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Purging Spurge

Now that summer is approaching, we’re starting to see more and more spurge. It can take over your garden, flower bed or lawn quicker than you can say weed! Here in Tennessee, there are many varieties of spurge and they are all equally annoying. Prostrate spurge, spotted spurge and creeping spurge can all be seen in Brentwood and Franklin lawns and are all low-growng weeds that form a dense mat when mature. It is fairly easy to get rid of once you see it, but it takes some time and patience.

What does spurge look like?

Spurge can be identified by the reddish green oval leaves. Depending on the variety, they have either a reddish or white stalk that exudes a milky sap when broken. Spurge grows outward in the shape of a wagon wheel along the ground. For sprouting, they favor tempuratures between 75-85 degrees, but spurge will sprout in tempuratures as low as 60 degrees and as high as 100 degrees! Unfortunately, this means that spurge can sprout from about February through September.

How to get rid of spurge?

Spurge grows fast. One day you see a litte sprout and the next day, it’s a foot in diameter! The best way to control it is to stay on top of it by pulling, applying herbicide or a combination of both. Pulling is effective – and satisfying! However, we recommend using gloves because the stems exude a milky white sap that can irritate the skin. As with all weeds, you’ll get better results if you moisten the soil before pulling. The taproot will come out easier and there’s less of a chance that the root will break. The roots are brittle like┬ádandelion┬ábut do not go as far down. Spurge can regenerate from any part of the root that is left in the ground so you have to get it all if you pull or treat with post-emergent herbicide after pulling to kill the remaining weed.


  • Type: Broadleaf
  • Appearance: There are many kinds of spurge. Most are low-growing, creeping weeds that form a dense mat if left to mature. Leaves are oval and can be reddish green. The stems exude a milky white sap if broken.
  • Life Cycle: Summer annual
  • Where it grows: Landscaped areas, walkways, gardens, turf and pretty much anywhere that water and sunlight are prevalent.
  • Reproduces by: Seed
  • How to prevent: Good lawn maintenance: don’t cut grass to low, and don’t over water. Spray a pre-emergent treatment aimed at broadleaf weeds.
  • How to remove: Pulling is effective, but be sure to pull right when you see it before it has a chance to seed and therefore spread!. A post-emergent treatment works well, too.