Wild Garlic Control: How To Kill Wild Garlic Weeds

I love the smell of garlic sautéing in olive oil but not so much when it permeates the lawn and garden with no sign of abating. Let’s learn how to get rid of wild garlic weeds.

Wild Garlic in Landscapes

Wild garlic (Allium vineale) in lawns and garden areas can be found throughout the southeastern United States along with its almost indistinguishable relation, the wild onion (Allium canadense). A true annoyance, wild garlic grows rampantly during the cooler months and controlling wild garlic can be a challenge, not to mention the stench that may linger for hours after mowing or cutting.

As they are both similar in nature, wild onion and wild garlic control are also similar with a few exceptions – wild garlic is more commonly seen in crop-like areas and wild onion most common in lawns. This is not always the case, but can make a difference when it comes to treatment since you do not want to introduce chemicals in areas where you grow edibles. When identifying wild onions vs. wild garlic, it helps to know how they’re similar and how they’re different.

Both are perennials, coming back each year, and can be problematic in spring. Though senses of smell vary, it is often stated that wild garlic smells more like onions while the opposite is true for wild onions, smelling more like garlic. Both have narrow leaves but wild garlic only has about 2-4 while wild onion has many more.

Additionally, wild garlic plants consist of round, hollow leaves and wild onions are flat and non-hollow. The bulb structure for each slightly differs too, with wild onions having a fibrous net-like coat on the central bulb and no offset bulblets, and wild garlic producing offset bulbs enclosed by a papery membrane-like skin.

How to Kill Wild Garlic Weeds

The question “how to kill wild garlic weeds” can involve a number of suitable methods.


Controlling wild garlic can be accomplished by hoeing during the winter and early spring to prevent new bulbs from forming. The bulbs of wild garlic may lay dormant in the soil for up to 6 years and nothing sprayed above ground level will penetrate and control wild garlic. Getting rid of wild garlic completely may take 3-4 years utilizing a combination of methods with hoeing as one option, especially in garden beds.

Hand pulling

Wild garlic may also be pulled; however, the chance of bulbs being left in the soil minimizes the likelihood that wild garlic control has been attained. It is better to actually dig the bulbs out with a trowel or shovel. Again, this works well for smaller areas and gardens.


And then there is chemical control. Wild garlic doesn’t respond well to herbicides due to the waxy nature of its foliage, so chemical control of this weed can be somewhat difficult to say the least and it may take several attempts before you see results, if any. There are currently no herbicides which are useful for controlling wild garlic pre-emergence. Rather, wild garlic must be treated with herbicides after the bulb has begun to grow shoots.

Apply herbicides in November and then again in late winter or early to mid-spring, with greater results in lawns following mowing to improve uptake. It may be necessary to retreat again later in spring or the following fall to completely eradicate wild garlic. Select herbicides which are suitable for the landscape site where they are being applied and deemed most effective for use on wild garlic weeds, such as the application of 2.4 D or dicamba, when the weeds are 8 inches (20 cm.) tall. The amine formulations of 2.4 D are safer then the ester formulations. Post application, refrain from mowing for 2 weeks.

Examples of suitable products containing 2.4 D are:

  • Bayer Advanced Southern Weed Killer for Lawns
  • Spectracide Weed Stop for Lawns – for Southern Lawns, Lilly Miller Lawn Weed Killer, Southern Ag Lawn Weed Killer with Trimec®, and Ferti-lome Weed-Out Lawn Weed Killer

These three-way broadleaf herbicides are safe for use on most turf grasses with the exception of St. Augustine or Centipede grass. Do not apply during the spring greening up of warm-season turfs, newly seeded lawns or over the roots of ornamental trees or shrubs.

Lastly, the final option the battle of getting rid of wild garlic is called Metsulfuron (Manor and Bladet), which is a product that should be applied by a landscape professional and, thus, may be a bit more costly.

How to Eradicate Garlic and Chives

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Wild garlic (Allium vineale) and chives (Allium schoenoprasum) growing in your yard can quickly become troublesome weeds. Both wild garlic and chives are perennial bulbs that have a tendency to spread quickly. Like other weeds, garlic and chives steal important nutrients from other plants, and if not dealt with can suffocate the wanted vegetation. Pulling small patches of garlic and chives will eradicate the problematic plants only if you have removed all traces of the bulbs. Instead, take a more aggressive approach to ensure you eradicate the garlic and chives from your lawn.

Control Wild Onions & Wild Garlic in the Lawn

As the weather starts to warm up in the spring, lawn weeds also start to appear. There are lots of them but none are any more dreaded than wild onion or garlic. These weeds are winter perennials. They come up in the late fall and grow through the winter and spring. Bulblets are formed in the late spring and the plant dies back in the summer. These bulblets, however, can last for several years in the lawn or garden.

To control wild onion or garlic, digging them with a trowel might be a suitable option if only a few plants are present. But, pulling by hand leaves bulblets in the ground to grow again. Contrary to popular belief, mowing does not get rid of these weeds although regular mowing can weaken the plants and prevent them from setting seeds.

A post-emergence herbicide is the key to control but it does take more than one application and more than one season to achieve total control. An herbicide containing 2,4-D should be applied in March and again in November. Because plants have a waxy exterior, a spreader sticker added to the spray will help the pesticide to adhere to the leaf. A couple of squirts of dishwashing liquid in the sprayer should do the trick. Another helpful tip is that mowing wild onion or garlic immediately before spraying will improve results. After the herbicide is applied, refrain from mowing for two weeks.

Timing, repeat applications and the correct herbicide are the keys to successfully controlling this familiar weed of the southern garden and lawn.

Wild Garlic in Lawn Photo: Clemson University – Cooperative Extension

Controlling Wild Onion/Garlic – What you should NOT do

Don’t ever pull on the tall stalks of wild garlic . The stalk will almost always break away, leaving the bulb full in-tact in the soil. Nature has engineered this plant to survive losing its stalk/leave! It will just send up more stalks at a later time. Perhaps in a week or two if it is during the Early Spring or Fall. I repeat – don’t pull wild onion/garlic. If you break the stalk, you will most certainly be leaving the bulb behind, and will just have to attack it again at a later date.

How to get rid of wild garlic

The best method of control is manual removal. However, you have to make sure that you get all of the bulbs. If you leave any in the soil, you will have garlic returning in the same spot next year.

If the ground is loose or the soil is moist from a recent rain, you may be able to pull up a clump by hand. But if the leaves break off, you will need to dig up the remaining bulbs. The best method of removal is to dig up an entire clump with a small shovel. This way, you can visually inspect the soil and make sure you removed all bulbs.

Do not throw the garlic bulbs on the ground or put them in compost – the may take root again! Garlic can remain dormant in soil for a long period of time, so don’t be fooled into thinking a bulb is dead. Dispose of these in trash or make sure that they fully decompose in compost before using in the garden.

If the garlic is in your lawn, it’s up to you whether they need to be removed or not. Me, I just leave them in the ground and mow over them. They don’t bother me (and the smell is rather pleasant) in my lawn.

If you keep on top of digging out the clumps of wild garlic, pretty soon you’ll get them under control.

Chemical control combined with manual control

As well as hoeing, chemical control is necessary. The ingredient 2,4-D applied before plants are 8 inches tall can be an effective control. Lawn weed killer Dicophar contains 2,4-D and is a very effective weed killer.

The waxy finish of wild garlic leaves means that herbicides don’t penetrate it easily. While the smell will be very strong, it might be a good idea to mow or strim the area beforehand to break the leaf surface to allow the herbicide in. You may need to do this for several years in a row to totally control them as wild garlic bulbs can stay dormant in soil for 6 years.

Wild Garlic covering a forest. Image source: Andrea Bohl from Pixabay

Complete control in an area infested with wild garlic will require persistent management for at least 3 or 4 years (maybe as many as 6 years) is necessary to obtain complete control.

Wild Garlic flower. Image source: Gabriel Raskov from Pixabay

Removing Wild Onions With Herbicides

Clemson Cooperative Extension suggests using post-emergent herbicides to combat wild onions, as those that are pre-emergent will not control them. The plants should be sprayed more than once per season and for more than one season. Wild onions have thin, glossy leaves to which herbicides don't stick easily, so mowing them may allow for better uptake.

After applying herbicide, do not mow the area for at least two weeks. Treat the plant in November and again in February or early March before it produces new bulbs and make sure to reinspect the lawn each spring and fall to retreat the area if necessary.

Imazaquin is the active ingredient that will kill wild onion in various herbicides. When using this product, wait at least one-and-a-half months after treatment before reseeding or winter overseeding. Before mixing or using herbicides, make sure to wear the proper personal protective equipment, such as gloves, a mask and protective eyewear.

Watch the video: How-to Fix Your Ugly Lawn With This Single Lawn Application

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