2-4-D Weed Killer – What you Need to Know!

2-4-D Weed Killer

2-4-D looks odd and unfamiliar – a jumble of letters and numbers. 

2-4-D Weed Killer – What you Need to Know! 

To lawn experts, 2-4-D is considered one of the most helpful chemicals in destroying troublesome broadleaf weeds. It’s the most utilized broadleaf weed killer worldwide and among the top three most used herbicides for residential and commercial lawns.

What is a 2-4-D?  

2-4-D is an herbicide that kills plants and controls weeds by changing the way certain cells grow. It has a few chemical forms, such as salts, esters, and acid form. Its toxicity depends on its form.

This kind of herbicide was first used in the United States in the 1940s. It is regarded as the world’s first selective herbicide, because, when applied to plants, it suppresses dicots – plants with two seed leaves which are also known as broadleaf plants.

It leaves monocots unaffected – plants with one seed leaf or thin leaves.

It means that it is not a kill-all herbicide. It could be sprayed on grasses and plants like wheat, corn, rice, and other crops without harming them. It only kills the broadleaf weeds.

What Weeds Does Herbicide 2-4-D Kill? 

2-4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid or 2-4-D is an herbicide that is widely used to control broadleaf weeds in lawns and crop fields. It has two types: ester and amine formulations.

Being a systemic broadleaf herbicide, it kills the following weeds: 

1.     Dandelion – Dandelion is a broadleaf and non-grassy weed. 2-4-D does kill broadleaf weeds such as dandelions. You will have to spray all visible parts of the dandelion weed.

Typically, at the beginning of the active growing season in order for the 2-4-D active ingredient to penetrate through to the root. 

The 2-4-D is the most effective broadleaf-killing herbicide for dandelions. These formulations are powerful and poisonous.

2.     Plantain – Plantain weed is often called a pervasive garden pest. However, it is not only edible but also has been used in traditional medicine. It’s known as broadleaf plantain and is native to Europe and Asia.

Although often considered a weed, the leaves and seeds have been used medicinally for centuries.

It’s been an effective herbicide for Plantain and prompted the first report of 2-4-D resistance in buckhorn plantain, and also in the turf. The resistance mechanism was limited to within a chemical family.

3.     Chickweed – How does one get rid of chickweed? Chickweed has two species.

The perennial species are known as Mouse-ear chickweed. It forms dense, low-lying patches within lawns and gardens.

The other species is the common chickweed, the Stellaria Media. It is annual and is easier to control.

Just spread a combination of fertilizer and weed killer of 2-4-D over the affected area to destroy chickweed.

To ensure this is done correctly and timeously, read the instructions carefully before applying any type of chemical.

4.     Ground Ivy – Ground ivy is a vigorous grower that spreads across the ground. It forms dense patches that push out native plants. Thus, it’s toxic to many vertebrates, including horses, if eaten in large quantities either fresh or in the hay.

The Ground Ivy plant, once established, is difficult to control.

It’s a kind of weed that’s hard to remove all its root and stolon fragments. Thus, the seed banks may also remain viable after control methods have been used.

The small patches can be pulled out by hand. All roots can be removed by using a rake when the soil is damp.

Large infestations can be effectively controlled using systemic herbicides like 2-4-D.

5.     Poison Ivy – Poison ivy is a woody kind of weed. It is a perennial vine and a small shrub that can be found in fields, pastures, woodlands, farms, and some landscapes.

The vine attaches itself to trees and other structures with hairy, aerial roots borne along the stem.

For ease of identification, it has compound leaves that occur in three leaflets. The edges of this leaflet could be smooth, wavy, lobed, or toothed. Some leaves may resemble oak leaves. 

To consider eradicating poison ivy chemically, use herbicides that contain the active ingredients of glyphosate, triclopyr, or a 3-way herbicide that contains 2,4-D amine, dicamba, and mecoprop. This herbicide could kill desirable plants, so be careful.

6.     Wild Onion – This wild onion weed grows in clumps and is typically found in flower beds, and near difficult to mow areas. Though it could also grow on the lawn. 

You can recognise a wild onion by its thin, waxy, spear-like leaves. Often confused with its close cousin, wild garlic. Wild onion grows from white bulbs.

Glyphosate, the nonselective herbicide found in products such as 2-4-D can be used in landscape beds to kill wild garlic and wild onion to their roots and bulbs.

In such cases, the Nonselective herbicide means that glyphosate will kill almost any type of plant it is sprayed on, including lawn grasses.

Be very careful when using this chemical NOT to allow spray to drift on lawn grasses or desirable plants. When using any herbicide, always read and follow instructions for use on product labels.

7.    Thistle – Thistle is a kind of weed. It’s an opportunist that can grow in fields and along road edges. In wet and dry sites, pastures, and your backyard.

To keep this weed thistle from taking hold on your property, minimize soil disturbance and cover bare soils with mulch. It has its tough roots and could be difficult to control.

The seedling has bristles or spines on its leaves.

As soon as you notice a seedling, pull it out before the roots are well established. The large thistle can be controlled with herbicide most effectively by spraying rosettes in late summer or early fall.

Amongst the myriad available weed sprays, glyphosate proves to be effective on thistles such as the 2-4-D. Just apply to individual cut stems an inch or two inches above the soil line.

For well-established thistles, it may be necessary to repeat the application a few weeks later.

8.     Hairy Bittercress – Bittercress is one of the first broadleaf weeds to appear in home lawns, parks, and other turf areas during early spring.

This hairy weed prefers cool, moist soil and is most prolific after early spring rains. It spreads quickly however its appearance reduces as temperatures increase.

The plant has a long, deep taproot, which makes pulling it out manually ineffective – in fact the hairy bittercress weed usually leaves the root behind. Of course, the plant will re-sprout from healthy weeds and the problem persists.

Somehow, you can, however, use a long slim weeding tool to dig down the tap root.  The control for hairy bittercress is cultural and chemical.

The severe infestations of hairy bittercress weed will require chemical treatment. Once you spot it growing, the herbicides to be applied need to have two different active ingredients.

These ingredients are 2-4 D, triclopyr, clopyralid, and dicamba, found in broadleaf herbicide preparations known as two, three, or four-way treatments. The higher the range of number preparations will kill a wider range of weeds.

However, the two-way herbicide should be sufficient for your purposes. Though you have a field full of a variety of weeds as well as the hairy bittercress weed.  Remember to apply your chosen herbicide in the spring or the fall.

9.     Bindweed – Bindweed is a plant of the closely related genera, mostly twining, native to Eurasia and North America.

Look for arrow-shaped leaves and white to pink flowers. This perennial twining grows from creeping underground stems and is common in hedges and woods and along roadsides.  

Naturally, not everyone wants to use commercial herbicides in their garden. It isn’t very good for gardens. There are options and effective solutions that will get rid of your bindweed problems.

You would have to use a systemic glyphosate weed killer such as 2-4-D, which can come in several different forms. Whichever herbicide you will use, always take the necessary safety precautions.

Be sure to keep them well away from children and pets. You must protect yourself and wear gloves and even a mask. Most importantly, always follow the instructions on the label.

You would usually need to apply it directly to the leaves. However, be careful to not get it on any of the plants you want to keep – as it will kill those, too.

You may try to carefully unwind the weed from your plants. Lay it on bare soil before spraying. You can use bamboo then take the growth from the cane, put it into a clear plastic bag, and carefully add glyphosate or 2-4-D.

Afterwards, secure the bag with a clothes peg and leave it in place until the bindweed has died.

10.     Alligator Weed – The Alligator weed is the most commonly found weed spread across the surface of a body of water. It could be found growing on inland areas around gardens.

Sometimes, you can spot in between rows of crops if sufficient moisture is present. Its stem is pink and hollow, and it can reach lengths of up to one metre.

You’ll notice its opposite narrow elliptical leaves, and its flower, white in colour with thin petal, is compact.

The very best time to treat alligator weed is when water temperatures are 60 degrees F.  The only two most common herbicides listed for control of the alligator weeds are aquatic glyphosate and 2-4-D.

This weed can be cut or grazed. However, it’s difficult to control physically because it will propagate from stem fragments or the roots.

The Liquid glyphosate formulations have been effective on alligator weeds above the water line. Whereas ineffective in the water. This weed is a broad-spectrum, systemic herbicide. 

A Systemic herbicide is absorbed and moved within the plant to the site of action. It tends to act more slowly than contact herbicides. But, always follow the instructions on the label for good results and precautions.

11.     Gumweed – This Gumweed is an herb. Some people dry the leaves and top of the plant to make medicine. It is used for cough, bronchitis, and swelling of the nose, sinuses, and throat. It also helps prevent bacterial growth.

These kinds of weeds grow as a ground-hugging rosette form in the first year.

Then send up branches with semi-woody stems and flowers. It grows to between one to three feet tall. It blooms during the summer and the entire plant is aromatic.

The broadleaf-selective herbicides such as 2-4-D and dicamba should be used on young plants.

Dicamba could persist for several months. It may damage desirable plants in the area treated. Pre-emergence herbicides could be used to manage existing seed banks. 

12.     Bitter Sneezeweed – Bitterweed is also called bitter sneezeweed. It is a standing annual that belongs to the sunflower family. Thus, it has a wide range of heights from three inches to two feet.

The leaves are wooly and have flowerheads. The yellow blooms could be found from late summer to fall. Oftentimes attracting bees and butterflies.

Common sneezeweed could be found throughout the United States. Mostly in moist to wet openings, edges, shores, and thickets

Bitter sneezeweed can be controlled with herbicides, especially 2-4-D. Most likely mowing will reduce seed production but generally is not effective in killing this plant. Hand weeding is effective to remove small infestations.

13.     Ragweed – The best way to control common ragweed is to prevent seed introduction into Christmas tree production areas. Continuous scouting for this weed is essential to keep it under control.

Wherever it is found growing, it should be controlled right at the emergence or pre-flowering stage, by regularly watching the field to prevent seed spread at later stages.

One way of controlling common ragweed is by using herbicides. It is best when seeds have started germinating or the plants are in the early stages of development.

A good option for premergent herbicide 2-4-D, is 51 WDG – it can also provide common ragweed control.

Postemergence herbicide is generally effective when the common ragweed is in the early stage of growth and development before it has attained reproductive maturity.

14.     Nutgrass – Nutgrass makes itself known during periods of rapid summer. Its growth outcompetes heat-challenged lawn grasses for water and nutrients.

The bright yellow-green leaves of yellow nutgrass stand out clearly against the turf. When left to grow tall, nutgrass produces distinctive spiky flower clusters.

The key feature of finding this difficult weed is its triangular stems. Try to roll the stem between your fingers, and you will understand the meaning of the old rhyme “sedges have edges.”

Generally, grass has round stems. It is shiny, smooth nutgrass leaves that have a distinct center rib and form a “V” shape.

Nutgrass outbreaks often start in moist, poorly drained lawn areas. Wherein it quickly developed into large colonies. The extensive root systems may reach up to four feet deep. Once established, this weed can tolerate drought.

The best nutgrass killer is a liquid spray application of Uncle’s Nutbuster combined with Stikit, a non-ionic surfactant.

This selective herbicide will kill the nutgrass but will not hurt your lawn when applied under the conditions described on the label.

The second is the 2-4-D selective herbicide that could kill your nut grass weed.

15.     Orange Hawkweed – Orange hawkweed is an aggressive invader from Europe. Another name is devil’s paintbrush. It usually outcompetes native species by forming dense and monotypic stands.

Avoid the contaminated fill dirt, hay, and seed from outside your area. Early detection is vital to prevent invasive infestation.

In an early season treatment with Picloram, combinations of Picloram plus 2,4-D are effective in controlling the hawkweed.

The milestone in the rosette to bolting stage and the 2-4-D alone is inadequate.

To get the best results, use a surfactant.  Make sure you always read the label instructions before applying.

16.     Smartweed – This smartweed is a common wildflower often found growing along roadsides. This kind of wild grain is an important food source for wildlife; however, it becomes a noxious weed when it gets into garden plots and lawns.

It is an annual broadleaf. This kind of weed reproduces through seeds that drop near the parent plant to produce new plants.

Smartweed has shallow taproots that make it easy to pull up by hand from the ground if there aren’t many of them.

The chemical applications that are recommended for Smartweed are organic herbicides. These include acetic acid and citric acid.

They are effective at killing young smartweed plants. However, they might harm garden plants unless applied very carefully.

The 2-4-D can help you take control of smartweed in your lawn or garden. In gardening circles, we hear that the most effective control method to get rid of weeds is to focus on preventing the plants from producing seeds.

2-4-D Mixing Ratio and Application Rate.

Every brand of 2-4-D herbicide comes with its own mixing ratio on the instruction label.  The ratio and application rate depend on the concentration of the active ingredient in the herbicide.

Generally, mix 2.5 oz of 2-4-D weed killer or equivalent to five tablespoonfuls with one gallon of water. This can be used to treat a 400 square foot weed-infested area on your lawn.

Take note that this is not the exact mixing ratio for all 2-4-D liquid herbicide brands. Don’t forget to always read the label for the recommended ratios and rates.

Final Thoughts on 2-4-D Weed Killer  

Please take note that 2-4-D can harm other plants such as flowers. They might be your favourites, but whatever they are. If they’re pretty flowers and healthy plants, they don’t need to die so, please keep them safe.

Make a point of spraying the poison on a windless day. This should prevent the 2-4-D herbicide from spreading unto other plants and harming them as well.

Hope you’ve learned lots from this article. Happy Gardening! And always spread the love.

WARNING: 2-4-D is a fatal poison in higher doses.  Without proper care for yourself, there’s a possibility, that if incorrectly handled or used, it could kill you. Fatality for humans is by absorption – happening through ingestion, inhalation, skin absorption and eye contact.


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Patricia Godwin

Patricia has many years of experience as a content writer on various subjects, but her first love is gardening. She’s never met a plant she didn’t like and, consequently, she writes about every type of plant you can think of. Once an avid gardener with a herb garden, a succulent rockery, and a rose garden – to mention a few. Nowadays, she’s constantly on the move searching for interesting plants to bring to your attention; and explain to you all the details you need to grow, care and maintain these plants.

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