Shepherd's Purse Weed

Shepherd's Purse Weed

By Kate Torpie, Garden Guides Contributor

General Characteristics

Capsella bursa-pastoris, or Shepherd's Purse, has basal leaves, or leaves that form at its base, that resemble dandelion grass. Small white clusters of flowers grow on tall, erect stems from around March until the next frost. Seed pods form on these stems, too. They are heart-shaped. Shepherd's Purse is easy to recognize. Interestingly, tinctures and teas made from this weed are thought to stop hemorrhaging and may help with diarrhea. A homeopathic website may have more information about its benefits. Here, we help you get it out of your garden.

Growing Conditions

Shepherd's Purse is a winter annual. It is not strong enough to grow where good healthy grass already exists. It is more likely to grow in an area of soil where grass was damaged in the summer, and did not grow back by fall. If seeds fall on rich, loamy soil where no plant grows, it will grow there. However, once sod or flowers are present, the weed will generally not grow there.

Cultivation and Care

If you see young Shepherd's Purse plants, you should water the soil and remove them by hand while the soil is moist, as the roots aren't as difficult to remove when moist. Make sure you get the entire root system. If you need to use a fork to slip in under the plant, do so. You can also cultivate with a sharp hoe. Once the roots and leaves are chopped up, most young plants will die. Return after 2 days to pull any plants that started to grow. If you see adult plants (the mature plants have flowers), it's a good idea is to place a plastic bag over its head before removing. This will prevent the seeds from dispersing. An adult plant can disperse almost 50,000 seeds.

Weed Control Techniques

Unfortunately, there are some strains of Shepherd's Purse that are resistant to various herbicides. When you shop for an herbicide, make sure it names Shepherd's Purse specifically on the label. Apply the herbicide during spring as the plant is growing. Check back again in the fall, and apply to any new growth.

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