How to control these common winter weeds.

Wild Onion Growing in Dormant Lawn Grass
Credit: smartstock/Getty Images

A dormant winter lawn is a thing of beauty – a lovely biscuit-brown carpet draping the ground. So what's up with all these green, grassy clumps sprouting in it now, ruining its perfection? The culprits are two similar-looking winter weeds called wild onion (Allium canadense) and wild garlic (A. vineale). Though related to cultivated onions and garlic, take my advice, and don't put them on your pizza.

Which is which? Take a close look. The thin leaves of wild onion are solid and flat. Those of wild garlic are hollow and rounded.

They're called winter weeds because the foliage emerges from the ground in late fall, stays all winter, and then dies back to the ground in late spring when the weather gets warm. They spread by seed and form little bulbs. Eventually, one bulb makes lots of baby bulbs next to it, which is why you see clumps.

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Neither weed does much harm. You can hardly see them in a bluegrass or fescue lawn, because these grasses stay green in winter. But in dormant, brown lawns of Bermuda, St. Augustine, and Zoysia, they're sore thumbs that frustrate your search for winter perfection.

What can you do about wild onions and garlic? Here are three options.

  1. Ignore them and do nothing. They're visible for only a few months a year, so who cares?
  2. Dig up the clumps of bulbs and throw them away.
  3. Spray the foliage according to label directions with Weed-B-Gon or Weed-Stop.

If you have only a few clumps, I'd definitely go with options #1 or #2. Or maybe I'd just have a glass of wine.