hairy-bittercress

How To Get Rid of Hairy Bittercress in Lawns

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Written By: Mark Marino, a Massachusetts Core Applicator License holder
and owner/operator of Lawn Phix,

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If you notice a weed with tiny white flowers growing near the head, notably in the early spring months, then there’s a good chance you have hairy bittercress on your hands. This winter annual is part of the mustard family – and though it quickly dies out when temperatures begin to get too high, it can spread rapidly throughout your lawn or yard in the meantime.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at hairy bittercress, how to kill it and how to prevent it from growing in the first place. Here’s a closer look:

Hairy Bittercress Identification

Hairy bittercress cardamine hirsuta, better known as just hairy bittercress, is among the winter annual weeds that are found in lawns and gardens primarily throughout the eastern United States. As one of the most difficult winter weeds to treat, this plant is early to sprout and can cause havoc to your lawn from early spring through late summer.

Characterized by tiny white flowers near the end of its flower stems, these flowers turn into seed pods. It’s these seed pods that then produce seed that can spread quickly throughout the soil surface in your lawn, starting the life cycle all over again with young seedlings when the weather warms after winter.

Hairy bittercress weed tends to prefer cool soil, and it’s known to spread quickly throughout lawns, flower beds and yards as temperatures increase from winter.

Interestingly enough, this pesky weed does have some benefits. As part of the mustard family, it’s edible. It’s also rich in antioxidants, which can make it a substitute for some cooking ingredients.

In most cases, however, property owners are going to want to eliminate the weed and its tiny flowers before seed dispersal takes place. In this post, we’ll discuss how to kill hairy bittercress and how to prevent it from taking over your turf areas.

How To Eliminate Hairy Bittercress

The good news about hairy bittercress compared to other broadleaf weeds is that it tends to be a short-lived weed. However, if you don’t attempt to kill or remove the hairy bittercress weed upon its arrival, it can spread seeds so that it returns year after year.

Here’s a look at how to kill hairy bittercress:

Hand weeding

Hairy bittercress has a relatively shallow root system, so it’s fairly easy to pull these weeds out of the ground before they become too invasive in your lawn or garden. However, please note that this is typically a better option for removal in a garden or in landscaping.

Apply a post emergent herbicide

Look for a weed killer or postemergence herbicides like Trimec and herbicides containing 2,4-D ingredients such as EndRun. These are common ingredients found in broadleaf herbicides and are best applied in the late spring or in the early fall months to kill these weeds.

Mow your lawn frequently

If you notice that hairy bittercress has begun to grow in your lawn, mow frequently to remove the flower heads of the weed so it cannot lay its seeds. This is often enough to control the weed without commercial products or weed killer intervention until they die out when the weather gets warmer.

How To Prevent and Control Hairy Bittercress

Preventative action is always better than being reactive when it comes to dealing with lawn weeds, and hairy bittercress weed and other winter annuals are no exception. Here’s a look at how to prevent hairy bittercress from infiltrating your lawn in the first place:

Put down preemergence herbicides

Do this in the late summer before the seeds of this weed have a chance to germinate. A good pre emergent herbicide like Snapshot or herbicides that include ingredients such as Gallery and Ronstar. (Oxadiazon)

Snapshot Herbicide

Properly fertilize

A healthy lawn is a key to a weed-free lawn – and certainly part of a healthy lawn is making sure that you’re feeding it regularly with fertilizer and that it’s receiving the water it needs to thrive. A lush, green lawn will snuff out weeds by not providing any place for them to grow.

Hairy Bittercress FAQs

When do hairy bittercress seeds germinate?

Hairy bittercress seeds often germinate in the early fall months, which is why it’s recommended that you apply pre-emergent herbicides on your lawn to proactively treat for this weed before the seeds have a chance to set.

Is hairy bittercress invasive?

Though it’s not considered an invasive species, it can spread quickly throughout your yard or lawn if it’s not addressed. The only good news about this winter annual weed is that it tends to die fairly quickly in the growing season, usually when temperatures become too hot.

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Author's Note: this piece has been updated for accuracy since its first publication on

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Author: Mark Marino
My name is Mark Marino, and I am the founder, owner, and operator of Lawn Phix. With a passion for lawn care and turf nutrition for over a decade, I've dedicated countless hours to correcting soil and perfecting lawns. Today, my expertise, backed by formal courses at UMass Extension Pesticide Education, allows me to offer top-tier lawn care services and advice. I am a fully licensed and insured lawn care applicator in Massachusetts, specializing in comprehensive turf nutrition, weed control, and lawn pest control. My license number is AL-0053865. Contact me at [email protected] or +1 (508) 500-8402.

2 thoughts on “How To Get Rid of Hairy Bittercress in Lawns”

  1. I’ve had this weed for a few years, always weed it out of my many gardens, but it still comes back.
    I need something I can use it both the lawn and the gardens, without damaging anybody else

    Reply
    • Hi Nancy. To help suppress and control bittercress in your landscape, you can try Snapshot. There is also Preen which you can find at the big box stores and it contains the same active ingredients. If you have grassy weeds in your flower beds you can try Ornamec but this will not kill broadleaf weeds.

      Reply

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