogweed Apiaceae
Groundsel Asteraceae
Hairy Bittercress Brassicaceae
Knotweed Polygonaceae
Nettle Urticaceae
Oxalis Oxalidaceae

Couch Grass

Also known as twitch grass, couch grass is a popular enemy among gardeners. The weed forms wiry underground stems, and the creeping shoots pop out of the soil to take control of your garden beds.

The couch grass appears to be a scruffy tuft of grass on the outside, but underneath, it forms a dense network of roots that spread quickly and choke the growth of nearby plants.

Type

Perennial Grass

Family

Poaceae

Control

The couch grass should be gently removed using a fork to make sure all the roots are dug out and there isn’t any damage to the nearby plants. Springtime is the best time to hand weed this plant so that it doesn’t re-establish itself around bulbs. In the case of infested lawns, glyphosate can be sprayed until all of the grasses are killed. After that, you can dig over the soil to prepare it for re-sowing or re-turfing.

creeping roots

Common Chickweed

Common chickweed is a low-growing, semi-evergreen annual that affects many different locations in your garden, including beds, borders, lawns, and uncultivated ground. With small white flowers, it forms mats of foliage.

The weed can be identified by its simple, frosty leaves, arranged opposite each other on the stem, and the bright white flowers with five petals and five sepals. The weed grows up to 30 cm, at most.

Type

Annual

Family

Caryophyllaceae

Control

If you want to get rid of common chickweed, try hand weeding though it is time-consuming. To prevent it from spreading, you will have to pick it off the lawn the moment you see it. Professional herbicides and selective lawn weed killers can also be used to control this weed.

low growing grassy weed

Groundsel

Groundsel is a small, upright weed that grows up to 22 cm. The flowers appear like small dandelion heads. Groundsel prefers dry, shady areas, and is mostly found around cabbages, courgettes, and parsnips. One small groundsel plant can have hundreds of seeds which are usually dispersed by the wind. Therefore, if you don’t remove these plants, they can ruin the whole garden.

Type

Annual

Family

Asteraceae

Control

You can try hand-weeding or mechanical control during the early stages of the weed’s growth, as you can take advantage of its shallow root system. Mechanical control seems to be effective when performed before the flowers open because opened flowers form viable seeds even after the groundsel is killed by a herbicide or other methods. Applying mulch before seed germination is another popular physical method to control this weed.

pale yellow flowers

Common Dandelion

Do you remember the ball-shaped seed heads that you blew into the wind when you were a child? Well, that’s the common dandelion and it is actually a weed! It can be found on almost every lawn in the UK.

The weed species is a low-growing plant with bright yellow flowers. It’s very challenging to control the dandelions, mainly due to their quick germination capabilities and aggressive root system. You can identify the common dandelions by their long leaves with pointed edges, deep taproots, and bright yellow flower heads which become white puffball seed heads when mature.

Type

Perennial

Family

Asteraceae

Control

Common dandelions are quite easy to control. If there are only a couple of plants, you can try hand-weeding. However, you should make sure you pull out all of the roots. If the dandelions have spread over your entire lawn, an effective lawn weedkiller is all you need. Regular treatment is capable of controlling dandelion outbreaks easily.

Dandelions

Daisy

Most of you may not know that daisies are weeds. Perhaps, daisies are a well-known lawn weed in the UK. These plants can grow easily in a variety of locations and soil conditions. What’s more, they can outcompete the spread of other weeds.

Daisy plants can be identified by their small white flowers with a yellow centre. Its leaves are long and shaped like tablespoons. Unlike many other plants, leaves don’t grow upwards, but outwards.

Type

Perennial

Family

Asteraceae

Control

Hand weeding is the best way to get rid of daisy weeds. Just dig them out using implements that are designed for the purpose. You can use a daisy grubber, a traditional weed puller that is exclusively designed to deal with short-rooted plants. To control large infestations of daisies in the lawn, using a selective lawn weed killer is a good option.

perennial weeds

Nettle

Nettle is a very common weed with peculiar green, oval-shaped leaves lined by teeth-like edges. The stems are square and contain tiny hairs. The plant grows up to 2m tall. Nettles tend to be the main food source for British butterflies. So, many homeowners just let them be, provided they don’t interfere with their gardens.

While nettle is believed to be a medicinal herb, it’s quite invasive. If its spread is not controlled, it might decrease the visual appeal of your property.

Type

Perennial broadleaf

Family

Urticaceae

Control

The best method to control nettles is to use weed killers when the weed is showing vigorous growth. However, when the plant is small, you can dig it out of the soil; just make sure you wear gloves.

perennial weed

Dock

Dock is a weed species that can be extremely variable, and it becomes hard to identify it at times. The weed thrives well in a wide range of soils and open or disturbed patches.

Docks can be identified by their large, green, oval-shaped leaves and distinctive seedheads. The weed’s thick, branched taproot can sometimes grow up to 90 cm long and tends to regrow even after damage. They produce small green or white flowers that bloom between May and October. Dock seeds germinate easily and can survive in the soil for 50 years!

Type

Perennial

Family

Polygonaceae

Control

To control dock invasion, dig out the isolated specimens. While its roots have the regenerative capacity, only the initial 12-15 cm of the rootstock can regenerate. So, if you successfully get rid of that, there will not be any regrowth. Spring is the right time to tackle the dock, as they are most vulnerable at that time. You can also use weed killer to kill dock seedlings so that they don’t get a chance to establish themselves.

common garden weeds

Creeping Buttercup

Creeping buttercup is a common weed found in lawns and along borders across England. It thrives well in areas with bare soil. Moreover, it grows strong and sets deep roots in places where there is moisture.

The roots of the creeping buttercup penetrate deep into the soil and spread extensively. You can identify the weed species by its leaves because all plants don’t flower. The leaves are divided into three toothed leaflets and are dark green with pale patches. The stems and leaves are somewhat hairy. Flowers are bright yellow in colour with glossy petals.

Type

Perennial

Family

Ranunculaceae

Control

Choose springtime to get rid of the creeping buttercups in your lawn. Use a rake to lift the roots and then a lawnmower to cut them. In autumn, you can aerate the lawn to improve drainage and thereby reduce creep. Besides, you can use an old-fashioned trowel and dig out the newly sprouting roots before they take hold in the soil.

lawn weeds

Cleavers

Cleavers is a sticky, climbing plant that climbs and spreads over other plants. It can be identified easily by its sprawling stems, which grow up to one meter in length. The whole plant is covered by small hairs and prickles. Its leaves are slender and green-white flowers can be seen in clusters, which later develop into purple or green fruits.

The main problem with this weed is that it produces seeds in mass quantities – almost 400 seeds per plant!

Type

Annual

Family

Rubiaceae

Control

Hoeing of weed seedlings or hand pulling is the best way to control cleavers, though it is a time-consuming process. Individual weeds can be easily uprooted and removed; however, if allowed to establish, cleavers can turn out to be a persistent pest. In fact, this is a troublesome weed you may have to dig out as soon as it appears.

annual weeds

Bugloss

Bugloss plants are bristly with tiny blue flowers that appear similar to those of forget-me-nots. Toothed leaves with spiny margins and hairy stems are characteristic of these plants. Bugloss thrives in damp conditions.

 

The weed species multiply quickly. Its seeds can be transported on animal fur or clothing. Its roots are strong, deep, and they can become invasive.

Type

Annual

Family

Boraginaceae

Control

Well, prevention is the most effective way to control Bugloss. Most importantly, you should prevent the plants from going to seed. It is crucial to prevent these weeds from spreading through known infestations, clothing, boots, and pets. When you see a bugloss plant showing up, dig deeply to get rid of the roots and you should keep checking because its seeds will remain in the soil for a long time.

fluffy seed heads

Knotweed

Japanese knotweed grows through foundations, buildings, cables and piping, eventually causing immense property damage. What’s more, it’s actually illegal to let Japanese knotweed spread. If you’re planning to bury or burn it, you should inform the Environment Agency.

You can identify this weed species by its fleshy, reddish-purple shoots and pink buds that produce white flowers, especially during the late summer and early autumn. It is extremely difficult to control this weed.

Type

Perennial

Family

Polygonaceae

Control

If you’re having problems with this weed, you should seek a specialist to help you remove and dispose of it completely. To stop the knotweeds from spreading, injecting or spraying the stems with chemicals is recommended. Only approved herbicides should be used. Respraying is mandatory. It normally takes a minimum of three years to treat Japanese knotweed!

Knotsweed

Giant Hogweed

The weed species is a herbaceous plant that was imported as an ornamental plant in the 19th century. Since its seeds are spread by water, it is commonly found along river banks.

 

The sap of giant hogweed causes serious burns on the skin. If any part of the weed gets on your skin, make sure you wash it off right away and seek medical advice.

Type

Perennial

Family

Apiaceae

Control

The most common methods to eradicate the giant hogweed include root cutting, seed head/flower head removal, and cutting and mowing. Manual control, except for root cutting, will not kill the plant. It takes several years to completely get rid of this weed. It is perhaps a dangerous weed that should be treated by specialists.

hogweeds are common garden weeds

Oxalis

Oxalis is a small plant that grows up to 5 cm in height. It has dark purple or green leaves and tiny yellow flowers. While it looks attractive, if it is not removed, it will multiply everywhere. There are larger, less invasive varieties that are often sold as houseplants.

Type

Perennial

Family

Oxalidaceae

Control

A non-selective herbicide that contains glyphosate is ideal for spot-treating oxalis, particularly in landscape beds. Make sure the glyphosate spray thoroughly wets the foliage of the weeds. For best results, target the seedlings and young plants.

Oxalis

Hairy Bittercress

Hairy Bittercress is a small plant (3-5 cm tall) with tiny white flowers. As it hides under larger plants, it is easy to miss. The weed species thrives in cool, moist conditions.

 

The weed launches its seeds with an explosion, which throws and spreads them up to almost a meter away. Hence, if it isn’t controlled at the beginning, it will spread all over the garden.

Type

Annual or biennial

Family

Brassicaceae

Control

Get rid of young plants before the flowering stage. Try hand-pulling or hoeing young seedlings to remove them from the soil surface. Apply a mulch after weeding to avoid further germination.

deep tap root
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Oliver Wright
Oliver Wright

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