The Q&A Archives: Wild Onions in Lawn

Question: How do you kill wild onions that are taking over your lawn without killing the lawn?

Answer: Wild garlic (Allium vineale) and wild onion (Allium canadense) are winter perennials. They emerge in late fall from underground bulbs and grow through the winter and spring. In late spring, aerial bulblets are formed and the plants die back in early summer. The underground bulbs can persist in the soil for several years. While both have thin, green, waxy leaves, those of wild garlic are round and hollow, while those of wild onion are flat and solid. There are a few control options. Pulling: With a small number of weeds, pulling, though difficult, is an option. It?s likely, however, that bulbs or bulblets will be left in the ground and new leaves will later re-emerge. For best results, dig them out with a thin trowel. Chemical: Unfortunately, there are no preemergence herbicides that will control wild onion or wild garlic. They must be treated with a postemergence herbicide, and persistence is the key. Plants will need to be sprayed more than once and for more than one season. One characteristic that makes control difficult is that both have a thin, glossy leaf to which herbicides don?t readily adhere. Adding a spreader-sticker to the spray solution will help it to adhere evenly.

Important items that are essential for chemically controlling wild onions or wild garlic from the lawn are: making two annual lawn herbicide applications, in October-November when the onions are in a tender stage, and again in February-March when the onion foliage grows above your grass height and thus can catch more herbicide; selection of an effective herbicide product that contains the active ingredients 2,4-D plus Dicamba; and personal persistence since wild onion/garlic elimination takes more than one year.

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