One particularly aggressive summer annual weed that can be found in home lawns across the Southeast United States is doveweed (Murdannia nudiflora). A major issue with doveweed is how similar it can appear to lawn grasses, especially St. Augustine grass and centipede grass. This can make it difficult to identify, which often provides it with the opportunity to spread unnoticed throughout the yard. Once discovered, it can be tough to remove due to its growth habit and its ability to tolerate many herbicides. However, with time and proper cultural and chemical controls, doveweed can be removed from your lawn.
Doveweed looks like many of the thicker-leafed lawn grasses with parallel veins and long leaves. However, it can be distinguished from grasses because of its waxy, shiny leaves that can appear almost rubbery and its flowers with three purple-to-blue colored petals. These flowers produce seeds which begin to germinate in the late spring as the soil temperatures reach 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Unfortunately, seeds are not the only method that allow this weed to spread, as it can also propagate vegetatively. This means that if your mower blades cut pieces of the doveweed’s stolons, it can be spread throughout the yard as far as the mower carries it without it having to spread a single seed. For this reason, doveweed can be incredibly difficult to control by hand as pieces that are left behind can easily regrow.
Doveweed Non-Chemical Control
To limit doveweed in your lawn without using chemical controls, the best step to take is to make it difficult for doveweed to thrive in your lawn. This can include deep, infrequent irrigation to ensure that your turfgrass has a strong root system and to limit the moisture level in your lawn. Doveweed thrives in soils that have too much moisture. Use our irrigation guide to ensure you’re following proper irrigation practices or conduct an irrigation audit to make sure every area of your lawn is receiving the same amount of water may benefit you. If there are areas of your lawn that have drainage issues, it will be important to correct them by reducing compaction and using aeration to improve soil drainage. Otherwise, they may become a hotbed for doveweed growth.
Another important cultural practice is to mow your grass to the correct height. If your lawn is mowed too short or too frequently, you may cut existing doveweed and spread it vegetatively. This will also encourage the doveweed to grow closer to the ground and outcompete the current grass. As previously mentioned, if your mower blades cut pieces of the doveweed’s stolons, it can be spread throughout the yard as far as the mower carries it without it having to spread a single seed. Follow our lawn mowing guide for more information about each grass types’ appropriate mowing height.
Lastly, one of the best ways to maintain a thick, healthy lawn is to fertilize the lawn with the nutrients it needs. Here are some of our favorite fertilizers. You can learn more about them in Why Use Lawnifi Fertilizer?.
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Doveweed Chemical Control
Pre-Emergent Control of Doveweed
Since doveweed can be such a difficult weed to control, it will be essential to have a strong pre- and post-emergent herbicide program. A pre-emergent, as its name suggests, controls weeds before they germinate and appear in your lawn. This is especially useful for doveweed as severe issues may take 2–3 years to control. Pre-emergents should be applied during the spring and fall for effective control.
One pre-emergent herbicide that is effective against doveweed is Specticle G (active ingredient: Indaziflam). This product comes a granular formulation that can be applied with a broadcast or drop spreader and should be applied before doveweed begins to germinate (late spring).
Scotts Whirl Hand-Powered Spreader$24.95
Post-Emergent Control of Doveweed
Post-emergents, on the other hand, are products that control currently existing weeds. For post-emergent control of doveweed, the most effective weed control products can be found with 3-way combination herbicides that contain 2,4-D, dicamba and mecoprop (MCPP). This can be found with SpeedZone Broadleaf Herbicide for Turf (active ingredients: 2,4-D, 2-ethylhexyl ester 28.57%, Carfentrazone-ethyl 0.62%, Dicamba 1.71% and Mecoprop-p 5.88%). Apply by mixing in a spray tank and follow the product’s application instructions thoroughly.
SpeedZone Broadleaf Herbicide for Turf$119.95
Blindside Herbicide (active ingredients: Sulfentrazone and Metsulfuron-methyl) is another fast and effective herbicide for doveweed. Blindside is also the most ideal weed control product if doveweed control in bermuda grass is a priority. Follow label instructions to learn how to get rid of doveweed in bermuda grass. This product is mixed in a tank and works as weeds take up the chemical through their roots and leaves, allowing visible control in as little as one week.
Lastly, Celsius WG by Bayer (active ingredients: Thiencarbazone-methyl, Iodosulfuron-methyl-sodium, and Dicamba) is an effective herbicide for doveweed. This product can be applied as a broadcast application or a spot treatment by a backpack sprayer and has a lower risk of damaging turfgrasses in high temperatures when compared to other herbicides.
It should be noted that if you have a St. Augustine or centipede grass lawn, the best control of doveweed can be found in weed control products that contain Atrazine such as the one listed below. St. Augustine and centipede grass are sensitive to popular active ingredients 2,4-D, dicamba, MCPP and MSMA and herbicides containing these ingredients will damage the grass.
Hi-Yield Atrazine Weed Killer$16.95 – $19.95
If doveweed becomes a problem in your lawn, there are some cultural practices you can implement; however, since it is one of the more difficult weeds to control, it will likely be essential to use cultural and chemical practices. If the doveweed problem is severe, your control plan may need to be executed for several seasons to completely remove doveweed. For chemical controls, labels must be read carefully and followed accurately so that you are using the most effective and compatible controls for your lawn. Herbicides can damage your lawn if the label is not followed and then used incorrectly.