Managing Oxalis Weeds: How To Get Rid Of Oxalis Weeds In The Lawn

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By Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Oxalis looks a bit like a miniature clover plant, but it bears tiny yellow flowers. It is occasionally grown as a groundcover but to most gardeners it is a tenacious and annoying weed. The persistent plant is found in many parts of the world and rises from stem fragments and tiny bulbils. Managing Oxalis weeds takes determination, bulldog-ish stubbornness and inflexible resolve. Oxalis weed control also takes time, as each and every bulbil is removed or becomes ineffective.

Oxalis Weed Facts

Buttercup oxalis, wood sorrel or sourgrass. By any name the weed is Oxalis, a tear your hair out dogged weed that can take years to remove from your garden. The low growing plant can re-establish from just a tiny stem fragment, fragile breakable rhizomes or bulbils. It produces volatile viable seed and also relies upon bits of itself being transported by animals, or us, to establish itself in almost any type of soil. Learn to get rid of Oxalis weeds with some easy steps and save yourself time and energy as well as sanity.

Oxalis is a perennial weedy groundcover, which spreads through interlocking rhizomes that are easy to break apart. Each rhizome will eventually produce tiny bulbils. The seeds are also prolific and are ejected when ripe from tiny seed pods that look like mini okra. Anywhere the stem touches the ground the plant can root, potentially producing more and more plants. It also forms a fleshy taproot and an extensive branching root system. Managing Oxalis weeds can be a huge challenge due to all the tough root system and the different methods the plant has to reproduce itself and persist.

Types of Oxalis Weeds

There are over 800 species of Oxalis. Two of the most common types of Oxalis weeds are creeping wood sorrel and Bermuda buttercup. Both of these are found across the Northern hemisphere and are persistent pests in the landscape.

  • Bermuda buttercup is most likely to grow in full sun in coastal areas.
  • Creeping wood sorrel is found in either sun or shade in moist locations.

Both spread by rhizomes and stem fragments as well as seed and bulbils. Leaves are heart shaped in both plants and held in pairs of three. One of the more terrifying Oxalis weed facts for those of us fighting this plant, is that it can bloom and set seed at any time of the year.

Managing Oxalis Weeds

The word “management” may seem like a cruel joke if you have done battle with Oxalis before. Oxalis weed control can be achieved with an herbicide. Use a formula marked for broadleaf plant control such as Dicamba, 2,4D, Clopyralid, or Tiplopyr. These are serious chemicals and you must follow all instructions and apply before the plant sets seed.

An organic option is to use liquid chelated iron. This may work in grass, which can tolerate the iron whereas the weed cannot.

The most non-toxic way is determined hand digging, but this can take several seasons to get all of the Oxalis out of your garden. Pulling is not effective, as it will leave behind fragments of rhizome, stem and bulbils, which will simply establish new plants.

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