The lawn care season has begun and it is important to know how to identify what weeds are growing in your yard. Spotted spurge is one of the most common lawn weeds and is really difficult to kill. This tough plant can grow along the ground multiple feet in diameter and should be dealt with immediately if you see it growing on your property.
If you’re not sure what spotted spurge looks like or want to get rid of it, this article will teach you how to identify these weeds so that you can kill them off before they take over your yard.
Just What is Spotted Spurge?
Spotted Spurge is a type of plant known as Euphorbia maculata, which is native to North America, and specifically the eastern part of the United States. It’s the most widespread member of the spurge family, which has less common members like Creeping spurge (Euphorbia serpens) and Petty spurge (Euphorbia peplus).
Many crops can be infested by these spurge weeds, including trees, vegetable plants, lawn turf, and container plants and ornamental garden beds.
Spotted Spurge has a milky sap that can be poisonous to animals and humans and can cause an irritating rash if it gets on your skin, so it is best avoided even when working to clear it from your garden.
Where and How Spotted Spurge Grows
The Spotted Spurge is a creeping, prostrate plant that has a tendency to spread outwards, covering an area with its plants in little time at all.
Spotted spurge is a summer-flowering, annual plant that survives based on its high seed production, and doesn’t do well with grass or weed competition. A single spurge weed may produce many thousands of seeds, which are tiny and can remain dormant in the soil until the appropriate germination conditions exist. Summer-born seeds are fast to germinate, whereas winter-born seeds take longer and usually don’t sprout until spring.
Spotted spurge is most likely to germinate in temperatures between 75° and 85° Fahrenheit, but sprouting can also happen even in temperatures down to 60° and up to 100°. Germination usually occurs from February through September, if there is sufficient moisture available.
It is also patient – spurge seeds that sprout early in the spring when its cooler often remain seedlings until the weather becomes more suitable for development. However, because spotted spurge also requires light for germination, seeds planted deeper than 1/2 inch do not sprout well.
Spotted spurge can grow in lawns and other open areas, particularly where turf is sparse, and can even grow in sidewalk cracks and alongside roads.
How You Can Identify Spotted Spurge
Spotted Spurge, like all other members of the spurge family, grows prostrate, which means it spreads itself flat along the ground.
It has small, dark green leaves that grow along its stems, which are 1/8-1/2 inch long and 1/8 inch wide. Often a small, dark red spot will mark the middle of the leaves, and this is where spotted spurge gets its name.
Spotted Spurge produces tiny, pinkish flowers that you have to get very close to see in any detail. The flowers, stems, and leaves are usually covered in small hairs.
How to Remove Spotted Spurge From Your Yard
There are several different ways to get rid of spotted spurge, including pulling it out by hand, using an herbicide, or covering them with clear plastic sheets and letting them bake in the sun until their roots die off completely.
Via Organic Methods
The first thing you should try when getting rid of a spotted spurge infestation in your yard is to pull the weeds out by hand. If you’re diligent and can catch them early, before they seed, you might be able to remove the entire infestation without any chemical intervention at all.
Be sure to also use a hoe to make sure that none of their seeds stick around in your soil; root pieces left over will sprout new plants if conditions are right. Also, wear protective gloves and long sleeves when pulling any spurge out, because it can cause an irritating skin rash that will get on any exposed skin.
Another organic method is called solarization – this is when you use the heat of the summer sun to kill weeds rather than using herbicide. Cover your lawn or garden area with clear plastic sheeting, and leave it there for four to six weeks during the hottest time of year (usually August). The trapped heat will eventually kill off any weed seeds in its midst, including spotted spurge.
Via Chemical Methods
If you’re going to use a chemical herbicide to deal with your spotted spurge infestation, there are two types you can use – pre-emergent and post-emergent.
Pre-emergent is the weed killer to use if the spurge seeds have not had an opportunity to germinate. A good option for a pre-emergent herbicide is Preen Extended Control Weed Preventer.
Post-emergent weed killer is best when the seeds have germinated and the spotted spurge is seen sprouting in your garden. Use an herbicide with glyphosate as an active ingredient, such as the Compare-N-Save Concentrate herbicide. Do not use a 2,4-D based weed killer, as this will not be effective against spotted spurge.
Can You Prevent Spotted Spurge From Growing in Your Yard?
The most common approach to control spotted spurge, and other spurges, is to prevent them from growing in the first place, as eradicating these weeds once they have sprouted is extremely difficult. Avoid bringing seeds into places where they may not be welcome by using planting seed that is weed-free, as well as uncontaminated planting stock.
Because Spotted Spurge grows best in areas with sparse turf grass, a healthy and thick lawn will stop it from getting a foothold in your backyard. You can also use synthetic or organic mulches, both of which are effective at keeping spurge at bay by not allowing sunlight to reach its seeds.
Spotted spurge is a pesky weed that can be difficult to remove from your yard, but if you’re willing to put in the time and effort it won’t take long before your lawn is clear.
We hope this article has helped you learn more about spotted spurge and what to do if it’s growing in your yard, and that that by reading it you’ll have better knowledge of how to combat these weeds so they don’t affect your lawn’s beauty or the healthiness of the environment.
If you’re still not sure whether or not the weed is spotted spurge, take a look at our identification tips again. And remember that prevention is always better than removal! Do you have any other questions about how to get rid of spotted spurge? Let us know below!