School IPM Best Practices

Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale


Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org.

IPM Steps to Reduce Dandelion

1. Sample for Pest

Confirm the presence of dandelion before you treat.

Where to find it while inspecting: Any turf or garden area; established turf or any disturbed soil.

2. Proper ID

Is it dandelion?

Size and Appearance: A perennial with a thick taproot and no stem. Leaves are long and lance shaped with deep cut lobes; 1/2–1" wide leaves can be purplish green at the “rosette” crown and their stems exude a milky sap when broken. Pleasant yellow flower heads on stems mature into seed head “puff balls”, and seeds are widely dispersed on the wind.

3. Learn the Pest Biology

What is the life cycle of dandelion?

Life Cycle: Perennial with flower production in spring and less so throughout summer. Seedlings appear through the season as well, most often in fall.

Preferred Habitat: In every type of soil habitat, prefers sun over shade.

4. Determine Threshold

How much dandelion is too much?

Threshold: Low—dandelion creates poor footing in athletic fields and is an unwelcome weed in gardens. In general they are often tolerated in low priority turf.

5. Choose Tactics

Creating a healthy soil condition and understanding turfgrass’s needs is the first step in reducing turf pests. What can I do to treat, reduce, or prevent dandelions?

Best Management Practices: Reduce seedhead production by keeping flower heads mowed. The best prevention is a dense, healthy turf: Maintain proper soil pH: 6.0 to 6.8 (test every 3–5 years). Fertilize at the proper time for turfgrass root development, primarily fall (late spring at times when turf is weak and thin), irrigate if needed, mow at proper height (removing no more than 1/2 of the blade), amend poor soil, choose proper turfgrass seed for your conditions, buy quality seed, overseed thin spots in fall or early spring, remove thatch.

Treatment Methods: In athletic fields, dandelions make poor footing and may be difficult to remove once established due to their taproots. Control by application of a broadleaf herbicide may be an option, preferably early fall when most new seedlings are active. Spot treatment is very effective.

6. Evaluate

Was the tactic successful? Record the date pests were first noted, and the tactic you used, and its success. Use one of our RECORD KEEPING tools.

For More Information:

Penn State Extension: Common Dandelion


When a pesticide application is necessary, all necessary and required precautions are taken to minimize risk to people and the environment and to minimize risk of pesticide resistance or pest resurgence. Pesticide use in your school may be prohibited or regulated by local policies or state and federal regulations. Risk reduction methods can include, but are not limited to, spot-treatment, the use of gel or paste bait formulations placed in inaccessible locations, injection into a crack or crevice, and other methods that reduce potential exposure.