I’ve always liked plants with purple flowers – except for those little purple-flowered plants I discovered in my own lawn one day. Much to my dismay, these pesky blooms weren’t a new variety of flowering grass in my front yard, but rather a nuisance weed: henbit.

Henbit

If you find this plant in your yard or garden beds, it’s time to take a bite out of henbit.

Photo Credit: Lee Ivy

Henbit

Henbit leaves are interesting…but you don’t need that kind of interest in your garden.

Photo Credit: Lee Ivy

You can find henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) just about anywhere – the bothersome purple patches dot lawns and roadsides throughout the US. It flowers in spring and summer in regions with cool summers, and it blooms during winter down in the warmer south. You can easily ID this nuisance plant by its purple blooms and its leaves that attach directly to the stem. But if you’re still not sure, just take a close gander at that stem – if it’s square, it’s henbit you’re dealing with.

While I find weeds fascinating, I sure don’t want them in my garden. And when it comes to henbit, it helps to know a little about the plant so you can best control it.

The first bit of helpful information is knowing when it blooms. The weed usually visits lawns and landscape beds when temperatures are cool, which is late fall/early spring where I live in the Southeast. Here it’s considered a winter annual weed and blooms during that time. When finished flowering, the plant releases seeds that lie in the ground all summer and germinate when conditions are favorable again the following fall.

As frustrating as the cycle may seem, thankfully there are a few solutions to managing this pesky purple plant. The first line of defense is to do as our good friend Barney Fife used to direct: “nip it” – in the bud that is. Or in this case, nip it at germination. If a pre-emergent herbicide is correctly applied in fall, an herbicide barrier will form on top of the ground. When henbit seeds start to make their debut, they’ll get only as far as germinating. Then the herbicide takes over and does its job to kill the weed.

Another option is to use a post-emergent herbicide, but this is a bit less desirable due to a lack of effectiveness for long-term control. But if you forgot to “nip it” in fall with the pre-emergent control, it’ll certainly help. The key with post-emergents is timing the application before the weeds release their seeds – so you can kill next year’s crop before it even gets started. That means applying the herbicide before flowering, because once henbit starts to bloom, seeds aren’t far behind.

And last but not least, mulch, mulch and more mulch! This is one of my favorite organic solutions to weed prevention when it comes to garden beds. Good organic mulch will not only conserve moisture, it’ll help control the weeds by blocking sunlight from reaching any seeds on top of the ground. A 2- to 3-inch layer should be plenty to do the job.

So for all of you out there not feeling so tickled pink about purple-flowering henbit visiting your yard this year, chin up! Bite back at the nuisance weed by following one of these strategies to get square with this garden pest once and for all!