From dandelions and thistles to bindweed and greater plantain, every lawn will have its own particular selection of weeds, or plants in the wrong place, depending on your take on them.
Weeds are opportunistic plants that manage to take hold wherever there’s adequate space and will quickly establish when the growing conditions are right for them. This can be anywhere from a lawn, flowerbed, plant pot or gaps in the paving.
Weeds enter the garden from many sources including the wind, contaminated shoes or garden equipment, and wildlife visitors. Some can be very tricky to get rid of, especially those that spread with runners.
In this article, we’ll take a look at common pink and purple weeds. Keep reading to identify which weeds are lurking on your lawn, discover how to remove them and find out how to stop them from spreading.
Are weeds with purple/pink flowers dangerous?
Although most lawn weeds are more of a nuisance than a threat, some weeds can be dangerous. From spiky thistles, stinging nettles and thorny brambles to a range of poisonous weeds, there are some weeds that you definitely don’t want lingering around.
As well as posing potential health hazards, too many weeds can spoil the appearance of a lawn and, if given the opportunity to do so, will spread and be difficult to eradicate.
Common pink and purple lawn weeds
Let’s take a look at the pink and purple weeds that you might find growing on your lawn:
1. Purple Clover
Also known as red clover, this familiar plant is often found growing on lawns. An edible plant, clover has broad, low, leaves and characteristic round flowers. Easily recognised by the trifoliate leaves, clover can be especially hard to remove from lawns as it will withstand close mowing and has resistance to some weedkillers.
How to get rid of and prevent clover
Although clover flowers provide a great source of nectar for insects from May to September, you probably don’t want these little plants spreading all over your lawn. To remove clover, try digging out as much as possible with a garden fork. You can also try raking the lawn so that the clover stems stick up and then closely mow the grass.
Make sure that your lawn is well-fertilised and healthy as this will help to prevent clover from taking hold.
2. Ground Ivy
This perennial weed has round scalloped leaves and small purple flowers. Sometimes confused with speedwell (see more about speedwell below), ground ivy spreads via creeping underground stems. It’s a member of the mint family so is a master spreader. Because it’s a perennial plant, ground ivy will grow back year after year if not removed.
How to get rid of and prevent ground ivy
Because it spreads underground, ground ivy can quickly become invasive and hard to control. The best way to deal with this weed is by using weedkillers. Hand removal is unlikely to control ground ivy.
Like all weeds, ground ivy will grow in any soil. Keeping your lawn healthy by regularly mowing and fertilising is the best way to help prevent ground ivy from taking hold in the first place.
3. Dove’s foot cranesbill
Another low-growing plant, dove’s foot cranesbill has rounded leaves that are divided into lobes. The pretty flowers can be light pink to purple in colour. You can spot these weeds from April to September in most soils, but cranesbill prefers soil that is low in nutrients. It will happily grow in bare patches of soil and areas where the grass has been mown too short.
How to get rid of and prevent dove’s foot cranesbill
Dove’s foot cranesbill produces hundreds of seeds which it launches via its powerful seed pods. Removing this plant before it seeds is advisable to control spread. You can lift a few cranesbill plants easily by hand or use a herbicide if there are too many. Good lawn care, not mowing the grass too short and fixing any bare soil patches will help to prevent this weed from seeding.
4. Pink Sorrel
Part of the oxalis family, these plants are native to South America but have naturalised after being planted in gardens. Pink sorrel is often mistaken for clover as the three-part leaves are similar. The leaves, stems and pink flowers of this plant are edible. Pink sorrel is a clump-forming plant that spreads via seed or bulbils.
How to get rid of and prevent pink sorrel
There are several ways to remove this plant. You can try burying pink sorrel under mulch, wire raking and removing it with a fork. Because this plant spreads via bulbs, it can be difficult to eliminate pink sorrel completely and you may need to use a weedkiller.
5. Purple Loosestrife
Usually found growing in hedgerows, moist soil or near water, this herbaceous perennial can reach up to 2 metres in height. Purple loosestrife is a striking plant and you can buy it from garden centres.
However, despite the beautiful purple flowers that appear from June to August, this plant can be invasive and if you didn’t opt to plant it in your garden, you’ll need to remove it as it can spread very quickly.
How to get rid of and prevent purple loosestrife
The best way to remove purple loosestrife is by digging it up. Take care to remove as much of the root system as possible. You may need to apply a herbicide to any remaining roots. Pull up any small plants as soon as you can.
6. Red Campion
This native wildflower bears small, pink star-shaped flowers from May to September on clumps of semi-evergreen, downy leaves. The leaves and stem of this plant are hairy and the female plants can produce thousands of seeds.
Often found growing in woodland gardens, this plant will spread easily.
How to get rid of and prevent red campion
As with all plants, whether you consider this to be a pretty wildflower or a weed all depends on whether it’s growing where you want it to! If you want to remove red campion, it’s best done before the plant goes to seed. You can either snip off the flowers or dig out the clumps.
7. Rosebay Willowherb
This native, perennial weed is an excellent self-seeder and can be problematic in gardens. Sometimes confused with purple loosestrife, this plant bears hot pink flowers on long spikes from June to September. It produces dandelion-like fluffy seeds which can be dispersed over large areas.
How to get rid of and prevent rosebay willowherb
As rosebay willowherb is so shallow-rooted, it’s easy to remove by simply pulling it up by hand or forking it out. You can also cover areas around plants with a thick layer of mulch. Keep gardens well looked after and remove young plants as soon as you can to prevent willowherb from getting out of control.
This small, low-growing weed with deep purple flowers is widespread throughout the UK. Another native perennial, selfheal can be found in lawns, grassland and rough ground.
How do I get rid of selfheal in my lawn?
As it grows so close to the ground, selfheal can be tricky to remove. Like moss, it will compete with the grass so it’s best to remove it from the grass. Use a rake to loosen the plant and then remove it manually or treat it with a herbicide for best results. Keeping the lawn healthy will help to prevent selfheal from taking hold.
9. Germander speedwell
Speedwell is a low-growing, broadleaved plant that spreads rapidly and, although the flowers are very pretty, it’s best confined to rockeries. Interestingly, speedwell was introduced to the UK from Turkey in 1808 as an ornamental rock garden plant.
How do I get rid of speedwell in my lawn?
Speedwell is one of the trickiest weeds to remove from the lawn. It roots through its stems so can easily spread when small pieces of stem are cut and scattered during mowing. Rake over any affected areas and pull the weeds out by hand, taking care to remove all the roots. If the weed is particularly problematic, you may need to remove and replace areas of turf and if the problem persists, consult a lawn care expert.
Thistles belong to the same family as daisies, dandelions, sunflowers and artichokes. Although the flowers that appear from July to September are beautiful, the prickly leaves are not so good, especially if you tread on one when walking barefoot on your lawn.
Beloved by nectar-feeding insects, creeping thistle is the most common thistle species in the UK. If allowed to establish it can be tricky to remove. It is one of 5 weeds that are covered by the weeds act. Because it is an injurious weed, landowners can be asked to remove thistles by law to stop them from spreading.
How to get rid of and prevent thistles
Thistles can be removed by digging them up at the roots. Thistles do, however, regenerate quickly from pieces of broken plant. To prevent thistles from taking hold, make sure there are no bare soil patches in the garden as this is where thistles are most likely to grow. Mulch to prevent seed germination and smother new thistle growth. Ultimately, you may need to resort to weedkillers. Try applying horticultural vinegar which is very effective against thistles.
One of the best ways to prevent weeds from taking hold in the first place is to ensure you have the healthiest lawn possible with regular weeding and feeding. It’s hard for weeds to establish themselves in lush, thick turf and those that do manage will be few and far between.