By Jennifer Olvera, Garden Guides Contributor
Henbit weed is an upright (but sometimes horizontally lying) winter annual in the mint family with weak, square stems, fibrous roots and hairy, petioled lower leaves and sessile upper leaves. Often confused with speedwells, dead nettle and ground ivy, it sports purple, tubular, two-lipped flowers that form on the upper leaves. Henbit weed flowers in early spring, and its seeds mature from April to June; it's spread by seed and is found throughout the United States.
Henbit weed prefers cool, moist soil and thrives in newly seeded areas as well as amidst thin or dormant grass.
Cultivation and Care
Maintaining a thick, vigorous lawn is important in the prevention of henbit weed. Mow your lawn regularly at a high setting, ideally 2-1/2- to 3-inches long, to discourage the presence of henbit weed.
Mulch helps prevent the growth of henbit weed by blocking the sun it requires to sprout and grow. To cultivate soil with henbit weed, pulling or raking out plants is an effective approach. Henbit weed is most effectively controlled during the seedling to flower stage of growth.
Weed Control Techniques
* Control henbit weed by lightening soil conditions and improving drainage,particularly in shaded areas. Select a species of turfgrass that thrives in shade in order to promote dense, vigorous turfgrass.
* Choose a selective post-emergent herbicide (dithiopyr, isoxaben, pendimethalin or prodiamine) in fall or a broadleaf weed herbicide with dicamba to tackle henbit weed. Be sure to follow directions carefully,especially when treating newly seeded areas. Heavy infestations can be controlled with triclopyr + clopyralid, 2,4-D or a 2,4-D combination herbicide during or before flowering.
* To prevent the spread of henbit weed in gardens, apply a layer of mulch that's at least 2 inches thick to discourage growth. Alternately, vegetable and flower gardens benefit from an application of organic materials, such as wheat straw, grass clippings or mulched leaves.