Get rid of lesser celandine– It’s pretty, but it will take over your lawn

lesser celandine in Buffalo NY by Mike Fabrizio
It may look like a pretty flower, but you should dig up and get rid of this invasive plant called lesser celandine. Photo courtesy Mike Fabrizio.

by Connie Oswald Stofko

I’ve been noticing the pretty yellow blooms of lesser celandine all over my neighborhood.

It’s pretty, but it can take over your lawn.

Here’s an email I recently got from a reader:

I have this weed and it is now covering my entire back yard and is headed into the front. I literally have one-eighth of my back  lawn left.  I have been digging it out for years and years and it just keeps multiplying. There is now far too much to dig out. Can you help me find a solution? I need to do something drastic.

Jo Anne

Well, we covered the topic of lesser celandine a few  years ago. To see if there is anything new you can do, I again talked to Carol Ann Harlos, Master Gardener, garden writer and speaker.

Short answer: No, there’s nothing new.

Longer answer: If you’re desperate, you could try solarization.

“Lesser celandine is awful, really awful stuff,” Harlos said. “It’s a serious weed.”

She outlined the same strategies she described previously.

“You have two choices,” Harlos said. “You can either spend the time and dig it out or you can buy Roundup. Spray Roundup on the leaves and it goes into the roots.”

Killing the roots is critical. What makes lesser celandine so difficult to get rid of is that it produces tubers under the ground. If you try to dig it up and miss a tuber or even break a tuber, the piece left in the ground can generate a new plant, she explained.

I asked Harlos about covering the plants up, and she said you might try that if you’re desperate.

You’re not trying to kill the leaves, you’re trying to cook the roots, she explained. The process is called solarization.

Spread black plastic (not cardboard or newspaper) over the ground right away. The plastic will absorb heat. The soil needs to get hot a couple inches down. Keep the black plastic over the plants for a couple months.

You have to do it now while you can see the plants. The plants are spring ephemerals, which die down in the summer and will disappear.

Harlos hasn’t read about solarization being used on lesser celandine and doesn’t know how effective it would be. But if you have a large area to kill and are desperate, you could try it.

Another choice is to live with lesser celandine taking over your property. Harlos knows of a gardener that has made that choice. But she likes to see gardeners get rid of lesser celandine, especially if they live near woods.

That’s because lesser celandine is an invasive species that blooms before many native plants do. Lesser celandine gets the sunlight first, it gets the nutrients from the soil first and it flowers first. In addition, animals generally don’t eat it. With all those advantages, it can choke out the native plants that animals depend on.

If you decide to do nothing about lesser celandine, “That’s a personal decision,” Harlos said, “but realize that you will have lots more next year.”

Update, April 19, 2016 from Jo Anne Gerbec: Thank you so much!  I tried boiling water on it yesterday and this morning the leaves were all dead.  However I am not sure this is the best solution either.  I cannot  tell if the boiling water killed the root or the little bulbs.  The boiling water is just in the testing stage. Not sure it will work.  Not sure anything will work lol. I will keep you posted. Here is a pic of the nightmare I am facing.  🙂

lesser celandine in yard
Lesser celandine can take over your yard. Photo courtesy Jo Anne Gerbec


4 Comments on “Get rid of lesser celandine– It’s pretty, but it will take over your lawn

  1. We have found that cutting lesser celandine with the mower to 1 1/2 to 2 inches, removing the flower and leaves, on the first lawn cutting, then spotting it with 2-4- D, will stunt its growth in lawns.

  2. I love anything yellow this time of year, however, courtesy of the the Town of Tonawanda, and a water main repair project,and their re-seeding program, I now have this weed in my lawn. Dig, may I say this again, DIG and then use a liquid mixture of your choice!!! Good Luck…..

  3. I have that “problem” with violets in my small back yard lawn. Now I have a beautiful purple lawn that doesn’t need mowing in the month of May. The rest of the yard is gardens and the violets are good ground cover.

  4. Be verycareful when using a lawnmower on lesser celandine. The tiny bulbs get trapped and carried to other parts of the lawn. In my case it is now in my front lawn can tell it’s from the mower by the width of the path.

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