Common milkweed, scientifically known as Asclepias syriaca, is a tap-rooted plant that reproduces mainly through seeds. However, once it’s established, this plant can regenerate by its roots bearing adventitious buds. Mexican whorled and showy milkweed are invasive in some areas. How then can you get rid of milkweed?
Milkweed can be invasive and hardy, but there are several ways to eradicated and control its spread for good. The more direct approach includes herbicides, properly timed mowing, manually cutting, and burning. Some other natural ways of killing milkweed are digging, pulling, tilling, and mulching.
Once established, milkweed can thrive for years on end and spread quickly. By now, you are probably wondering if it’s possible to get rid of milkweed entirely in areas it is not wanted. Well, read on to find out more.
How To Get Rid of Milkweed?
Getting rid of milkweed can be a tough undertaking, especially for people who don’t know much about these hardy plants. Luckily though, you can utilize several methods to get rid of them.
Is Common Milkweed Invasive?
Not all milkweed variants are as fast at reproducing and taking over an area as others. Those types that are can sometimes become quite a hassle for anyone wanting a more planned approach to the vegetation on their land or in their yards.
Such invasive types of milkweed have become the bane for most people as controlling them can be one of the hardest undertakings in gardening if not prepared. Even if you mow them down, they still can regenerate from chunks of roots left underground. They are also resistant to many herbicides.
Common milkweed is slightly toxic, and its milky sap can cause rashes when it comes into contact with your skin. So before starting this process, protect yourself by wearing gloves, long pants, and shirts with long sleeves when handling milkweed.
Can You Use Roundup To Kill Milkweed?
Milkweed is specifically targeted by farmers on land designated for crops. Many vegetables have been scientifically engineered specifically to resist herbicides made from glyphosate, the main ingredient in GE’s Roundup weed killer.
Roundup is extremely effective at taking out milkweed. Its glyphosate base is one of the few herbicides that has been proven to control its growth and spread. It is so effective that some naturalists and environmentalists decry its effect on Monarch Butterfly populations that rely on the plant.
This type of herbicide is one of the few that is effective in killing milkweed down to its roots. So, there is a long history of using Roundup to kill milkweed and its effectiveness is well documented.
Four Direct Ways To Get Rid Of Milkweed:
Here we can look at four of the most common ways that many lawn, land, and farm owners take care of unwanted milkweed. Keep reading further to find out other ways people solve their weed problem.
What won’t be listed here is the option of just letting the plants grow and enjoying the monarch butterflies that they attract. Sometimes, these rapidly spreading plants just tend to take over whatever area they get established in. If this is your situation, we have some fixes for you below.
Spray Using Herbicides
You can get rid of common milkweed by spraying its leaves thoroughly using an herbicide solution. Herbicides other than the glyphosate found in Roundup that have been known to be effective in getting rid of milkweed include 2,4-D.
You should make sure that you wear eye protection, gloves, long sleeve shirts, long pants, and thicker shoes. Be sure to follow all product instructions and keep it out of the reach of children and pets.
Mowing Before The Seed Pods Form
Milkweed produces seed pods that split open and spew seeds everywhere in the late summer or fall. One way of getting rid of milkweed is to mow it down every 2-3 weeks before the seed pods begin forming.
By mowing milkweed plants, you will weaken them significantly, and eventually, they end up dying.
In this method, always make sure that no seed pods fall on the ground where they can sprout into new plants. A bagger mower is a good option for this as well as using blowers and rakes to clear the area.
Remember that this will need to be done regularly until the root system below ground withers and can no longer produce additional stalks. Once stems no longer sprout from the area it is safe to assume that you have killed off the roots without having to resort to a chemical solution.
Cutting The Milkweed Down
To get rid of milkweed plants, cut their stems and dispose of these stems in trash bags since they too can propagate into new plants. There’s nothing like piling up a bunch of milkweed only to find sprouts in that very area later.
Milkweed usually spreads through underground stems, and they normally form clumps above ground. The size of the clump is usually indicative of the size of the plant’s root system. So if you observe a large clump, keep on coming back to cut the stem as it grows back, and eventually, the plant will die from starvation.
This will take some time, patience, and concerted effort on your part. But with some persistence this can be a way to clear an area where the plants are not wanted.
Burning them down
Another way of getting rid of milkweed plants is by burning them all down. If you have no other plants or trees growing nearby, you can simply torch the entire plot. This will effectively kill all the milkweed plants growing in the area.
If you are concerned about the extreme nature of this then you are not alone. Farmers and foresters use controlled burns for many reasons to clear underbrush and unwanted vegetation. The can be dangerous if attempted by the untrained or inexperienced.
Therefore, this method is not usually recommended since it can be quite dangerous. Extreme care should be taken to avoid starting wildfires or burning structures. This should also not be done regularly since burning affects the quality of the soil.
If you would like to read more about gardens and other lawn care topics, see my articles here…
How Do You Kill Milkweed Naturally?
Unluckily, there are no biological means of killing or controlling milkweed as of yet. But this doesn’t mean there aren’t other natural ways of dealing with this stubborn plant. Some of these methods include:
Dig Up The Rhizomes
Milkweed spreads through underground rhizomes. So to kill the milkweed naturally, dig up the rhizomes taking extreme care not to sever them and leave any behind as new plants may regrow from these.
Another natural way of killing milkweed is by hand pulling the entire plant, including the roots, and leaving it out to dry. To do this, grasp the plants firmly at the base and pull them straight up slowly and steadily.
When doing this, you should make sure that the plant has no seed pods, which may pop and produce new plants. Another precaution if leaving them to dry in the sun would be to utilize an inexpensive plastic or cloth tarp. This will ensure any unseen seeds do not make their way back to the soil.
Tillage Of The Soil
Another effective and natural way of killing milkweed is by tilling the soil in the area. If the till runs deep enough, it can destroy the roots of the plant, thus killing the entire plant.
A thorough job deep enough and displaced enough will have to be done in order to kill the hardy root systems. You may need to repeat the process if survivors sprout again. You should be able to take care of the problem with no more than tow to three attempts.
Another natural way of killing milkweed is by applying a layer of mulch about 3-4 inches over the area. Milkweed requires sunlight to grow properly, and by shading it from the sun using the layer of mulch, the plants will be choked out and end up dying.
You may have a couple try to peak through this layer, but in the numbers that will get through it will not be as big of a task to eradicate them for good.
One thing I would suggest is using a biodegradable version of a flower bed felt or gardener’s fabric under the layer of mulch. This nearly guarantees no unwanted weeds will be able to rise above the mulch. I use similar products that can be found here on Amazon.
How Do You Stop Common Milkweed From Spreading?
Milkweed propagates itself through rhizomes and seeds. So the most effective ways of dealing with these plants focus on controlling the spread of these agents, which effectively limits the spread of milkweed. Some of the methods you can use to stop common milkweed from spreading include:
Another way of getting rid of milkweed is by controlling the seeds to stop the plant from spreading. Although milkweed is sometimes cultivated as an ornamental or allowed to grow to attract monarch butterflies, the species may not be wanted elsewhere and solutions will be needed to control the spread.
You can prevent seed production in milkweed by destroying seed pods before they mature. So to do this, you harvest the seed pods and then stratify them by placing them in the refrigerator and later on throwing them away. Stratifying them will prevent them from growing and propagating new plants.
A good way of controlling milkweed is by spreading a layer of mulch over an area where milkweed has been either cut down or removed in another way. Milkweed requires a lot of sun to grow properly. So you can use mulch to shade it and keep it from growing.
You can also grow shrubs or a stand of flowering plants that will also shade out the milkweed and stop it from growing. This will stop it from growing and spreading if the plants and mulch provide enough shade from sunlight.
Planting a competitive cover crop
You can use this method to shade milkweed from the sun, thus preventing growth and killing the plants. Very tall garden plants and shrubs are a great way to keep milkweed from taking over defined areas.
Uprooting and removing the rhizomes
One of the ways milkweed spreads is through underground stems that form clumps above ground. So an effective way of controlling the spread of this plant would be by uprooting them completely and removing the rhizomes/stems that have formed underground.
All in all, getting rid of milkweed can be a hard and daunting task. So it’s important to be quite effective with the method of control you choose; otherwise, the plant will just reappear again. Follow the tips in this guide, and you’ll be good to go.
Final Touches To How To Get Rid Of Milkweed…
Here is a rundown of the 12 ways we have just went over to help control the growth and spread of milkweed in your lawn, beds, garden, or property.
- Spray with herbicides
- Mow before seeds are present
- Cut by hand before seeds appear
- Burn in a controlled and safe manner
- Dig up the stems and root systems
- Pull smaller collections of milkweed
- Till larger sections of densely populated areas
- Mulch to prevent areas from acquiring any weeds
- Collect seeds
- Shade with taller plants or mulch
- Plant competing plants
- Uproot the entire underground system
With these proven methods of solving milkweed incursions into beds, lawns, and gardens you should have plenty of options to choose from. It will take not only these steps, but some tenacity since these plants are known for their resilience.
Hopefully this wisdom from us grandpas can help you with your next outdoor project. If you would like to know more about lawn care and landscaping, take a look at these other articles…