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How to get rid of henbit

Henbit is an annual winter plant scientifically known as Lamium amplexicaule. It germinates during autumn and flowers in spring.

If you’re wondering whether henbit is the same as creeping Charlie, you’re on the right track.

They are not the same thing, but you can think of henbit as the less aggressive cousin to the infamous ground ivy/creeping Charlie.

How to identify henbit

You can easily spot this low-growing plant in your garden through its distinctive soft and hairy stems, rounded leaves and short stature.

A mature henbit plant grows to 10-25 cm tall.


Image by: Flickr/americo.rosa

Why get rid of henbit?

As much as henbit is non-invasive, holds soil in place and protects it during winter, and is nutritious to humans, it develops a shallow fibrous root system as it matures.

Henbit’s root system would affect the growth of other plants and lawns. However, the plant is not harmful or competitive with other species and is generally not a problem weed.

Suppose you are, however, a cattle farmer. In that case, you might want to minimize or eliminate them because of their ability to cause minor neurological problems in grazing animals if consumed in large amounts.

When you notice that the henbit is starting to affect the health of surrounding plants (discoloured leaves, low yields, among others) or stunting growth for younger plants, then that means that the henbit is competing with them, and it is probably time to get rid of them.

Benefits of henbit

The first question I bet you’re asking yourself is, ‘is henbit good for the soil?

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The short answer is yes. As previously mentioned, henbit protects soil from harsh conditions and keeps it in place in the winter by acting as a barrier between the soil and the air’s temperature changes.

It also holds moisture during dry periods.

Apart from benefitting the soil, henbit is also of great value to humans. It is highly nutritious and rich in essential iron, fibre and vitamins.

Moreover, its stems, flowers and leaves can be cooked or consumed raw in salads and smoothies.

How to get rid of henbit

Because of the abundance of seeds found in the henbit’s flowers (up to 2,000 seeds from each plant), the best time to kill them is in the spring before they flower.

There are various ways to get this done, both manually and by the use of chemical herbicides.

Hand pulling

Uprooting is the quickest way to get rid of henbit in spring.

For this method, you will need a few tools:

  • A pair of garden shears
  • A hose or watering can
  • A pitchfork
  • A garden trowel or weeding tool
  • Gardening gloves. This is optional but advisable because you will manually grasp and pull the plants.

Once your tools are rounded up, follow these simple steps:

1. Trim the stems and leaves

Trim the plant down enough that there is just enough left above ground for you to grasp firmly.

Be sure to throw the trimmings in a garbage bag as you cut them to prevent spreading the seeds or any parts that could regenerate.

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2. Moisten the area

The hose or watering can soak the area with the plant, ensuring that every part is well covered.

Wait about 30 minutes to an hour before carrying on with the process to allow the soil time to absorb the water.

3. Loosen the soil

Do this using the pitchfork, and get deep enough to expose the roots.

This process is essential for you to uproot the entire plant without leaving the stem lodged in the soil.

4. Remove the roots

Firmly secure the base of the plant and pull it out gently but firmly. You may need to loosen the soil a little more with the pitchfork if the roots are deep or firmly holding on.

It is important to make sure that you remove the entire root in one piece to ensure they won’t sprout again.

5. Inspection

Inspect any roots that have been left over using a weed or garden trowel. This step makes the next few passes a lot easier.

Remember that this method needs several run-throughs to ensure you completely get rid of them.


Image by: Flickr/K&E

If henbit has flowered, take the extra measure of treating the soil to prevent the seeds from germinating. One of the most effective and beneficial ways of doing this is by adding corn gluten meal to the soil.

Unlike chemicals, corn gluten has to be added repeatedly for you it to be effective. However, it also adds beneficial nutrients to the soil that your plants will use to grow healthier.

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If you are dealing with a large piece of land that is too large to hand-pull, you may have to opt for a chemical option.

You could either use a selective herbicide such as those containing 2,4-D. These herbicides will only target the henbit. You can also use herbicides that are non-selective if you are dealing with more weeds and you haven’t planted yet.

To eliminate henbit using herbicides:

1. Mix the chemical with water

Mix the herbicide with water precisely according to the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid causing damage to your plants.

You can mix directly from a pump sprayer or pour it inside after mixing. Make sure to wear protective clothing to protect your skin, nose and eyes.

2. Spray

Concentrate on the stems and leaves and allow them to soak downwards. You can use a piece of cardboard as a shield for other plants or cover them in a tarp.

As soon as the henbit is visibly dead, pick up the remaining bits and inspect the area like you would with the hand-pulling method.

You’ve finally eliminated henbit.