Common groundsel (Senecio vulgaris ) is an annual winter weed in the aster family. Luckily, it rarely becomes a problem in the lawn since it does not survive mowing. It can, however, quickly become a problem in vegetable gardens and landscape beds if ignored. Common groundsel can produce flowers within 45 days of germination and up to 25,000 seeds per plant. The seeds are easily spread by the wind due to their feathery bristles, called pappus, that function as a parachute. The seeds do not survive for long in the soil; therefore, diligent removal before flowering can help get infestations under control in a couple of seasons. After pulling, plants need to be disposed of, as open flowers can continue to produce seeds if left in the landscape.
Common groundsel has a fibrous root system and produces a shallow taproot, making it easy to pull from the soil. NOTE: wear gloves when handling this weed. It is mildly toxic and can be absorbed through broken skin. Control in vegetable gardens can be achieved through shallow hoeing. Adding a 3-inch layer of coarse bark mulch provides excellent control for landscape beds. See HGIC 1604, Mulch and HGIC 1253, Controlling Weeds by Cultivating & Mulching for more information.
Preemergent herbicides can be used to control common groundsel, but timing is critical. This weed emerges once we have moisture and warming soils in late winter. The picture shown was taken on February 5th in Columbia, so an early December application would have been the right timing for application. Post-emergent control can be achieved with a broadleaf herbicide. For more information, see HGIC Effective and Safe Herbicide Applications. Always consult a pesticide label to verify the product is safe for site conditions. Remember, the label is the law. For more information about herbicide applications, please contact your local extension office or the Home & Garden Information Center at email@example.com or 1-888-656-9988.