How to Get Rid of Nutsedge

Nutgrass is a perennial plant that is extremely tough to eradicate in lawns once established. Except it’s not actually a grass - nutgrass is actually nutsedge. At Sunday, we’ll help you learn to identify the most common species of nutsedges, learn why nutsedge is not great for your lawn and how to get rid of nutsedge naturally.

What is Nutsedge?

Nutsedge, like its namesake, is actually a sedge – a grass-like plant with a triangular stem. While sedges seemingly resemble grasses and can spread through rhizomes and seed (just like grasses), their distinguishing characteristic comes from the other method in which they grow – nutlets. Nutlets are essentially tubers or round underground root systems that easily produce new stalks and rapidly spread through the soil.

Photo Credit: University of Florida

What Does Nutsedge Look Like?

All sedges have triangular stems and typically look very grass-like, especially when found in your lawn. The most common species of nutsedge are phenomenal weeds because they tend to blend in with the lawn until reaching maturity, are becoming resistant to chemicals, and can tolerate mowing. The main nutsedges to keep a lookout for are yellow nutsedge and purple nutsedge. Here is how to identify them:

 

Yellow Nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus)

Quick ID

  1. 12-16 inches tall 
  2. Lighter green leaves with long extended leaf tip 
  3. Yellow seed head

 

Purple Nutsedge (Cyperus rotundus)

Quick ID

  1.  <6 inches tall
  2. Darker green leaves with blunt leaf tip 
  3. Purple seed head

 

Common Lookalikes

Kyllingas (Kyllinga spp.) do not form tubers

 

Grasses (Poaceae family) have flat or round stems with nodes and do not form tubers.

 

Rushes (Juncus spp.) have round stems without nodes and do not form tubers

 

Sunday ProTip: Need help determining if you have a sedge or a grass? Look at the stem! Sedges have edges, rushes are round, and grasses have nodes from their tips to the ground.

Why is Nutsedge a Weed?

Nutsedges happen to be one of the most common and most difficult to control weeds found in lawns. Like most weeds, they’re found in areas that have been disturbed. Nutsedges are typically found in wet areas or in locations where soil was moved or brought into a yard (think nursery plantings or adding topsoil). 

Sunday ProTip: Nutsedges are usually not noticeable at first, but once they spread they’re nearly impossible to eradicate due to their primary method of spread and growth, nutlets.

Stop Nutsedge Before it Becomes a Problem

  1. Monitor garden or lawn areas with transported soil 
  2. Nutsedge can creep out of a flower bed so look for escaping sedges Look for patches of the lawn growing faster than the surrounding grass (nutsedge grows faster than grass!) 
  3. Notice the yellow-green color of the sedge in comparison to the deeper greens and blue greens of grass 
  4. Sedges have triangular edges you can feel between your forefinger and thumb

How to Avoid a Nutsedge Infestation

Take care moving soil. Be careful where you move soil into your yard and make sure it’s coming from a reputable nursery providing assurance it comes without nutlets.

Fix your soggy soil. Nutsedges love wet, soggy soil so reduce potential issues with nutsedge by reducing irrigation or fixing drainage issues to help dry out the soil. 

Install high-quality sod. Always ensure good sourcing and installation of sod. Good installation includes maintaining upkeep of fertilization and watering in the first year too! Although you may not see nutsedges in the first year, if sod is not maintained properly, you can see thinning and nutsedge can appear over time.

How to Get Rid of Nutsedge

Hand Weeding.

Similar to a dandelion taproot, when hand-weeding nutsedge, you need to remove all the nutlets to reduce spread and growth. Be careful not to disturb the soil and seed bare patches to prevent weeds from moving in.  

Sunday ProTip: if soil is compacted, use a pitchfork to loosen the soil to ensure the entire root and nutlets will be removed. 

Find more ways to manage pesky lawn weeds with our Integrated Pest Management approach, learn more about common weeds in your lawn or check out The Shed for more information on how to care for your lawn the Sunday way.

Cited Sources

Nutsedge. Clemson University. 

Weed of the Week: Sedges. Texas A&M University. 

False-Green Kyllinga in Cool-Season Turf. Rutgers University 

Purple Nutsedge Is An Invasive That Squeezes Out Native Grasses. University of Florida.