GARDENING: Don’t let weeds go to seed

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

You have probably heard that a weed is defined as a plant out of place. I like the internet dictionary definition: “a wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants.” This definition clearly defines my recent problem in the garden.

In the past few years, I have had a huge increase in the population of bedstraw or Galium aparine in my perennial garden. Other names for this plant include cleavers, Velcro plant and catchweed bedstraw.

The reason that I have so much of it is because I let it go to seed one year. And now I am paying the price. Some consider it a native weed; I consider it a pain.

Galium aparine is an annual weed in the madder family. The specificepithet (see below) aparine means clinging or seizing. If you have any experience with this plant, I am sure you know what it means by sticking or clinging.

The stems and leaves have small, hooked hairs that helps the plant climb over other vegetation. The plant has a brittle, weak stem, thus it can’t stand up on its own. It just lays on top of everything.

It spreads rapidly in the spring and can completely cover landscape plants easily. It’s in bloom right now in the Miami Valley; when the fruits form, watch out – it spreads easily. The fruits also have bristles that allow them to cling easily to animals, clothes, and gloves.

The year I let it go to seed was the year it spread. As I cleaned up the beds, my socks and gloves were covered in seeds. I am not letting it go to seed this year.

Fortunately, it is easily removed with a rake or by pulling. However, keep in mind that since it’s brittle, it will break when you pull it. Be sure to get the entire plant. Get the roots as well because it will resprout from the roots.

It can be prevented with a preemergent herbicide as well. It must be applied before germination in the spring. I missed that window this year and am now cleaning up a few spots that remain.

Those of you who read my column regularly know that my mantra, when it comes to weeds, is don’t let them go to seed! I broke one of my own cardinal rules and I am not paying for it.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Another “weed” that I am dealing with is daisy fleabane or Erigeron acris. This native wildflower can be found blooming now in woodlands, meadows and in my perennial bed.

I have a lot of native plants in my perennial garden, however, this is not one that I plan to keep. It might be native and a good plant for pollinators, but it self-seeds easily and thus, spreads easily.

I do my part in supporting the pollinators with many other plants in my perennial garden. In this case, daisy fleabane has become a weed and one that I am eradicating.

Finally, one gardener’s wildflower might just be another’s weed. To each his own!

Pamela Corle-Bennett is the state master gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. Contact her by email at

About the Author