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Oxalis Control

Yellow woodsorrel (Oxalis stricta) can be pulled up by hand easily when found growing intermittently in landscape beds. LayLa Burgess, © 2017 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Yellow woodsorrel (Oxalis stricta) can be pulled up by hand easily when found growing intermittently in landscape beds.
LayLa Burgess, © 2017 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Oxalis or yellow woodsorrel (Oxalis stricta) is a common, cool-season perennial weed that persists almost year-round in Southeastern lawns. It grows sporadically in landscape beds among shrubs and flowers, in vegetable gardens, and is known to pop up occasionally in container plantings.

Oxalis has an upright form with slightly hairy stems that branch from the base of the plant at almost ground level. Erect stems give rise to an alternate leaf arrangement. Oxalis stricta leaves are green, whereas the commonly found creeping woodsorrel (O. corniculata) has green to purple leaves. Oxalis leaves are distinctly trifoliate (leaflets of three) with a heart shape similar to clover leaves. Often the leaves will fold along the midrib and hang down in the heat of summer, in intense light, and at night.

Creeping woodsorrel (Oxalis corniculata) often invades container flowerpots but can be easily removed by hand pulling. Oxalis produces a 5-petalled, yellow flower followed by a seed capsule. LayLa Burgess, © 2017 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Creeping woodsorrel (Oxalis corniculata) often invades container flowerpots but can be easily removed by hand pulling. Oxalis produces a 5-petalled, yellow flower followed by a seed capsule.
LayLa Burgess, © 2017 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Oxalis produces 5-petalled, yellow flowers singly or in clusters on a branched stalk. Small okra-shaped fruiting capsules are formed that contain minute seeds. When mature, seeds are ejected from the capsule for a considerable distance from the parent plant. Oxalis reproduces primarily by seed but may spread by slender underground rhizomes.

Oxalis grows under a variety of conditions but prefers moist, fertile soils and full sun. However, it will tolerate shady areas. All plant parts are poisonous because of the production of soluble oxalate but are only mildly toxic and generally cause a little problem if ingested.

Cultural Control

Oxalis flowers and produces seeds heavily in the spring and summer but can produce both all year long. Small plants can easily be handpicked or dug as they appear before they flower or form seeds. Removal of all vegetative portions of the plant, including roots and rhizomes, is important. Rhizomes can be easily removed when the soil is moist. Do not place the weeds with seeds in compost bins for reuse in the landscape.

Oxalis species form fruiting capsules that contains multiple seeds. LayLa Burgess, © 2017 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Oxalis species form fruiting capsules that contains multiple seeds.
LayLa Burgess, © 2017 HGIC, Clemson Extension

A light layer of mulch in landscape beds and around flowers and shrubs will aid in preventing further germination of oxalis seeds. The seeds require light for germination, so limiting light to the seedbed with mulch will reduce the numbers of new oxalis plants.

Maintenance of healthy, dense lawns will create less space for oxalis to invade. Lawn maintenance should adhere to fertilizer and lime recommendations obtained from soil test results combined with proper mowing height and frequency requirements. For more information on soil testing, see HGIC 1652, Soil Testing.

Chemical Control in Landscape Beds

In landscape beds, a non-selective herbicide containing glyphosate is the best choice for spot treatment of oxalis. Apply glyphosate spray to thoroughly wet the foliage of the weeds. Target oxalis seedlings and young plants (before the flowering stage) for best results. Examples of products containing glyphosate are listed in Table 1. Always read product labels for safe use around landscape ornamentals and established perennials.

Table 1. Examples of Products Containing Glyphosate in Homeowner Sizes.

Active Ingredient Product Name
glyphosate Roundup Original Concentrate
Roundup Pro Herbicide
Martin’s Eraser Systemic Weed & Grass Killer
Quick Kill Grass & Weed Killer
Bonide Kleenup Weed & Grass Killer 41% Super Concentrate
Hi-Yield Kill-Zall Aquatic Herbicide
Maxide Super Concentrate 41% Weed & Grass Killer
Tiger Brand Quick Kill Concentrate
Gordon’s Groundwork Concentrate 50% Super Weed & Grass Killer
Zep Enforcer Weed Defeat Concentrate
Eliminator Weed & Grass Killer Super Concentrate
Monterey Remuda Full Strength 41% Glyphosate
Southern States Grass & Weed Killer Concentrate II
Total Kill Pro Weed & Grass Killer Herbicide
Ace Concentrate Weed & Grass Killer

Chemical Control in Lawns

For small numbers of oxalis plants scattered throughout the lawn, spot treatment with a recommended post-emergent herbicide may provide adequate control. For larger oxalis infestations in the lawn, pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides may be necessary. Pre-emergent herbicides prevent seed growth, whereas post-emergent herbicides are applied to the foliage of the weeds once they emerge. Post-emergent herbicides are often more effective at killing smaller weeds rather than older, mature ones.

Pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides for oxalis (yellow woodsorrel) control in South Carolina lawns are listed in Tables 2 and 3. Always read the product label for mixing rate for weed control on each turfgrass species and for safe use of the product. Pre-emergent herbicides need to be applied at the proper time of the year, may require one or more subsequent applications, and the herbicide granules need to be watered in appropriately. The majority of the woodsorrel seeds germinate in the late winter/early spring, but some seeds may germinate at any time of the year.

When using a post-emergent herbicide, spray to just wet the foliage of the weeds. For safe use on lawns, spray herbicides when temperatures are below 90 °F. Avoid pesticide drift by spraying on non-windy days. Irrigate the lawn the day before application to reduce drought stress to lawns and to promote active growth of the weed for better herbicide uptake.

Table 2. Pre-emergent Herbicides for Oxalis Control in Home Lawns.

Turfgrass Active Ingredients Examples of Brands & Products
Bahiagrass
Bermudagrass
Centipedegrass
St. Augustinegrass
Zoysiagrass
Tall Fescue
benefin Lebanon Balan 2.5G Granules (2.5%) (40#)
Anderson’s Crabgrass Preventer with 2.5%
Balan Herbicide Granules (40#)
oryzalin Southern Ag Surflan A.S.
benefin + oryzalin Surflan XL2G (1% and 1%) (50#)
Green Light Amaze Grass & Weed Preventer (1% and 1%) (4 & 10#)
benefin + trifluralin Anderson Turf Products Crabgrass Preventer with 2% Team Herbicide (50#) (partial
control)
Hi-Yield Crabgrass Control (9#) (partial control)
Lebanon Team 2G (50#) (partial control)
pendimethalin Scotts Halts Crabgrass & Grassy Weed Preventer (1.71%) (10#)
Pendulum 2G Granule Herbicide (2%) (20 & 40#)
Harrell’s ProFertilizer 0-0-10 with 0.86% Pendimethalin (50#)
Lesco Crabgrass Pre-emergent Plus potash (0-0-7) (0.86%) (50#)
dithiopyr Bonide DuraTurf Crabgrass & Weed Preventer (0.27%) (4 & 9.5#)
Hi Yield Turf & Ornamental Weed & Grass
Stopper Containing Dimension (0.125%) (35#)
StaGreen CrabEx Crabgrass & Weed Preventer
Granules (0.17%) (15 & 45#)
Vigoro Crabgrass & Weed Preventer 0.17%
Dithiopyr (17#)
GreenLawn Crabgrass Control 0-0-7 (0.17%) (17.5#)
Harrells’ ProFertilizer 0-0-20 with 0.15%
Dimension (50#)
Harrells’ ProFertilizer 0-0-7 with 0.125% Dimension (50#)
Anderson’s Professional Turf Products with Dimension 0.25G (0.25%) (50#)
Vereen’s 0-0-7 with 0.13% Dithiopyr (50#)
Vereen’s 0-0-7 with 0.25% Dithiopyr (50#)
Lebanon ProFertilizer with Dimension 0.15% 0-0-7 (50#)
Nutrite 0-0-7 Fertilizer with 0.15% Dimension (50#) TriCare GrowStar Turf fertilizer 0-0-7 with 0.15% Dimension (50#)
isoxaben Ferti-lome Broadleaf Weed Control with Gallery (10#)
prodiamine Helena Pro-Mate Barricade & Fertilizer 0-0-7 (50#)
Howard Johnson Crabgrass Control with 0.37%
Prodiamine & 0-0-7 (50#)
Lebanon Pro Fertilizer (0-0-7) with Prodiamine (0.38%) (50#)
Lesco Barricade 0.38% Plus Fertilizer 0-0-7 (50#)
Lesco Stonewall (0.68%) Plus Fertilizer (0-0-7) (50#)
Pro-Mate Barricade 0.22% Plus Fertilizer (0-0-7) (50#)
Scotts Halts Pro 0-0-7 & Halts Pro (50#)
Anderson’s Professional Turf Products Fertilizer with Barricade Herbicide 0-0-7 (0.426%) (50#)
Anderson’s Professional Turf Products 0.48% Barricade (50#)
TriCare GrowStar Turf Fertilizer 0-0-7 with 0.37% Prodiamine (50#)
Notes: These pre-emergent herbicides should only be applied to well-established turfgrass lawns.

Typically, the optimum time for lawn fertilizer applications and pre-emergent herbicide applications do not coincide. However, the small amount of potash in the 0-0-7 (or other only potash fertilizers) is not a problem & may be useful on sandy soils with fall applications to improve cold weather hardiness of the lawn.

Table 3. Post-emergent Herbicides for Oxalis Control in Home Lawns.

Turfgrass Active Ingredients Examples of Brands & Products Effectiveness
Centipedegrass
St.
Augustinegrass
atrazine Hi-Yield Atrazine Weed Killer
Southern AG Atrazine St.
Augustine Weed Killer
Fair to Good Control
Bahiagrass
Bermudagrass
Centipedegrass
St.
Augustinegrass
Zoysiagrass
Tall Fescue
2, 4-D + dicamba + mecoprop (MCPP) Ferti-lome Weed Out Lawn Weed
Killer with Trimec Concentrate
Southern Ag Lawn Weed Killer
with Trimec Concentrate
Good Control
Bermudagrass1
Zoysiagrass
Centipede
Tall Fescue
sulfentrazone +
quinclorac
Image All-in-One Lawn Weed
Killer Concentrate
Good Control
Zoysiagrass2
Tall Fescue
triclopyr Ortho Weed B Gon Chickweed, Clover & Oxalis Killer for Lawns Concentrate; & RTS Fair to Good Control
Tall Fescue triclopyr Hi-Yield Triclopyr Ester Monterey Turflon Ester Fair to Good Control
Bahiagrass
Bermudagrass
Zoysiagrass
Tall Fescue
MCPA + dicamba + triclopyr Monterey Spurge Power
Concentrate Bonide Chickweed, Clover & Oxalis Killer Concentrate
Good Control
Bermudagrass
Centipedegrass
St.
Augustinegrass
Zoysiagrass
Thiencarbazone-methyl + Iodosulfuron-methyl + dicamba Celsius WG3 Good Control
1For use on common bermudagrass. Intermediate safety on hybrid bermudagrass.
2Use low rate on zoysiagrass.
3May require a second application 2 to 4 weeks after the first.
RTS = Ready to Spray (a hose-end sprayer bottle).
Effectiveness Rating:
Poor – P = <70% control
Fair – F = 70-79% control with repeat applications
Good – G = 80-90% control with one application at high rate or repeat application
Excellent – E = >90% control with one application

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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