- 1 What Is A Dandelion, Anyway?
- 2 The Science Of Herbicides
- 3 How Herbicides Work
- 4 Do Dandelion Killers Work?
- 5 Best Dandelion Killer Reviews
- 6 The Final Summary
Dandelions may be delightful when they’re no more than pretty yellow flowers, but once the flowers mature, the seeds fly everywhere. We all get them on occasion, but eventually you need to find the best dandelion killer to take care of the job.
Determining what that is, though, is a bit more complex.
Those of us who want to stay organic hesitate to use the chemical options on the market, uncertain of how they may affect our other plants. And yet chemical methods are highly effective. Which should you choose?
Let’s break down the science of dandelion prevention. We’ll discuss the best weed killer for lawns and the best for areas you want to strip bare of plants entirely, and go over organic and chemical options.
By the time we’re done, you’ll be an expert in dandelion destruction, and you’ll know exactly what weed killer to buy.
Organic Best Dandelion Killer Options:
- Granules: Selective, Pre-Emergence, Organic: Espoma Organic Weed Preventer CGP25
- Spray: Selective, Pre-Emergence, Organic: Environmental Factor RTS Green It Weed Preventer
- Granules: Selective, Post-Emergence, Organic: None available on market currently
- Spray: Selective, Post-Emergence, Organic: Bayer Natria Lawn Weed Killer
- Granules: Broad-Spectrum, Pre-Emergence, Organic: None available on market currently
- Spray: Broad-Spectrum, Pre-Emergence, Organic: None available on market currently
- Granules: Broad-Spectrum, Post-Emergence, Organic: None available on market currently
- Spray: Broad-Spectrum, Post-Emergence, Organic: Bayer Advanced Natria Grass & Weed Killer
Chemical Best Dandelion Killer Options:
- Granules: Selective, Pre-Emergence, Chemical: None available on market currently
- Spray: Selective, Pre-Emergence, Chemical: Southern Ag Surflan A.S. Specialty Herbicide
- Granules: Selective, Post-Emergence, Chemical: Scotts Turf Builder Weed & Feed
- Spray: Selective, Post-Emergence, Chemical: Bonide Weed Beater
- Granules: Broad-Spectrum, Pre-Emergence, Chemical: Preen Garden Weed Preventer
- Spray: Broad-Spectrum, Pre-Emergence, Chemical: Spectracide Vegetation Killer Concentrate3
- Granules: Broad-Spectrum, Post-Emergence, Chemical: None available on market currently
- Spray: Broad-Spectrum, Post-Emergence, Chemical: Spectracide Vegetation Killer Concentrate3
What Is A Dandelion, Anyway?
Dandelions themselves are considered a broadleaf weed. These perennial weeds can grow in virtually any soil type, and send down a thick taproot.
Unless that taproot itself is killed off completely, dandelions can come back. This can be in a matter of weeks or the following year, depending on how much nutrition the root is storing at that time.
That’s where a good, reliable dandelion killer comes in. While you can (and should) try to remove as many dandelions as possible by hand, root and all, we’re always prone to missing some. The best dandelion killer should eliminate the root.
The Science Of Herbicides
Before we can decide what the best dandelion killer will be, it’s important to establish what herbicides are and how they work.
In its basic form, an herbicide is a product intended to kill undesired plants. Broad-spectrum herbicides kill anything green that they come into contact with. Selective herbicides are targeted at a specific type or family of plant.
Broad Spectrum Herbicides
The majority of organic herbicides and some chemical ones are broad-spectrum. These herbicides don’t discriminate between grass and weeds, and will happily kill anything green in their path.
Unfortunately, this also means they will harm your prized plants. Depending on which you use, it may also be strong enough to burn or irritate your skin, so use caution with broad spectrum products.
These are the best weed killer types to deal with those pesky weeds that appear in your driveway, but because of the wide range of plants they will kill, they may not be right for all situations.
A selective herbicide is preferred by most people. These can be sprayed directly onto your lawn, and most of them kill off broadleaf plants and leave your grass intact. There are also powdered or granulated variants of selective herbicides.
However, selective herbicides tend to be not quite as potent as the broad-spectrum varieties. It may take multiple reapplications to have a significant effect.
In addition, many of the organic selective types only kill weed seeds, and not living weeds themselves. This is true of some chemical selective herbicides, too.
While the best dandelion killer spray for lawns is a selective herbicide, the question becomes when and how often does it need to be applied. And the answer to that may be tricky.
About Organic Herbicides
We all prefer to be eco-friendly when we can. The real dispute between organic and inorganic varieties of dandelion killers is a two part question: are they safe to the yard at large, and are they safe around your family and pets.
The answer is that it depends on the product. Even organic options may become problematic with repeated use.
The soil can become acidic if vinegar is used to fight off weeds, for instance. It won’t cause harm to you, but you may find yourself scrambling to reduce the soil acidity.
Organic products are extremely effective if used properly on the right weeds. Most are broad-spectrum. Those which aren’t tend to work as dandelion preventatives, and they won’t cover all types of weeds.
Furthermore, organics also tend to break down quickly. If you’ve got a severe weed problem, you may find yourself spraying a lot more than you’d expect, and the cost can greatly rise.
In addition, organics tend to work best on warm, sunny days. If rain is in the forecast, wait for it to pass before using these. Spray in the morning on a day that’s scheduled to be over 75 degrees for best weed control.
About Chemical Herbicides
Inorganic, chemical compounds can be a lot more accurate and work extremely well. But when you use them, you need to consider the safety of your pets, children, your beneficial pollinating insects, and your land itself.
Most chemical herbicides aren’t safe on edible plants, so if your cats or dogs chew on your grass, you may want to avoid these. They may not be safe on people until fully dried, and even then might be risky.
Groundwater can be polluted by the chemical compounds, and many of the more potent varieties don’t discriminate between weeds and insects. You may lose your beneficial pollinators or harm the worms in your soil.
The decision is a hard one to make, and every gardener has to decide what’s right for them and their situation. I prefer organic methods, but I completely understand the utility of the chemical methods.
How Herbicides Work
Different herbicides are made with different purposes. Some will retard the sprouting of weeds. Others will directly kill off living weeds. This section will talk about the differences between each type.
These are rarely used amongst amateur gardeners. Most commonly used in an agricultural setting, a preplant herbicide must be applied a set time period prior to planting your plants or seeds. The time period can range from 14-45 days in most cases.
Once you’ve applied a pre-planting herbicidal spray to your soil, it will take out the weeds. However, it may also prevent any seeds you may plant from sprouting, and it may cause active harm to your transplants as well.
I don’t generally recommend the use of pre-planting herbicides for home gardening purposes.
They’re fine in a large-scale field setting where the field can be rapidly plowed, sprayed, and left alone for the set period of time. But in a yard setting, these are more trouble than they’re worth. They’re also very costly and hard to find!
A pre-emergence herbicide works to stop seeds from germinating and sending up sprouts and seedling weeds. They won’t control any existing weeds, so you’ll need to find another way to do that.
I am quite fond of pre-emergence herbicides for lawn care, but with one warning. These won’t work on everything. As much as I’d love a spray that took out every weed type, different areas have different weeds.
There are pre-emergence sprays that will block everything from sprouting until they eventually break down, but these tend to leave residues in the soil or sink through soil to groundwater. That’s not good for most home gardens.
With these, be sure to read the labels carefully and select one that is targeted towards exactly what you want to eliminate. There are options for dandelion pre emergent sprays and granules out there, and those tend to work very well.
Finally, we come to the post-emergence herbicides. These act on living new weeds once they’ve sprouted and are visible in your yard or garden.
The problem with many post-emergence herbicides is that they will often only work on very young plants if they’re organic. Chemical sprays can handle older weeds, but organics tend to require repeat spraying and may simply fail.
Like pre-emergence herbicides, post-emergence ones can linger in the soil. These can inhibit the growth of other plants as well, possibly including your intended garden plants. They will break down, but slowly.
Soil or Foliar Application?
Knowing the type of herbicide you’re using will determine whether it needs to be applied to the soil. As a general rule, pre-emergence and pre-plant varieties will need to be applied directly to the soil. Post-emergence is usually foliar.
As with any product, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions in regards to how much to use and how to apply it. While some products may be able to be used for both foliar and soil applications, the quantity used may vary.
Granular Vs. Spray Types
The majority of herbicides are available as a spray. But some come as a granular form as well.
Granular herbicides are often pre-emergence herbicides. These are meant to be spread on lawns, and sometimes in garden beds. Typically these combine a nitrogen-rich fertilizer with a standard broadleaf weed inhibitor.
Most granular herbicides are slow-release fertilizers along with protecting against weeds for a period of time.
The exterior of the granules contains the selective herbicide and deteriorates more quickly, spreading into the soil. The interior then breaks down to provide nutrients for the grass nearby.
Spray formulas, both selective and broad-spectrum, tend to go directly to their target. Some require regular re-application, where others can last for a much longer period of time.
Sprays are also much more useful on driveways or other hard surfaces where cracks allow for dandelion or other weed growth.
Do Dandelion Killers Work?
Whether you’re looking for a general weed killer for lawns or just a dandelion killer, the most important part is finding a weed killer that works. But do dandelion killers actually do their job?
The simplest answer is that yes, they work and they kill dandelions. But there are some formulations which only work on dandelions, and some that kill everything around the dandelions too. A few kill a mixture of common weeds.
There’s no single solution for all weed killer needs, but for dandelions, there’s a huge selection. Some are quicker to act than others, but let’s go over some of the top options available to you so you can choose the best dandelion killer for you.
Something to remember: it’s better to kill your dandelions while they’re still yellow and before they can form their seed. Otherwise, seeds may already be spreading before you go to kill them!
Best Dandelion Killer Reviews
Before I dive into these, there are some products that just are not currently available on the market. Those include:
- Selective, post-emergence organic granular products
- Broad-spectrum, pre-emergence organic granular products
- Broad-spectrum, pre-emergence organic spray products
- Selective, pre-emergence chemical granular products
- Broad-spectrum, post-emergence organic spray products
- Broad-spectrum, post-emergence chemical granular products
Generally speaking, granular options are a bit more limited across the board, so this isn’t really surprising! Organics also tend to be a bit more limited in their targets. They’re good at what they do, but there just aren’t types that cover everything.
Now, on to the reviews!
Organic Dandelion Killer Granules
Espoma Organic Weed Preventer CGP25 – Selective, Pre-Emergence, Organic
A very common method for organic pre-emergence weed control is the use of corn gluten meal. Espoma Organic Weed Preventer is one of the most common marketed brands, and is effective on most broad-leaf weeds.
While Espoma’s product won’t kill existing weeds, and you’ll still need to pull those out by the roots, it prevents new dandelions from sprouting. It also protects against crabgrass.
And I’m not kidding when I mention pulling existing weeds out by the roots. As the corn gluten breaks down, it becomes a nitrogen-rich fertilizer for the existing lawn and weeds. If you don’t remove your current weeds, you’ll just be feeding them!
But once you’ve neatly manicured your lawn and extracted all the weeds, an application of this at least twice a year will prevent new ones from sprouting. And that’s a really good thing.
Chemical Dandelion Killer Granules
Scotts Turf Builder Weed & Feed – Selective, Post-Emergence, Chemical
If you have one of the types of lawn that this works on, this is going to be of immeasurable help for you.
Scotts Turf Builder Weed & Feed is guaranteed to work on dandelions and clover. It handles a lot of other common weed types as well. Simply water your lawn, then use a spreader to evenly scatter the granules across the lawn.
It’s important to keep kids and pets off your lawn for 24 hours after application, as that should be enough time for the product to start to work. But once the lawn and product have dried in place, it’s safe to run around on once more.
Furthermore, what doesn’t go towards killing weeds will offer valuable nutrients to your grass. You may see noticeable thickening and greening of grass after application, making for an altogether healthier lawn.
I consider it the best dandelion killer for lawns overall, but if you’re growing any edible plants, keep it away from those beds as much as possible. You don’t want to risk your veggies collapsing on you!
Preen Garden Weed Preventer – Broad-Spectrum, Pre-Emergence, Chemical
For those of us who have large mulched areas who are tired of dealing with weeds, Preen Garden Weed Preventer can help. This granulated formula prevents a very wide variety of weeds and plants from coming up where it’s been spread.
While I don’t personally advise using it in vegetable gardens, it’s claimed to be safe around nearly 200 different types of plants including many ornamentals and edibles. I only use it on areas where I don’t want anything to grow.
To use it, simply apply the granular formula on top of your desired mulch, then water it into the soil below. It will bond with the soil’s surface and prevent weeds from forming roots for up to three months per application.
If you’re trying to keep the dandelions down around your established plants (and check the packaging to make sure they’re safe), or trying to keep your mulch paths from being a weeding nightmare, try this stuff out.
Organic Dandelion Killer Sprays
Environmental Factor RTS Green It Weed Preventer – Selective, Pre-Emergence, Organic
In the same vein as the Espoma product mentioned above, Environmental Factor’s Green It is a corn gluten dandelion killer. However, this one comes as an easy-to-use spray formula. Simply attach your hose and spray down your lawn.
The same problems apply to this product that apply to the Espoma as well. You’ll need to hand-weed all the existing weeds out, and you’ll need to apply this regularly for constant prevention.
But it works, and it will keep most non-grass seeds from sprouting.
Bayer Natria Lawn Weed Killer – Selective, Post-Emergence, Organic
This concentrated formula is derived from iron. It offers nutrition for growing grass. And it kills off established weeds. What more could we want?
In reality, anyone who’s ever tried to eliminate every single dandelion in their lawn or garden has discovered that they hide extremely well. This is especially true right after you mow the lawn.
Natria eliminates that problem by killing dandelion roots, right along with the root systems of other broadleaf weeds. Used in conjunction with a corn gluten solution, you’ll catch all the hidden roots under the soil’s surface.
The dead roots will rot away and provide organic material for your lawn to feed on, and you’ll have healthier soil as a result. Best of all, once dried, this and corn gluten are both perfectly safe for you, your kids, and your pets.
Bayer Advanced Natria Grass & Weed Killer – Broad-Spectrum, Post-Emergence, Organic
Do you have a problem with dandelions springing up in your driveway or sidewalk? How about on your patio, or in your garden beds? Are random grasses also plaguing you?
If so, Bayer Advanced Natria Grass & Weed Killer can help. This post-emergence spray will take out both dandelions and other grasses and weeds listed on its label. It utilizes an herbicidal soap to cause the weeds to wither away and die.
It is not a solution for everything, however. If you want to completely eliminate all plant life in one area, this won’t do it. But for what it does treat, it does a really good job. It may require 2-3 applications, but the dandelions and other weeds will die.
Chemical Dandelion Killer Sprays
Southern Ag Surflan A.S. Specialty Herbicide – Selective, Pre-Emergence, Chemical
While this isn’t safe for use in edible garden areas, Surflan is a very effective pre-emergence dandelion killer as well as an overall broadleaf weed killer. It handles some varieties of grasses as well, so check to make sure your lawn is safe before using!
This herbicide needs to be applied three times a year for year-round coverage, or twice a year in areas where winter chills prevent weed growth. It will prevent weed seeds from germinating for up to four months.
With any chemical product like this, be sure to wear appropriate protection before spraying, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application. If done correctly, this is a great solution to a lot of common pest plants.
Bonide Weed Beater – Selective, Post-Emergence, Chemical
It was a close call on this one, but I consider Bonide Weed Beater to be one of the best dandelion killers for lawns, too.
This takes out dandelions easily without any trouble. It handles a wide variety of other weeds, as well, and can be used on the difficult-to-kill types like poison ivy and poison oak.
It’s a post-emergence spray, so you will need to reapply as new weeds appear, or use a pre-emergence method to prevent the weeds from germinating. But all things considered, this is a great option.
I personally prefer the Scotts Turf Builder, but only because there’s no mixing required. If you’d prefer a quick-acting liquid solution, choose the Bonide. You’ll be glad you did.
Spectracide Vegetation Killer Concentrate3 – Broad-Spectrum, Pre/Post-Emergence, Chemical
Tired of trying to remember if something is pre-emergence or post-emergence? Don’t worry, I have you covered.
If you just want stuff to die where you spray, and aren’t picky between weeds and grasses and other plants, Spectracide Vegetation Killer Concentrate will do it. This is perfect for applications like the cracks in driveways, sidewalks, and patios.
Be forewarned, this stuff will last in your soil for a long, long time. It’s rated to last for up to a year. Within an hour of application, rain won’t wash it off. And it does need to be mixed with water to thin it (by the directions, please!)
But if you are just simply tired of weeds returning season after season and making those cracks in your pavement worse, this is the stuff for you. Dandelions don’t stand a chance against Spectracide.
The Final Summary
In the end, if you want the best dandelion killer, everything I’ve specifically mentioned today targets dandelions, and they’re all proven to work.
Depending on what other weeds you want to target at the same time, your needs may vary. By no means does this cover all the weed destruction options on the market, but these are the best products to kill dandelions!
Do you have a preferred method or product that you use to eliminate these pretty, but prolific flowers? Let me know!
The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:
Last update on 2019-11-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API