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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.

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

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Thursday - May 31, 2012

From: Bastrop, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Pests, Wildflowers
Title: Dandelions in bluebonnets in Bastrop TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a 20'x60' front yard area where I planted bluebonnets. It has become horrifically inundated with dandelions. How do I eradicate the dandelions while preserving the bluebonnets ? Thanks for your help.

ANSWER:

The much beloved Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet) is an annual which drops its seeds in late Summer to early Fall. Those seeds lie in the soil until (hopefully) winter rains permit them to wake up and germinate. By January, rosettes are beginning to form and will be followed by blooms in a few weeks.

Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion) is, alas, a perennial with a long, deep taproot. Once it begins to bloom, it keeps on blooming and is very hard to get rid of. The seeds are wind-blown, it does not need pollination and the blooms can turn into seed heads overnight.

Here is an article from wildmanstevebrill.com that is both funny and informative. More informative (and less funny) is this Integrated Pest Management Online article about dandelions. Just to summarize: allow no flower to seed out, grub the root out but note that it can regenerate. From that last article, this extract:

"Spot treatment with glyphosate can control existing dandelion plants, but do not allow the spray or drift to contact desirable plants or injury will result."

We suggest that if you have a real bad-boy root that you get some small disposable sponge paintbrushes, cut off the plant as far down on the root as you can and, within five minutes, use the paintbrush to cover the cut end of the root with the glyphosate before the root can heal over to protect itself.

Beyond that, do your best for the bluebonnets and your worst for the dandelions. Good luck!

 

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