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Common Weeds That Are Mistaken For Plants


Gardeners are constantly struggling with weeds growing in their gardens. A weed grows where you don’t want it. Several plants pretty much always fall into the category of weeds, either for their vigorous growth and ability to keep growing. Luckily, daylilies are robust and vigorous growing plants that compete with most weeds. Weeds are Annuals or Perennials. The management is based on this growth habit. Annuals usually seed heavily and proliferate. Therefore, killing the young plants and preventing them from going to seed is the best approach.

On the other hand, Perennial weeds are typically slow to bloom and seed and start growing more slowly. Therefore, regular pulling of the plants is the best approach with attention to removing all the roots. Below are some of the common weeds mentioned that can be mistaken for plants:


Dandelion is probably the easiest to recognize in the garden with its lance-shaped leaves with irregular and jagged edges. And it can get identified as quickly with its bright yellow flowers and their seed heads that look like puffballs. In addition, they are perennial, which means, once a plant establishes itself, it will grow annually unless you take action to control it.

Also, Dandelion is relatively easy to control. You can pull them by hand if you don’t have too many by using a weeding tool. If they get set in the lawn, and there are too many to pull by hand, you can control them during the fertilizing application or by spraying. There are pet-safe options available as well.


Chickweed has a vigorous spreading habit as they can grow to about 5 to 7 cm high, have small white flowers, and have an extensive root system. Chickweed is the most common annual garden weed, and its seeds germinate readily in moist soil in Autumn and Spring or throughout the Summer. If you see any seedlings, remove them by hoeing in dry weather or pulling by hand as Chickweed sets seeds quickly if the soil is too damp to hoe. 

Sow Thistle (Sonchus)

Sow thistle, typical yard weeds are often mistaken for dandelions. But this lookalike resembles the other yellow garden pest when it is young. As it ripens, arrow-shaped leaves become pricklier and prominent, and they continue to grow up the stem. The flowers, leaves, & roots are edible, but the flavor is less bitter when harvested early. Eventually, each stem terminates in a cluster of yellow blooms like a dandelion. 

Creeping Charlie

Creeping Charlie is like the most problematic weed to get rid of, commonly found in lawns that are cut too short because it can regrow even if a small piece is left behind and make a new plant. You can quickly identify this groundcover weed by its clusters of purple flowers in late Spring and scalloped leaves.

Controlling this weed is difficult, but there are few options available that work. For spray, look for a product that contains Dicamba as an active ingredient. Spraying in the Fall is the best time to spray, as in Spring, it will only slow the weed down. You can remove or kill it by smothering it with a thick layer of newspaper and mulch if it invades your garden beds. 

Fat Hen

It is found on rich soil, so it is commonly found in vegetable gardens. Fat Hen grows up to 27cm high with broad leaves and small indistinct green/white flowers. In neolithic times, Fat Hen was eaten as a vegetable and is rich in vitamin C related to tree spinach.

Seedlings look harmless but quickly grow into large plants if allowed to remain and germinate in dense patches. I was hoeing seedlings when small is the easiest control method, usually twice if many seedlings have germinated.

Mallow (Malva)

Mallow is an easily recognizable weed. It starts popping up in cool & damp areas in late winter to early Spring. Its leaves are geranium-shaped and have lobes, but its most defining feature is its name. So that is why some gardeners call it the cheeseweed. 


Oxalis is one of the most challenging garden weeds to control. It is also known as Wood Sorrel, another perennial plant becoming more common in home yards. The most common variety has yellow flowers, and that is why this plant is easiest to recognize when it flowers, but there is also a variety that has pink flowers. Oxalis is also called a “lucky plant” because the leaves are shaped like a three-leaf clover. However, as it’s poisonous, don’t let your pets eat any parts of the plant.


Charlock is a common weed with yellow flowers and grows up to 60cm high. You can often see large patches of charlock, which can easily be confused with the oilseed due to its sea of yellow flowers.

Seeds are set in 8 to 10 weeks and will germinate in nearly all seasons, especially Spring. Charlock is a fast-growing weed and is easy to show when young or easy to pull to grow a larger plant. Remove before it can set seed or become a much bigger problem. Also, it can harbor pests and disease from that family, so it needs to be kept out of other crop rotations.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Fennel does have some redeeming qualities though it is considered an invasive weed in California. The umbrella-shaped flower batches attract butterflies, bees, and other pollinators, & the plant is a natural habitat for swallowtail caterpillars. In addition, the entire plant is edible, including the stems, bulb, fronds, flowers, seeds, and pollen.


Speedwell is a ground-hugging Autumn and Spring weed with prostate foliage and pretty pale blue flowers. Speedwell sets seeds in 4 to 6 weeks but is easy to control by pulling out when small or hoeing. However, these plants become more challenging to remove if allowed to grow into larger clumps.

Final Words

There are dozens of different lawn weeds that are mistaken for plants in the garden. In addition, some weeds are remarkably resistant to herbicides, responding better to different methods of control. So while it is tempting to use heavy doses of chemical sprays to eradicate weeds, there may also be more specific treatments for specific weeds.