Kill lesser celandine before it flowers; look for it now

lesser celandine in Amherst NY
Lesser celandine is a pretty little plant, but it can destroy your lawn and invade wild spaces. Use herbicide before the plant gets flowers. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Don’t wait until you see the pretty yellow flowers. Look for lesser celandine and get rid of it now.

If you want to use an herbicide, you must do it now before the plant flowers.

Why you should get rid of lesser celandine

If you’re not careful, lesser celandine can spread until you have no grass or other plants in your lawn.

Even worse, it can spread into wild areas and wreak havoc there.

Lesser celandine can outcompete native plants, explained Carol Ann Harlos, Master Gardener, garden writer and speaker.

Lesser celandine is an invasive species that blooms before many native plants do, gets the sunlight first, gets the nutrients from the soil first and 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.

See more background on lesser celandine here.

lesser celandine in yard
Lesser celandine can take over your yard. Photo courtesy Jo Anne Gerbec
lesser celandine leaves end March by Stofko
This is what the lesser celandine leaves look like now. Without the flowers calling attention to the plant, it’s easy to overlook this invasive plant. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Getting rid of lesser celandine

Digging

You can dig up lesser celandine. I was pretty successful in digging it out of my neighbor’s hellstrip last year. (The hellstrip is the strip between the sidewalk and the street.) There were several large patches, and this year I see only one small patch.

The trick is to get all of the tubers. The tubers are tiny, and if you miss one tuber, the plant can come back. See more details here.

Make sure you get at those small patches before they spread, and check for the plant each year to make sure it doesn’t make a comeback.

tubers of lesser celandine next to penny by Stofko
To get rid of lesser celandine, you have to kill or dig up the roots. See how tiny the tubers are? If you leave any tubers in the ground, this plant can spread. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Herbicide

You can use an herbicide, but it must be applied now, in early to mid-April, said Andrea Locke, coordinator of WNY PRISM (Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management). If you wait until you notice the flowers, it’s too late.

Common active ingredients found in herbicides for lesser celandine are triclopyr, glyphosate and dicambia, she said. You can find these herbacides in garden centers and other stores.

Follow the directions carefully when using any herbicide.

If you can eliminate the plant by digging it up instead of using herbicide, that’s great! But don’t ignore lesser celandine.

Birds can spread the seeds into natural spaces, where they can crowd out native plants, Harlos said.

Solarization

You could also try solarization if you have a large area and you are desperate, but that technique might not work well. See more here.

28 Comments on “Kill lesser celandine before it flowers; look for it now

  1. Hi Patrick, please let me know how this works– or doesn’t work. The Fiesta may kill the leaves, but if it doesn’t kill the roots, the lesser celandine will just come back. Please keep us posted!

  2. I live in Orchard Park and we had an explosion of lesser this spring. I didn’t think much of it last year only because I didn’t know what it was and it was only in patches in our back yard. This year in completely consumed our back and side yards and was patchy in our front yard. I can’t help but notice the patches around our neighborhood. I, too, became pretty stressed after researching it. I just can’t use glyphosate on or dig up such a large area. And honestly, I spot treated with roundup and it seemed to be pretty ineffective. I did however find a product called Fiesta, which is a post-emergent weed killer. It’s natural, so as soon as it dries your kids/pets can go back in the yard. It basically has a high iron content. It was not cheap, something like $90 for a gallon of concentrate. Mixed some up in a backpack sprayer and broadcast sprayed the large areas heavily and spot treated the front yard. I then did it again a couple weeks later, then mixed a spray bottle to keep hitting the patches in our one landscape bed. The lesser blackened and the leaves and flowers shriveled up. I’m only cautiously optimistic that it had a long term effect, but had I had the benefit of knowing what this stuff was BEFORE it flowered, I would have hit it at that point to prevent flowering and I would have used a good surfactant for better adherence. I hate that we just have to wait until next spring now to see the effects, but I’ll be ready this time. I’m sure this will be an on-going battle.

  3. Judy, according to the Wisconsin Wetlands Association, marsh marigold is a native plant, not an invasive plant. It does look a lot like lesser celandine. The marsh marigold blooms singly or in small groups around a wetland or in a stream or lakeshore setting where there is water or saturated mud. You won’t find it higher up on the bank on drier soils. Its flower parts are also different: marsh marigold flowers have 5-9 yellow petals, whereas lesser celandine’s flowers have 8 or more petals. Marsh marigold also doesn’t have tubers or bulbils. I hope that helps.

  4. The stuff is flowering all over Main, Eggert and High Park. I’m pretty sure most people have no idea what it is. There wasn’t much last year, that’s how quickly it spreads.

  5. There’s a neighbor around the corner whose entire lawn is being taken over by this. I pity their next door neighbors.

  6. Also, to the woman who moved because of this, I totally understand. I said to my husband last weekend, we may have to move because of this. I can’t spend all this energy fighting it. I think about when I am going to bed, when I wake up. It’s so ridiculous. When you put energy into something, you want to see the outcome of your work. With this stuff, it’s like shoveling you know what against the tide. I don’t want to spend my energy fighting a weed. I’m trying to protect my lawn and gardens like it is a war. Not good, but it is like a war because if you let your guard down you will be totally taken over.

  7. That would be an impossible task. You would need a backhoe to remove everything and then a machine to replace the yard. It’s an immense area. I don’t even know if that would work because I am sure some of it would stay near the property lines and stone walls. It’s unbelievable.

  8. Kathy, thank you for explaining how bad this can get. Since birds flying overhead can deposit seeds in your yard, I don’t think a barrier between your lawn and your neighbor’s will be totally effective. Maybe it would save you time and money to dig up the lesser celandine in your neighbor’s yard. Hang in there!

  9. I had a horrendous case of this. This took over my neighbors lawn and it spread to my lawn. My husband and I dug up so much of our lawn last year .Down 4 inches. Truck loads and truck loads of this stuff trucked out of here and then got new loam and re did the lawn. It took care of it but it was absolutely back breaking work that I never want to have to do again. The problem with this lesser celandine is that after May or June the leaves die and it is not noticed anymore, like it’s not there anymore, but it is lurking beneath the grade spreading. It’s an absolute nightmare. So, you only have 2 months to get work on getting rid of it. Get rid of it or you won’t have gardens or a lawn. The problem now is that my neighbor doesn’t take care of it and now I have to figure out a barrier between the lawns before I end up the same way again. I can’t keep digging up my lawn.

  10. Connie, the idea of crushing is so the herbicide will penetrate the leaves more easily rather than running off the slippery surface.

  11. Thomas, the herbicide needs to be carried from the leaves into the tubers (roots). I wonder if crushing the leaves would help transport or hurt it. I suppose you could try crushing the leaves works on some plants to see if it works better than not crushing the leaves.

  12. I recall reading some advice about crushing the leaves a bit prior to spraying the herbicide, probably to enhance the penetration power of the herbicide. Makes sense as the leaves are glossy.

  13. Sabina, when I first saw lesser celandine growing on my neighbor’s lawn, I considered planting some of it in my garden. Boy, am I glad I didn’t! And my neighbor didn’t plant it in their lawn– it can spread on its own or with the help of birds. Thanks for the tip about looking for it in shady areas.

  14. Aggggghhhhh! And I looked out the window at our beach house last weekend and said “Oh what a pretty yellow flower! Happy Spring!” I dug them all out Wednesday. Fortunately only a few had flowered. They are sneaky little buggers and seem to get around darker spots by really reaching for the light, so don’t be afraid to lift that rock or driftwood they’re peeking out from because there is a very strong and healthy plant under there!

    Thanks for the heads up Connie! The last resident seemed to have had a knack for planting invasives!

  15. Hi Lori,
    You can dig the plant up. That can be effective, especially if you don’t have a lot of lesser celandine.

    You can try solarization, which I mentioned in the article, but it may not work.

    You can try vinegar, but it probably won’t work. You need something that will kill not just the leaves, but the tubers as well. If you decide to try it, please let us know the results.

    Yes, we want to be friendly to the environment. What is the best way to do that? We need to weigh the pros and cons. If you don’t eradicate the plant, birds can spread it to wild area and choke out native plants. That can really mess up the ecosystem in a wild area. That’s bad for the environment, too.

    If digging doesn’t work, using an herbicide might be a way to help the environment.

    Of course, if you decide to use an herbicide, read the label thoroughly and follow the directions carefully.

  16. I am so glad you printed this article. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asking about this plant. However, let me ask you, is there a more environmental remedy to get rid of this? I’ve heard vinegar and water will help destroy them rather than using a herbicide? Thank you!

  17. Thanks for the reminder. I had a couple last year that I dug out. But will go check in the supposedly nice weather coming tomorrow. I usually don’t think about them until I see the flowers.

  18. Lesser celandine has really taken a foothold in our gardens. Thanks so much for making us aware of this invader! Last spring I saw it growing in masses in the woodlands along the bike path and now that we know what it looks like in small patches, we are spraying it.

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