En EspaÑol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
1 rating

Wednesday - May 13, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Turf
Title: Eliminating stinging nettles in lawn in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

How do I get rid of stinging nettle that is dispersed through my lawn. It's not like the nettle pictures I see online - they are short plants and have narrow leaves - but covered with spines. Mowing does not reach them.

ANSWER:

You are correct, the pictures you find online of Urtica dioica (stinging nettle) and Urtica dioica ssp. gracilis (California nettle) show a tall slender plant with nasty little spines. The difference is, you are mowing those nettles in your lawn, when you mow the lawn. They would rather grow up tall, but you won't let them, so they are doing the best they can to survive. So, what to do? Do you or your children or your pets run around on the lawn barefoot (or -paw)? Is it killing your grass? Do you belong to the school of "just mow it, it's green"? It may be something to tolerate or ignore. A very healthy lawn allowed to grow a little taller than usual will usually shade out and out-compete a weed. It is a perennial, so it will regrow from the roots even if you have kept it mowed low enough to prevent blooming and formation of seeds. 

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center neither recommends for nor against herbicides, but if you're determined to try to get rid of the nettles, you may have to use some. You need to be very careful what you buy and follow the application instructions closely. The grass in your lawn is a monocot. Most weeds, including the nettles, are dicots, or broadleaf weeds. The "weed and feed" fertilizers that are highly advertised in the spring are designed to kill only dicots.  The problem with broadcasting or spraying something like that is that the ornamental shrubs, flowers and trees in your garden are also dicots. A puff of wind (which we have in BIG puffs all the time in Austin), an indiscriminate aiming of the applicator or just an accidental spill could have disastrous effects on some of your prize plants. Not only that, but watering or rain is carrying excess herbicides and pesticides down to our water supply, where they end up in your glass of water. We would really rather you give the grass a chance to overcome the enemy on its own before you start chemical warfare.


Urtica dioica

Urtica dioica ssp. gracilis

 

 

More Turf Questions

Native grasses for central Georgia
August 06, 2011 - We've just bought a 1990 circa house in Dallas, Georgia. It sits on a .62 acre lot. One half of the lot is woods, the rest is lawn. The lawn is covered mostly with weeds and wild strawberries. ...
view the full question and answer

Water loving companions for a vegetable bed in Greenlawn New York
May 25, 2011 - I have a plot in a community garden that has poor drainage in one corner. I've installed raised beds, and that has helped immensely, but I'd like to plant some native plants in the wet corner that c...
view the full question and answer

Elimination of bermuda grass from St. Augustine lawn
January 04, 2005 - Dear Mr.Smarty Plants, I am so frustrated with the bermuda grass mixed with St. Augustine grass. I have tried Ortho-B-gone but it did not work. Is there any measure to kill the Bermuda grass but not...
view the full question and answer

Submerged paving under lawn
September 07, 2008 - I had 4 patches of rectangular areas (about 4'x6'or more) in my lawn where the grass is fine in spring but totally dies in summer. I decided to till these bare patches so that grass may grow better...
view the full question and answer

Alternative to Habiturf™ for San Franciso area
October 05, 2014 - Will Habiturf thrive in San Francisco? My current sod lawn is dying because the soil has become extremely hard. I'll replace the top couple of inches but underneath is a mix of sand and clay.
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center