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TARAXACUM officinale

Image of Taraxacum officinale

Maureen Gilmer

Family

Asteraceae

Botanical Name

TARAXACUM officinale

Plant Common Name

Common Dandelion

General Description

The dandelion, a dreaded perennial lawn weed that children love to spread joyously as they pick and blow their puffy seedheads hither and yon. One can’t deny their spring flowers are cheerful, and if you have a foraging instinct for natural food their young greens are very tasty, but watch out for those seedheads. Just a small breeze will send hundreds of parachute seeds all across the landscape, and almost all will germinate digging their hard-to-pull taproots deep into the soil. Even though dandelions cover much of the North American landscape, they are actually native to Eurasia. Early settlers brought them to the Americas for food. Thanks early settlers.

Growing from a long, white taproot, the dandelion creates a basal rosette of elongated leaves with jagged edges. The leaves often remain semi-evergreen where winters are milder but will fully die back in cold winter weather. In spring multiple hollow, rubbery stems rise from the center of the rosettes each topped with a fluffy golden yellow flowerhead. The head holds hundreds of sunny ray florets that mature into seeds. Bees are the primary pollinators, but this doesn’t make much difference because dandelions are self-fertile, meaning they can produce seed with or without pollinators.

Even though most gardeners want to kill dandelions, there are some cultivated varieties that are cultivated. As most gardeners know, they thrive in full or partial sun and most soil types as long as they are well-drained, moderately fertile and friable. The young, tender leaves may be harvested and cooked as a mildly bitter green. The blossoms can also be eaten or used to make jelly or wine. Make sure if any part of the dandelion is used for edible purposes, it is not taken from a field where herbicides are applied.

For those wishing to manage weedy dandelions, lawn specimens can be treated with broadleaf herbicides, though none are organic and completely safe. Glyphosate herbicides are also effective in killing dandelions, just beware letting the spray drift onto desirable plants. If using good old-fashioned hand weeding methods use long weeding tools capable of removing the entire taproot. If a single piece is left behind, the whole plant will grow back.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    9 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    3 - 9

  • Sunset Zone

    A1, A2, A3, H1, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Perennial

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    6"-12" / 15.2cm - 30.5cm

  • Width

    6"-8" / 15.2cm - 20.3cm

  • Bloom Time

    Early Spring, Spring, Late Spring, Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Europe, Asia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Rosette/Stemless

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Yellow

  • Fruit Color

    White, Silver

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Semi-Evergreen

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Edible, Herb / Vegetable

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Yes

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes