How to Get Rid of Grass Burrs and Stickers in Your Lawn (4 SIMPLE WAYS)

Affiliate Disclaimer: My content may contain links to products I use and love. As an Amazon Associate and participant in various other affiliate programs, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you from qualifying purchases. I only recommend products I personally vetted!

Weeds in your lawn are an irritation, for sure, but grass burrs are literally a pain. These prickly weeds stick to your clothes, jab into your skin, and cause significant problems if your pets ingest them. The good news is that you can get rid of them and make it hard for them to return!

If you want to know how to get rid of grass burrs you’ve come to the right place! This article covers easy control methods, chemical treatment options, and manual removal choices. Regardless of your lawn care philosophy or style, I have a solution that fits your preference. I also talk about how to prevent a grass bur infestation by encouraging a healthy lawn.

What Are Grass Burrs?

Grass burrs (Cenchrus echinatus) are an annoying, annual weed with small spiky balls that latch onto just about anything that comes close to them.

They pop up in pastures and along the roadside, but they have adapted to spread easily (by grabbing an unsuspecting victim and tagging along for a ride) and can often be found in lawns, sports fields, and turf grasses.

You typically see grass burrs in drier climates as they thrive in dry, sandy soil. However, they do grow through USDA plant hardiness zones 4b to 9b.

Like other types of grassy weeds, grass burrs grow aggressively and are slow to respond to herbicide applications. Coupled with the fact they are difficult to hand-pick because of their spiky thorns, it is easy to see why control or eradication is challenging.

Depending on the region, these thorny little pests are called by different names:

  • Prickly thorns
  • Sticker burrs
  • Sand bur
  • Sand burrs
  • Sand spurs
  • Grass stickers
  • Grassbur
  • Southern sandspur
  • Southern sandbur
  • Pricking monsters
grass burr

Should You Get Rid of Grass Burrs in Your Lawn?

Most homeowners have a love/hate relationship with weeds in their lawns. They don’t necessarily like the looks of them, yet they may try to take a more environmentally sustainable approach to management. A small section of weeds may be left alone, minimizing chemical application.

This approach is understandable when dealing with crabgrass, quackgrass, or possibly even dandelions, but you shouldn’t follow it with grass burrs.

Field sandburs are an invasive weed because they spread quickly, potentially making your yard unusable in a short amount of time. Not only do they stick out like a sore thumb, making your grass look unkempt and haggard, but they can also hamper lawn grass growth.

Weeds compete with healthy grass for air, sunlight, water, and nutrients. As the number of grass burr plants increases, they successfully outcompete the turf, making the problem worse. Now you’re dealing with a weed infestation and thinning, weak grass.

For the health of your lawn, you’ll want to get rid of established grass burrs as quickly as possible. Also, if they move to areas you pass through frequently or your children play, they become a painful, irritating problem.

sticker burrs

How to Get Rid of Grass Burrs? 4 Easy Ways

If you would rather take a more natural approach and hold off on using herbicides, there are four easy ways you can try. Each of them uses items you likely already have around your home.

IMPORTANT

It is important to note that these 4 common methods can kill the normal grass around the grass bur plants. Take care to avoid damaging your lawn—no one likes patchy lawns!

  1. Pour hot water on the grass burrs. One of the simplest, non-chemical ways to get rid of grass burrs is to pour boiling water directly on them. You may need to repeat the process a couple of times for complete eradication. To protect your grass from scalding, use hot but not boiling water.
  2. Douse the grass burrs with undiluted bleach. Dumping undiluted bleach on stickers overloads the plants with sodium and chloride, creating toxic conditions that kill them. You may need to repeat the process, and always be careful to avoid getting bleach on your clothing, skin, or in your eyes.
  3. Dump white vinegar on the grass burrs. Vinegar contains acetic acid that draws moisture out of the plants, causing the burrs to dehydrate and eventually die. You can pour undiluted vinegar directly on the plants or use it in a spray bottle. Repeat daily as needed.
  4. Sprinkle salt onto the grass burrs. Salt kills grass burrs in two ways—the high sodium levels draw moisture out of the plant tissue and induce toxicity, eventually killing the weeds. Sprinkle it directly onto the grass burrs, repeating as needed.

How to Get Rid of Grass Burrs Naturally Without Killing Your Grass?

Treating your grass to get rid of a grass bur infestation can lead to you inadvertently killing the grass too—which is not the outcome you want. Try one of these two control methods if you’re looking for options that pose no threat to your grass.

  • For light infestations, take the hands-on approach and dig the individual plants up with a hoe or shovel, making sure to get as much of the root system as possible. Thankfully grass burs are shallow-rooted weeds Wear heavy gloves to protect your hands from the stickers. When done, either burn the plants or dispose of them in your household garbage—do not throw them in your compost pile!
  • If you are more concerned about getting rid of the bothersome burs, spread an old blanket over the troublesome grass bur plants. Then drag it over the lawn or walk across it to embed the burrs in the blanket fibers. Repeat as necessary. It may take a few passes to get most stickers out of the lawn. Since these plants have an annual life cycle and rely on the stickers (which are seedpods) to reproduce, removing them will help prevent new plants from germinating.
how to get rid of grass burrs

Best Grass Burr Killers & Preventers

When it comes to chemical herbicides, you have 2 approaches to take with grass burrs.

  1. You can kill existing weeds with a post-emergent product.
  2. You can prevent seeds from sprouting with a pre-emergent product.

How Does a Post-Emergent Herbicide Work?

Post-emergent herbicides are applied to living plants. They work by disrupting biological processes in the plants, causing plant dieback and, hopefully, death. These herbicide treatments come in two classes (contact and systemic) based on how the application of herbicide affects the plants.

  • Contact herbicides only affect the plant tissue they touch. They are fast-acting but typically don’t kill the whole plant, so you may need to apply the product multiple times.
  • Systemic herbicides are absorbed into the plant and carried through the weed’s vascular system, killing the entire plant.

Systemic post-emergence herbicides are recommended for treating grass burrs to ensure the entire root system is also killed.

Chemical weed killers are also classified based on which plants they affect.

  • Non-selective herbicides kill any plant they come in contact.
  • Selective herbicides are formulated to control targeted weed species. They either affect grassy or broadleaf weeds.

Recommended Post-Emergent Herbicides

If you’re looking for chemical treatment options, there are a couple of highly effective products.  

For most of the last five decades, glyphosate has been one of the most popular systemic, broad-spectrum herbicides due to its efficiency. It is the most commonly used herbicide worldwide and is highly revered in agriculture, horticulture, and landscaping.

Affiliate links and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on: 2022-11-25

MSMA and DSMA are highly recommended for post-emergent grass burr control if you’d rather use a product besides glyphosate.

Drexel MSMA 6 Plus HERBICIDE (2.5 Gallon JUG)
319 Reviews
Drexel MSMA 6 Plus HERBICIDE (2.5 Gallon JUG)
  • Post-emergence control of both grassy and broadleaf weeds

Affiliate links and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on: 2022-11-25

Spraying herbicide

How Does a Pre-Emergent Herbicide Work?

Pre-emergent products work in the opposite manner to post-emergent herbicides. Contrary to popular belief, they do not inhibit germination, hence why they are not classified as pre-germinators.

A pre-emergence herbicide is applied to the soil before the sandbur weed seeds germinate and inhibit cell growth. With cellular division halted, the initial leaf doesn’t develop, and the sprout doesn’t push or emerge through the soil surface.

Pre-emergent applications must be done in early spring before the seeds begin germinating to effectively control burr grass stickers. If you are putting down new grass seed, you need to time application correctly so the product only affects grass burrs seeds.

Recommended Pre-Emergent Herbicides

If you want to spray your lawn, look for commercial pre-emergent herbicides that include the active ingredient(s) dithiopyr, indaziflam, oryzalin, pendimethalin, benefin, and bensulide.

A pre-emergent herbicide with atrazine is also effective at killing grass burrs.

Hi-Yield (33430) Atrazine Weed Killer (32 oz)
554 Reviews
Hi-Yield (33430) Atrazine Weed Killer (32 oz)
  • This selective weed killer controls Henbit, Clover, Chickweed and more. See label for full list.
  • Intended for use on St. Augustine and Centipedegrass.
  • This 32 oz bottle of liquid concentrate weed killer can treat up to 3,720 sq. feet of lawn.

Affiliate links and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on: 2022-11-25

Corn Gluten Meal as a Pre-Emergent

You can also use corn gluten meal as a pre-emergent weed control as an alternative to chemical control. A researcher at Iowa State University stumbled upon its ability to kill weeds when researching a turfgrass pathogen. It was patented as a natural herbicide in the early 19902 and is commonly used in turfgrass operations.

For effective weed control, spread 20 pounds of corn gluten meal per 1000 square feet of lawn in late March or early April. The key is to apply it before grass burr seeds germinate.

Corn Gluten Meal (2 lb)
31 Reviews
Corn Gluten Meal (2 lb)
  • Effective and natural way to prevent weeds from growing
  • Excellent source of nitrogen
  • Typical analysis 9-0-0

Affiliate links and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on: 2022-11-25

Cautions When Using Chemical Methods

  • Carefully follow the directions on product labels.
  • Pick an appropriate product for your type of soil and turf grass.
  • When using liquid sprays (especially when spraying your lawn with glyphosate herbicide) be careful of spray drift.
  • Apply the product at the correct time and soil temperature.

How to Prevent Grass Burrs and Stickers?

Regardless of your turfgrass type, or the problematic weeds in your area, the best way to prevent grass burrs—and any other weeds—is by fostering a healthy lawn with a strong lawn care program. A vigorous lawn crowds out weeds by outcompeting them for resources like water, sun, and nutrients.

An effective lawn care program includes all the components your yard needs to thrive:

  • Regular lawn fertilization.
  • Effective weed control using pre- and post-emergent herbicides.
  • Mow at the recommended height for your grass variety.
  • Watering deeply yet infrequently encourages a drought-tolerant root system.
  • Aerating and dethatching as necessary.

If you are already battling grass burrs in your lawn, cut the grass with a bag on the mower until you get the problem under control. Bagging the clippings keeps the seeds from spreading faster and farther.

Sand burrs

Recommended Professional Service for Grass Burr Treatment

Grass burrs are a landscaping nightmare, and while the above suggestions effectively get rid of them, it can take quite some time to get the problem under control. If you want immediate control over grass burrs or don’t want to tackle the grass burr infestation yourself, you can hire a lawn care professional service.

They will come in, dig out all the grass burr weeds, and then install new sod in those areas. This method has a much higher price tag than the other treatment options, but it may be worth the cost if you prefer quick eradication of these annoying weeds.

FAQs

Q. Will vinegar kill grass burrs?

A. Yes, vinegar will kill grass burrs by drying the plant out. It doesn’t work as quickly as herbicides, so it may take several applications to eradicate the plant. Unfortunately, it will also harm any neighboring grass it comes in contact with.

Q. Why are grass burrs prevalent in Texas?

A. Grass burrs thrive in hot and dry areas with sandy soils. Since Texas has a warm climate and an abundance of sandy soils, grass burrs are prevalent in Texas landscapes, along roadsides, and in fields.

Q. Are grass stickers poisonous?

A. No, grass stickers are not poisonous. However, they can cause physical injury to the digestive tract if ingested by pets or livestock.

Here’s an informative video discussing How to Get Rid of Grass Burrs and Stickers:

How To Get Rid Of Stickers (Burweed)

Final Thoughts

Grass burrs in your lawn may be a pain, but they aren’t a life-long issue—there are many ways to eliminate these problematic weeds effectively. Options include using household products to kill the plants, manual removal of the stickers, and use of herbicides.

Once removed, a good lawn care program promoting healthy grass will help prevent them from returning!


References