A dandelion population can quickly go from one or two flowers in your yard to a colony taking over the whole space in seemingly no time. Not only does this quality make them challenging to control, but it can also make it difficult to eliminate them fully. So, let’s talk about why they grow so fast.
Dandelions grow so fast because each flower can spread 150 to 200 seeds nearby. These seeds only need warm weather to quickly spread strong roots and begin growing. The bloom cycle of a dandelion is a very quick process, so it doesn’t take much time before you start seeing a yellow bloom.
Let’s explore why dandelions grow so fast and what you can do about them.
How Quickly Does a Dandelion Grow?
A dandelion can grow in as little as nine weeks after the seed reaches the ground in warm weather. During colder months, the process will take longer as growth slows down drastically in lower temperatures.
A dandelion’s growth process is very fast, which makes these plants hard to catch before the seeds spread. The time from when the dandelion seed lands on the ground to the moment you see a yellow bloom is only about nine weeks. During this time, the dandelion is working hard to produce very strong roots that help it stay alive for a long time.
The process starts with a small seed that transfers from another dandelion plant after it pollinates. From there, the wind takes the seed and moves it to a new location where another dandelion will now grow. Once it lands, you only have about nine weeks before seeing it bloom.
In those nine weeks, the dandelion will form its roots deep into the ground. These roots can grow up to 15 feet (4.57 meters) deep into the soil. This makes it difficult to eradicate them as dandelions can regrow from even the smallest root left behind and begin the growing process again.
A dandelion can grow quickly in warm weather, but what makes them so persistent is that they continue slowly growing in colder temperatures as well. When you see a dandelion in your yard, it may have been there and established itself for a long time, or it could have started the growing process just a few weeks ago.
The Resilience of a Dandelion
What really makes dandelions stand out as one of the fastest-growing perennials is their resilience. They are truly hard to get rid of once they appear, and they will keep coming back even after you cut them down. So, let’s talk about what makes them so resilient and hard to get rid of:
Dandelions work hard during the first few growth weeks to develop a strong root system. As I mentioned above, dandelion roots can grow up to 15 feet (4.57 meters) deep, and this is not a rare occurrence. When you see a dandelion bloom, the roots are already well-established and strong.
Once the seed lands, the roots will begin forming right away. This process uses a lot of energy, which is why it happens so much faster in warm temperatures. The first two elements that the dandelion forms are cotyledons. These are two small leaves packed with nutrients help feed the roots of the dandelion, allowing it to grow strong.
Dandelions use the cotyledons to build strength for their root system. Eventually, the dandelion will form its true leaves in a circular pattern over top of the cotyledons, but only when the roots are strong enough. Because dandelions put so much energy and strength into forming their roots, they can be very difficult to eliminate.
To truly eradicate a dandelion, you must remove its entire root system. This is a challenging task as they can grow deep. If you leave some of the roots behind, the dandelion can use the cotyledons to feed the remaining roots and continue to grow.
Another reason dandelions are so tough is that they do not rely on insects to pollinate. Instead, they are capable of self-pollination. This means that they can reproduce independently, even if there are no insects nearby to help with the process. This is another example of how resilient and self-sustaining they are.
Pollination is vital for dandelions because it allows them to produce seeds that they eventually spread to allow more dandelions to grow nearby. However, their ability to do this completely on their own can be a hassle for those dealing with just one or two in their yard. One or two dandelions can very quickly turn into many after pollination occurs and the seeds spread.
Dandelions can pollinate in two ways. The first involves insects landing on the yellow flower and transporting the pollen to an ovule which creates a seed. Unfortunately, dandelions only open their blooms when there is sunlight. Otherwise, they remain closed. Ordinarily, this will mean that dandelions close overnight and reopen in the morning. However, what if there is no sunlight?
If no sunlight is present, the dandelion will remain closed. This means that insects will not be able to reach the flower for the pollination process to occur. If this happens and the flower needs to stay closed, the dandelion will begin the self-pollination process. Essentially, the dandelion will pollinate by itself if an insect doesn’t do it first.
Not only does this separate dandelions from many other plants, but it also continues growing even in less-than-ideal conditions. Even if you never see the bloom open to a pretty yellow flower, the dandelion is still working hard to pollinate, prepare to turn white and spread the seeds.
I have already discussed how the dandelion will continue to grow even in colder months, but it also continues to grow even without the flower. This means that running over dandelions with the lawn mower and removing the flower can help slow down the growth of a dandelion, but it will not stop it or kill it.
As long as the dandelion’s roots are intact, they will continue to grow, which means that cutting off the flower is not an effective way to eliminate the plant. Plus, dandelions do not die after seeding. Instead, they continue their regrowth until they can seed again.
In fact, it’s common for dandelions to bloom twice per year. They bloom in early spring and again in the fall, giving themselves double the opportunity to spread seeds and increase the growth of dandelions all over your yard or garden.
To permanently stop the growth of a dandelion, you would need to dig up its deep and complex root system entirely or ensure that you kill it completely with a good weed killer. Otherwise, they will return.
Check out my article here for more information on how to get rid of dandelions and keep them from spreading: How to Prevent Dandelions from Spreading: Complete Guide
Exploiting Weak Spots
Dandelions grow wherever they can, and while the seeds go everywhere the wind takes them, they can only grow in fertile soil. Healthy grass with no dead or dry patches will, therefore, not allow dandelions to grow. This means that the dandelions will take advantage of weak spots in your yard or garden and grow there.
If the grass is weak or splotchy, it will not be able to stop the growth of dandelions there. If your grass is healthy and full, there will be no room for them to grow and spread. This is why one of the best ways to keep dandelions at bay is to take good care of your lawn.
This makes dandelions a nightmare for homeowners who don’t have a perfect lawn. Once they make their way into your yard, they can find other weak spots and grow there as well.
Another part of what makes dandelions so resilient is their long lifespan. Dandelions can survive for many years because of their strong root system. While they don’t grow as fast in cold weather, they will still survive. They will continue to grow and prepare for their first bloom in spring.
One dandelion can come back year after year, pollinating and spreading seeds all over. Even after that process is complete, they simply gather energy and begin the process over again. So, it may not seem like one stray dandelion could be a problem, but that same dandelion can survive for years, spreading seeds twice a year to make more nearby.
For more information on dandelions’ life after seeding, check out my guide on this topic: Do Dandelions Always Die After Seeding?
The same dandelion plant can survive for up to 13 years if left undisturbed. This means that as a child, you may have picked up a dandelion flower from a root system that was older than you. It’s strange to think that certain plants and weeds can live that long, but dandelions were built for survival.
Will Dandelions Go Away on Their Own?
Dandelions will rarely go away on their own because they are built for survival. Not only can they live for several years, but they are also very hard to kill as their strong root system keeps them alive.
It’s always best to handle dandelions quickly when you see them blooming. Even just one can turn into many separate plants after the seeding process takes place. Many other weeds and unwanted plants will die during colder months, but that doesn’t happen with dandelions. Unfortunately, not much will kill them naturally without you stepping in.
Even if the blooms fall off or the stems come off completely, there is little chance that the dandelion won’t return. This can be confusing during winter because we don’t really see them. However, dandelions are still growing during that period to prepare to bloom in early spring. Unfortunately, cold weather and cutting off blooms won’t do the trick either.
The sun also has very little effect on dandelions, and even if the sun doesn’t come out for a week straight, dandelions will still continue to grow and pollinate themselves. This means they don’t rely on sunlight or insects for survival. In many cases, other plants and weeds would die without those, but dandelions can still grow and spread seeds.
You should not count on dandelions going away on their own. In fact, human intervention is necessary in most cases to prevent them from spreading. Otherwise, the same dandelion can come back for many years and continue to bloom and spread seeds across nearby areas.
This is why it is so vital for you to catch dandelions early and step in to stop the spreading before it gets out of control. One dandelion can turn into multiple by the end of one year if the seeds spread and grow well enough, and choosing to leave them alone can be a mistake that you may end up paying for in the end.
Should You Pull Dandelions?
You shouldn’t pull dandelions, even though this might be your first instinct when trying to eradicate them. They have a complex and deep root system that will allow them to regrow if you do not completely remove it.
You may see dandelions as just another annoying weed you want to get rid of, but don’t just pull them out of the ground when you see them. Unfortunately, this doesn’t do much to keep them from coming back, as you won’t be able to pull the entire root system out that easily. To eradicate them fully, you need to be more careful.
Pulling To Prevent Seeding
One time you should consider pulling up a dandelion is to halt the seeding process. When a dandelion blooms a yellow flower, the pollination process begins. Shortly after this, they will close and reopen as a puffy, white ball. The individual white strands will get caught in the win and carried to another location. Each strand carries a seed.
It can be difficult to catch and completely kill a dandelion before the seeding process takes place. If you see a yellow dandelion, you may want to pull it quickly to prevent the seeding process, as this will slow it down as it will need to regrow the stalk and bloom again.
However, this should not be the only method you use to remove it. Pulling it out is a temporary fix for halting the spreading of seeds while you work on getting rid of the dandelion completely.
Getting Rid of Them Completely
If you want to get rid of one or more dandelions completely, pulling them out is not the way to go. This only delays their growth, and they will return. Instead, you should consider ways to remove them permanently.
First, you should dig up the dandelion rather than pull it out of the ground. This will give you a much better chance of getting rid of the entire root. Dig deeply and carefully to remove the dandelion rather than pulling it out of the ground by hand if you want a more effective way to get rid of it.
Alternatively, you can consider using a weed killer or herbicide to rid your yard or garden of dandelions. If you don’t want to risk killing other plants, you might want to avoid using a broadleaf herbicide, even though it won’t harm your grass. So, use these with caution.
Also, you should only use broadleaf herbicides to kill dandelions if they are still young and have not bloomed. This is because the soil needs to be moist enough for the herbicide to penetrate and kill the roots. Otherwise, it won’t be very effective. Once the dandelions start to bloom, the ground will be harder to penetrate with weed killer.
The Benefits of Dandelions
Another reason you may want to avoid pulling any dandelions you see is that they can be beneficial for you. If you want to leave the dandelion there, you can actually use many parts of it to benefit you as they can be great for your health.
You can safely eat dandelions, including the leaves and roots. Many people use dandelion roots to make tea, which is beneficial for gut health. Instead of pulling the flower off, consider digging up the roots to use for tea.
Several studies suggest there are other benefits to consuming parts of a dandelion. It can help with liver health and blood pressure. It may even reduce your cholesterol as well. So, there are definitely benefits to keeping dandelions around.
Dandelions are one of the fastest-growing perennials out there. They can bloom twice a year under the right conditions, and they can self-pollinate if necessary. This makes them hard to get rid of as they are built to survive.
The growth process of a dandelion is quick, especially when the roots have already taken form. Dandelions build strong roots to help them easily grow flowers, bloom, and pollinate. So, remember that you may see the same dandelion bloom more than once per year.