They’re there, whether you’ve seen them or not. Under the snow or leaves or maybe just beginning to poke through bare soil you might find pesky winter annual weeds.
Four of the most common – chickweed, henbit, speedwells and dead nettle – emerge in late winter and early spring from seeds they sowed in late summer and fall. These weeds usually are found in flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, around trees and shrubs, in farm fields and sometimes, the lawn.
A member of the mint family, dead nettle has square stems.
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Sometimes called purple dead nettle, this weed has triangle-shaped, bumpy, slightly scalloped-edged leaves and a spike of blue flowers. A member of the mint family, dead nettle has square stems. It is easily recognizable by its leaves’ purplish hue. This weed can be thick in farm fields in spring. The color and leaves are a giveaway in the garden, too.
Common chickweed (left) and henbit (right) emerge at the edge of a garden bed.
© Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
There are two kinds of chickweed: Common, a winter annual weed, and mouse-ear chickweed, which is a perennial weed. An annual weed returns from seed while a perennial weed grows from its roots.
Common chickweed quickly develops a mat in the lawn or in garden beds. It’s only about 1 inch tall, so lawnmowers usually miss it. Common chickweed has small, elliptical leaves, less than the size of a pinky fingernail. During the growing season, it displays dainty white flowers. These produce tiny seeds that winter over and germinate in cool, damp weather the following season.
A main difference between common chickweed and mouse-ear chickweed is revealed in the leaves. Mouse-ear chickweed’s leaves are covered with tiny hairs.
Corn speedwell has pretty little light blue flowers with triangular shaped leaves on long stems.
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Corn speedwell is another winter annual weed with blue flowers. It has triangular shaped leaves. Light blue flowers appear along the stems. Generally a lawn weed, but it also appears in gardens.
Henbit is another member of the mint family and is related to dead nettle. Henbit had rounded, scalloped leaves. The leaves grow tightly along the square stems. The flowers are pinkish-purple.
What to Do
These weeds, which germinate in fall, are easy to pull in late winter and early spring. Try not to allow them to bloom and form seeds, since that is how they spread. Even better, get a jump on these weeds with Preen Weed Preventer products that prevent the seeds from germinating.
Preen Garden Weed Preventer products stop these and dozens of other weeds from germinating in flowerbeds and around trees and shrubs for three months or more. Choose the right Preen product, for your specific gardening needs. Always read and follow the label direction of the products you use.