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Spotted spurge is problem weed in lawns

Spotted spurge is a low growing mat forming summer annual weed that is a major lawn weed in most parts of the country. Spotted or prostrate spurge as some call it thrives in hot sparse yards.  The spotted spurge weed is a very adaptable plant and can thrive in many types of growing media including clay and sand based soils and Concrete and asphalt cracks. It is a summer annual with a central taproot.  Spotted spurge leaves are green and small less than 5/8 of an inch oval and close to the stem and have a reddish dot.  The spotted spurge produces a three cell fruit that each contain a seed. Seeds can remain dormant in the soil until the ideal conditions arise.  Seeds germinate in soil between 60 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.  Due to the high germination rate of spurge this annual can take hold of a sparse and poorly maintained lawn fairly quick.

Spotted Spurge

Killing spotted spurge is relatively easy. The hard part is keeping it from coming back. The tap root of this plant is very long and its seeds are very hardy. This weed can and will grow back from either root pieces or seeds.

Because of the spotted spurge weed’s mat-like nature, hand pulling is a good option for removing spotted spurge from the lawn or flower beds. Be sure to wear gloves due to the irritating sap. Make sure that you pull this weed before it has a chance to develop seeds, otherwise it will spread rapidly. After you have hand pulled the spotted spurge, watch for it to start growing again from the tap root. Pull it again as soon as possible. Eventually, the tap root will use up all of its stored energy trying to regrow and will die completely.

Heavily mulching with either newspaper or wood mulch is also an effective method of spotted spurge control. Cover ground with spotted spurge with several layers of newspaper or several inches of mulch. This will prevent the spotted spurge weed seeds from germinating and will also smother any plants that have already started growing.

You can also use herbicides, but many herbicides will only work for spurge control while the plants are young. Once they reach a mature size, they can resist many forms of weed killers. When using herbicides for killing spurge, it is best to use them in late spring or early summer, which is when spotted spurge will first sprout.

One of the few herbicides that will work on mature spurge is glyphosate (Round-Up). But be careful, as glyphosate will kill anything it comes in contact with. Even with this, the spurge may still regrow from the roots so check frequently for regrowth and treat the plant as soon as possible if you see it.

Pre-emergent sprays or granules can also be used for spurge control, but these will only be effective before the seeds have sprouted.

Contact our office for specific herbicides that are effective against spotted spurge that are labeled for your variety of turf grass,