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The Weeds of Spring Get Their Start in Winter

They’re there, whether you’ve seen them or not. Under the snow or leaves or maybe just beginning to poke through bare soil you might find pesky winter annual weeds.

Four of the most common – chickweed, henbit, speedwells and dead nettle – emerge in late winter and early spring from seeds they sowed in late summer and fall. These weeds usually are found in flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, around trees and shrubs, in farm fields and sometimes, the lawn.

Dead Nettle

Sometimes called purple dead nettle, this weed has triangle-shaped, bumpy, slightly scalloped-edged leaves and a spike of blue flowers. A member of the mint family, dead nettle has square stems. It is easily recognizable by its leaves’ purplish hue. This weed can be thick in farm fields in spring. The color and leaves are a giveaway in the garden, too.

Purple Dead Nettle Lamium pupureum

A member of the mint family, dead nettle has square stems. © Richard Old

Common Chickweed

There are two kinds of chickweed: Common, a winter annual weed, and mouse-ear chickweed, which is a perennial weed. An annual weed returns from seed while a perennial weed grows from its roots.

Common chickweed quickly develops a mat in the lawn or in garden beds. It’s only about 1 inch tall, so lawnmowers usually miss it. Common chickweed has small, elliptical leaves, less than the size of a pinky fingernail. During the growing season, it displays dainty white flowers. These produce tiny seeds that winter over and germinate in cool, damp weather the following season.

A main difference between common chickweed and mouse-ear chickweed is revealed in the leaves. Mouse-ear chickweed’s leaves are covered with tiny hairs.

Chickweed and henbit

Common chickweed (left) and henbit (right) emerge at the edge of a garden bed. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp


Henbit is another member of the mint family and is related to dead nettle. Henbit had rounded, scalloped leaves. The leaves grow tightly along the square  stems. The flowers are pinkish-purple.

Corn Speedwell

Corn speedwell is another winter annual weed with blue flowers. It has triangular shaped leaves. Light blue flowers appear along the stems. Generally a lawn weed, but it also appears in gardens.


Corn speedwell has pretty little light blue flowers with triangular shaped leaves on long stems. © Getty Images

What to Do

These weeds, which germinate in fall, are easy to pull in late winter and early spring. Try not to allow them to bloom and form seeds since that is how they spread. Even better, get a jump on these weeds with Preen Garden Weed Preventer that prevents the seeds from germinating.

Preen Garden Weed Preventer products stop these and dozens of other weeds from germinating in flowerbeds and around trees and shrubs for three months or more. Choose the right Preen product, for your specific gardening needs. Always read and follow the label direction of the products you use.

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