Skip to main content

Types of Weeds

Published on July 23rd 2018

CSG Gloves

by CSG Gloves. CC BY 2.0

Garden tools hanging up against a white shed wall with terracotta pots stacked alongside

Garden Maintenance

Margaret asked for ideas of how to control weeds in the garden. As there is a lot to cover in this answer we have broken it into three parts. We hope this helps!
Weeds Part One: Types of Weeds
Firstly knowing the weeds lifecycle will ensure that you can manage the control method more effectively. Weeds break down into three main categories:
  • Annual
  • Perennial
  • Biennial
  • Ephemeral
An annual weed is easy to control as their main aim is to grow fast, flower and set seed. Annual weeds start growing in early spring until the first hard frosts. But their seeds can be viable below ground for many years.
Control: is relatively easy, hoe off newly emerged seedlings regularly or hand pull plants.
Cleavers (Galium aparine): long spreading stems with sticky leaves and hairy seeds. If left uncontrolled will quickly become a problem.
Speedwell (Veronica spp.): a low-growing plant that was grown as a rock garden plant until gardeners realised how invasive it is. Speedwell has wonderful with bright blue, long-stemmed flowers early in the year, usually March to May. It can be a common weed of both lawns and cultivated areas.
Fat Hen (Chenopodium album): a single plant can produce 20,000 seeds in its short lifetime. The easiest way to control is hand-pulling when they are young and try not to allow them to flower.
Annual nettle (Urtica urens): It is said that the sting of the annual nettle is fa stronger than the Common Nettle/Stinging Nettle. Urtica dioica
A perennial weed is a little harder to control as they normally have taproots or can reproduce from any small amount of root left in the ground. Perennial weeds 'over-winter' successfully by storing food in their root system.
Control: by hand pulling or digging making sure you remove as much root as possible.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis): a common perennial weed of cultivated and lawn areas You can use a trowel to remove all the taproot.
Creeping Thistle (Cirsium arvense): like to grow in uncultivated ground and meadows. Difficult to control as it can reproduce by seed and perennial roots.
Ground Elder (Aegopodium podagraria): Ground Elder start to show in early spring and summer, but rhizomes and roots persist year-round, making it hard to control as it forms a mat of growth smothering other plants.
Creeping buttercup Ranunculus repens a troublesome creeping weed that forms of a dense network of shoots, runners and roots. Commonly found in both borders and lawns.
A biennial weed takes two years to develop a root and flower system. They grow in a similar way to perennials and can reproduce by roots in the first year and seed in the second.
This group of weeds contains some real baddies.
Control: hand pulling or digging wearing long sleeves and gardening gloves to avoid skin irritation.
Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea): It can become a major weed of waste or other uncultivated ground including paddocks and grazing. It is poisonous and should be only handled wearing gloves.
Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum): potentially invasive and the sap can cause severe skin burns. The danger may not be immediately apparent, as chemicals in the sap don't burn the skin directly. Instead, they cause extreme photosensitivity, meaning severe sensitivity to UV light i.e. sunlight. So if you come into contact with giant hogweed sap and then go out into the sun, your skin can blister and burn, changing the pigmentation and leaving very noticeable scars.
Hemlock (Conium maculatum): Every part of the hemlock plant contains a harmful chemical that can cause serious illness. Symptoms of ingestion include nausea and vomiting, severe stomach pain and even gradual paralysis of the central nervous system. It can be deadly if consumed. This is a plant that likes to grow in hedgerows, wet ground and wasteland.
Spear thistle (Cirsium vulgare): Spear thistle flowers in June and July but rosettes can survive for up to 4 years without flowering. Spear Thistle can reproduce via the perennial roots and seed production which can produce from 1,600 to 8,400seeds per plant.
Burdock (Arctium spp): A fast-growing biennial weed that grows foliage the first year and flowers the next year, producing seed heads with burrs.
Ephemeral weeds have several generations during one growing season. They tend to have a thin seed coat so that germination is quicker.
Control: regular hoeing and surface cultivation can reduce ephemeral weeds.
Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta): grows in cultivated ground, planted pots and pathways. Common throughout the British Isles easily spread as the seeds pop when ripe. It has a common name of Jack Jump out of bed for that very reason.
Chickweed (Stellaria media): spreads easily due to the large number of seeds produced each growing season. A mat-forming spreading weed that is difficult to hoe as the top growth breaks away easily but leaves enough of the plant to reproduce.
Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris): a common weed of arable and horticultural crops and is a common garden weed. An ephemeral that can overwinter grows on almost all soils and is especially prolific in cultivated land.
Knowing a little about the different types of life cycles will ensure that you chose the correct control method to ensure successful eradication.
If you have any question or need your weed identified please post a photo in the app. When taking the pictures give us as many clues as possible.
  • Where is it growing?
  • What colour is the flower?
  • A close up of the leaf and flower if possible.
Happy Weeding
Little and often is better than letting it run away with you. But that is easier said than done sometimes!
Part two: Weed control methods ...coming soon.

Related articles


Types of weed control - Herbicides

There are eight main types of herbicide control methods, each have different modes of action.

Top 12 Troublesome Weeds

Knotweed is currently the most invasive plant we have in the UK and as such, is treated extremely seriously. If you think you...

A stinky plant which deters weeds

Recently a member of the Candide community asked about how to keep weeds at bay in her flower bed, especially vine weed. This...

Love gardens? Sign up for Candide’s Almanac!

A weekly edit of freshly picked gardening tips, travel guides, and the best botanical days out happening near you. Unsubscribe at any time.



About usCareersPrivacy policy

Candide is your guide to visiting UK public gardens. Find the best gardens, buy tickets and enter with just your phone. Download the app for offline tickets, community access and more.

Terms & ConditionsCode of Conduct

© 2022 Candide

Made in Bristol