Without a doubt, it can be difficult to keep up with weeding your garden. Many gardeners toil for hours trying to keep their yards weed-free. This is to varying degrees of frustration; it can be stressful for some and therapeutic for others. Regardless of which category you may fall in, you will, at some point, come across weeds with purple flowers that are actually quite pretty.
It can be tempting to keep these weeds in your garden because of how attractive their flowers can be. Some of them can have medicinal and culinary uses, so they may be worth keeping around. More often than not though, you will want to get rid of these, lest they start taking over your garden!
In this article, you’ll learn about eleven of the most common weeds with purple flowers. This way, you’ll be able to decide for yourself whether they are worth keeping or if they need to be eradicated. After all, it can be difficult to identify whether the plants you’re looking at are weeds or beneficial plants. By the end of the article, you will have learned about how these weeds present themselves, as well as any uses they may have. Let’s get ready to take a closer look!
Plant Species: Viola Odorata
Wild violets are gorgeous flowers for sure, and can be a pleasing sight as they make their way across your lawn. However, there comes a point when you realize that they should not be creeping so fast and that maybe they should be stopped. These weeds can take over your whole yard if not taken care of!
The type of wild violet you have on hand may be different depending on its species. Regardless, they use underground stems called rhizomes to propagate themselves all throughout your garden. Rhizomes are thick and can quickly spread the plant everywhere you don’t need it to go. They can thus be hard to deal with.
The wild violet, with its pretty heart-shaped petals, can also appear in a variety of different colors– not just purple! They also come in white, yellow, and blue. Wild violets also have some culinary and medicinal use. The flowers are often candied to be used on cakes and cookies. They are also used in garnishes for salads or teas. The leaves are also used as a nutritious addition to salads. The flowers themselves can be dried to make tea. As for medicinal purposes, you can use wild violets in a salve for dry, chafed skin; eczema; or insect bites. It also serves as a good anti-inflammatory agent, due to its cooling properties.
Creeping Charlie/Ground Ivy
Plant Species: Glechoma hederacea
A distant relative in the mint family, creeping charlie is able to survive in many different kinds of weather and terrain. This weed can prove to be difficult to kill, as they can easily survive the blades of a lawnmower. The way this weed grows is by spreading like a blanket all over your lawn. They compete for nutrients, and thus can damage your existing plants.
You can identify creeping charlie by the purple, small, lobe-shaped petals forming a head of four lobes; they bloom in the late spring to early summer. It may be a good idea to try to try to remove creeping charlie during the summer months, when it lays dormant. These also propagate via rhizomes, which can make them difficult to kill. They must be controlled as soon as possible, because they are resilient against pests and diseases.
You will be able to find plenty of use for the creeping charlie in the culinary aspect. The leaves themselves cook up like spinach and have a somewhat sage-like, minty quality about them. Leaves and flowers do well for salads. The herby quality of the leaves allows it to be a good choice for teas, to be enjoyed with honey. If you brew your own beer, you can also use this plant for clarifying ale, as this was a common use for it in the past. The plant can also be used as an astringent and diuretic, and may have some properties that allow it to heal wounds.
Plant Species: Myosotis sylvatica
Forget-me-nots are characteristically known for their blue flowers with yellow centers, but they can produce purple ones, too. They are often seen as a favored plant to keep growing as a border planting, but did you know that they are actually weeds? Beautiful and easy to care for, many gardeners enjoy keeping this weed and using it intentionally in their garden.
However, if not carefully looked after, this plant can quickly get out of control, spreading onto your lawn and taking nourishment from other plants that need it. They grow vigorously in the midwest states, so if you live in the area, you may have encountered this weed in your garden already!
Forget-me-nots are edible and can be used in a variety of culinary applications. They can be candied to add to cakes and cookies. They can also be used in salads and teas to add a little sweetness. You can opt to dry them if using in teas or tinctures. They do not have much in the way of medicinal benefits. Beyond this, forget-me-nots can be downright irresistible with their dainty flowers, so you may want to keep it for its beauty alone. It’s possible to keep this plant among others without them competing for nutrition; the key is to deadhead the flowers as much as possible to prevent their seeds from taking root.
Plant Species: Solanum nigrum
Black nightshade is a summer annual that dies when the air gets frosty, around autumn. This weed can grow to be tall and leafy, which means that they compete with other plants to get sunlight. Beyond this, they are identifiable by their purple or white flowers, as well as their purple or red berries that grow in bunches.
You can also identify this plant by the stem, which has a purplish hue to it, especially when conditions get colder. These weeds can grow in gardens that have rich soil, either in the sun or shade. They can be bushy, or grow as a climbing plant. A good way to control this weed is by using herbicide, or by pulling by hand. You can prevent the spread of black nightshade by mulching your garden.
While black nightshade can easily be confused for deadly nightshade, it isn’t as poisonous as its deadly cousins. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are good for you either; black nightshade still carries toxicity. Every part of the plant can prove to be toxic, so it’s best not to ingest this weed. It’s still worth mentioning that people have used the plant medicinally, albeit to varying degrees of success. Despite this, we advise not to use any parts of this weed just in case something goes awry.
Canada Thistle/Creeping Thistle
Plant Species: Cirsium arvense
The first of the thistles we will be featuring in this article is the Canada thistle, or the creeping thistle. Canada thistle is notorious for being difficult to get rid of. It is a perennial weed that has spear shaped leaves with sharp spines on them. The flowers are purple, coming in a pom pom shape that grows in clusters at the top of the plant.
When these weeds go to seed, the flowers turn fluffy and white, much like dandelions. Canada thistles grow best in low fertility soil, so you have a better chance of eradicating them by increasing your soil’s fertility. This also has the added benefit of helping desired plants grow! As for getting rid of them, you should apply herbicide frequently to ensure that the extensive root system that keeps Canada thistles alive eventually dies.
Despite having barbs, the Canada thistle is actually edible. The leaves can be rolled to break off the spines if you prefer to eat them fresh. If you like to cook your greens, boiling the leaves will get rid of the spines. You can choose to eat the young shoots raw after peeling. Medicinally, Indigenous Americans have used the Canada thistle in tonics to soothe vomiting and stomach cramps.
Musk Thistle/Nodding Thistle
Plant Species: Carduus nutans
Another thistle on this list is the musk thistle, or nodding thistle. They can be identified by their leaves, which can grow up to 15 inches long. There are barbs on the wavy edges of the leaves. The stems have spiny wings. The flowers of the musk thistle are purple or pinkish. The heads of the flowers tend to nod down, which is what gives the plant their name.
The flower heads are 2 to 3 inches across in size. Musk thistles grow to be quite large, sometimes reaching heights of 6 feet! You can usually find musk thistles growing along the wayside, though they thrive in many parts of the US where the soil fertility is good. These weeds can grow aggressively if allowed to take root in your garden, and can be difficult to get rid of.
Like Canada thistles, musk thistles can be eaten, as long as you can get rid of the spines. It’s worth mentioning that the stalks are edible only when young, as they become woody with age. Beyond this, bees and goldfinches love musk thistles. It may be a good idea to keep them around if having these pollinators present is important to you. The trouble is keeping the thistles controlled, given the vast root system they possess. It may be best to simply rid yourself of these weeds than attempting to cultivate them.
Common Thistle/Spear Thistle/Bull Thistle
Plant Species: Cirsium vulgare
The last thistle on this list is the common thistle, otherwise known as the spear thistle or bull thistle. Common thistles can be identified by their pink or purple fluffy flowers sitting on top of what looks like a spiny ball. Leaves are often long and covered in barbs, as are the stems. The flowers appear from June up until October.
It’s important to mow this weed down as much as possible to prevent the flowers from popping up. Otherwise, you can try digging the individual plants out, or using herbicide to control the problem. Control is crucial, because flowers can spread seeds when allowed to blow in the wind. It’s interesting to note that this weed is another attractive plant to goldfinches and certain kinds of butterflies. Still, since they can easily take over your garden, we recommend getting rid of them as soon as possible.
Common thistles are edible, although not necessarily a great source of food. The flower buds can be prepared and eaten as you would an artichoke heart, albeit you’d only be getting something around an inch in diameter to eat! The leaves and stems can also be used in salads as long as you have removed the spines first. Remember to use gloves and eye protection when removing the spines of any part of the thistle. More notably, the common thistle is used as a medicinal tea that helps relieve stomach cramps and nausea. The steam from the tea is also used to treat muscle soreness.
Purple Dead Nettle
Plant Species: Lamium purpureum
Purple dead nettle is an annual that grows vigorously, producing purple, pink, or white flowers from the mid-spring up until summertime. The flowers grow in a grouping that is tubular-shaped, composed of four petals that have come together. The leaves grow downward, are triangular, and may often have purple tips. The stem is square-shaped.
This weed is exceptionally hardy and can resist disease, pests, and harsh terrain and climate. They grow best in moist conditions like drainage ditches or at the edge of woodlands. If your garden is particularly moist, or if you live near an area where there is a purple dead nettle infestation, then your yard may be infested, too. Purple dead nettles can certainly be beautiful to look at, but will take over your yard in no time flat if given the chance to.
Purple dead nettle is often kept around by gardeners because of its ability to attract bees and other pollinators. While this is certainly an important reason to keep this weed around, it’s not the only one either! Purple dead nettle is edible and has a number of uses in the kitchen. This plant can be used in smoothies and salads, as well as soups. It can be used as a medicinal tea similar to stinging nettle; it has anti-inflammatory and diuretic effects.
Plant Species: Lamium amplexicaule
Henbit is another weed with purple flowers, sometimes mistaken for purple dead nettle. There are a few differences that make identification a bit easier. They droop more than the purple dead nettle, and do not grow as high. Their leaves also have a characteristically “hairy” appearance. The flowers can bloom purple, pink, or white. You find that this weed loves the sun, and also thrives in moist conditions, like near ponds.
These weeds do not typically take over your garden; they aren’t as common as other weeds on this list. Its name comes from the seeds that fall from the plant, which are adored by hens– and turtles too, interestingly! If you aren’t using the seeds, it’s a good idea to get rid of this weed as soon as possible. Applying herbicide in the early spring months should do the trick; by the time the flowers appear, it will be much harder to get rid of.
Henbit is also edible and used in a number of different recipes. You can use the leaves as you would use spinach, making them a good choice for salads. The flowers can also be used in salads and teas; for the latter, it’s better to dry them first. Henbit also has some applications medicinally. The tea from this plant can be used as a laxative, a means to reduce fever, and also helps to relieve rheumatoid arthritis.
Plant Species: Geranium molle
The dove’s-foot crane’s-bill can be identified by their purple flowers with jagged petals. The leaves are rounded in shape, and are a bit hairy, consisting of around 5 to 7 leaf points. This weed may not prove to be a large problem to your lawn, because it prefers arid conditions and dry soil. Still, it is possible for this weed to spread regardless, so being vigilant is important.
If there are only a few of these plants in your garden, you may have success pulling them up. More widespread infestation will require herbicide. You may require something stronger than an over-the-counter herbicide because this plant is resistant to most chemicals. A good way to prevent this weed from popping up is by ensuring that your lawn is well cared for, moist, and full of nutrients. You should implement a lawn care program that will accomplish this.
There isn’t much use for this weed in terms of culinary application, but it has been historically used medicinally for a number of ailments. It has been used to treat gout, colic, as well as joint and muscle pain. It has also been used to relieve bruises as well as stop bleeding. Regardless of whether you use this plant medicinally or not, it’s still a good idea to clear your lawn of them so that they don’t compete with your other plants for nutrients.
Plant Species: Prunella vulgaris
The final weed on this list is known as selfheal, a member of the mint family. You can find these plants growing in dense patches in grasslands, meadows, and wood clearings, as well as on lawns. Their leaves have an oval shape to them; the edges are slightly scalloped. When immature, the stems are hairy, later growing to be smooth as the plant ages.
This weed has purple flowers with two leaves beneath them. This plant does not grow very tall and as such can survive mowing. It’s important to get rid of it, as it can restrict your grass’s growth. Thankfully, selfheal can be easily controlled with herbicide, sometimes in a single application. It’s best applied in the autumn, or in the springtime when the flowers are in bloom.
As you can probably guess by the name, selfheal has a number of medicinal uses. Traditionally, it has been used to heal wounds and burns, as well as stop bleeding. The tannins in the plant also lend it an anti-inflammatory quality. It has also been used as a tea to soothe a sore throat. It is also used for diarrhea, stomach cramps, and inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. Healalls can also be used to relieve rheumatoid arthritis. More interestingly, some applications have had selfheal used as a remedy for heart disease.
By now you should have learned about how these different kinds of weeds with purple flowers present themselves. The flowers can be pretty, but it is always good to know when these plants are worth keeping around. When keeping your garden, you should be doubly sure of what is growing in your patches, and take care that everything is growing with intention. This is why identification is so important; knowing what you’re dealing with can really help make for a purposeful and pleasing garden.
If you find yourself overrun with weeds, it may be a good time to figure out the best way to get rid of them. This way, you can ensure that your garden stays neat and free of unwanted growth. Of course, if you find other uses for the weeds you pull up, then all the better! Remember to leave at least 80% of the leaves and flowers of whatever you harvest behind, as this is good for the bees. Arming ourselves with the knowledge required to keep a healthy garden, regardless of what’s growing in it, makes it easy to enjoy this hobby even further.