Spurge Weed

Spurge Weed Identification (+ how to kill it in your lawn)

Spurge is an odd-looking weed. It’s fleshy and tends to grow out horizontally, looking almost flat on the ground. Spurge likes warm and hot weather, and in lawns it creates big problems, smothering the desirable turfgrass that surrounds it. I’ve tangled with spurge weed in the past, so I’ve put together this spurge weed identification guide, and I’ll detail exactly how to kill it, and the best herbicide for the job in today’s article.

I’ll also talk about how to stop spurge weed from coming back in your grass.

But first, I’ll get into the different types of spurge, what spurge weed looks like, its growth habit, and how to identify it since there are some look-a-like weeds like Purslane.

Let’s dive in!

Trust and Accuracy Information

This article was last updated on by Lawn Chick Owner Sarah Jameson
Article content reviewed for accuracy by Certified Horticulturist Nicole Forsyth, M.S., and by Horticulturist Arthur Davidson, A.S.

What is Spurge Weed?

Spurge is an invasive broadleaf weed. It’s an annual (rather than a perennial).

This means that it dies at the end of each season.

There are different kinds of spurge, such as creeping spurge, petty spurge, and spotted surge.

What is Spurge Weed

This kind of weed tends to grow the most in soils that are depleted of moisture.

If you have prostrate spurge, you may notice leaves with a purplish color.

In many cases, spurge weed gets matted in dense clusters. This creates a big problem for your lawn.

There are different kinds of spurge weed, including nodding spurge, petty spurge, creeping spurge, and surge/prostrate spurge.

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What Does Spurge Weed Look Like?

There are different kinds of spurge weeds that grow on lawns, and each has its own characteristics.

What Does Spurge Weed Look Like

Before we go into those, however, let’s talk about some of the features that most kinds of spurge generally have.

Neatly Positioned Leaves

The leaves are neatly positioned. In fact, you’ll most often notice that each leaf on one side of the stem are positioned so they’re parallel to each leaf on the other side.

Spurge leaves are a shade of green (with some kinds of spurge, you’ll notice other tints, too).

It Has a Taproot

A taproot is part of the spurge plant. The long stems that you see are coming out from the plant’s taproot, and the leaves grow along those stems.

Tends to Keep Close to the Ground

Generally, you’ll notice spurge weed tends to keep close to the ground.

Milky Sap In the Leaves

One of the defining characteristics of spurge weed is that there is a sap inside the leaves. It has a milky appearance, and you’ll see it if you break open spurge leaves.

Be careful if you this, though! It can lead to eye and skin irritation. Make sure to wash your hands right away.

Spotted (Prostrate) Spurge

Spotted surge is another name for prostrate surge.

If you have spurge on your lawn, it is highly likely to be spotted surge.

There are many reasons it’s bad to keep this on your lawn, including the fact it may hurt animals that eat it.

Spotted Prostrate Spurge Weed

When you look at spotted surge, you notice there is a maroon line or spot on the leaf, in its center, on the area where the vein exists.

You may notice the stems of the spotted spurge growing upwards.

This is because they may grow in whatever direction they need in order to get the sunlight they need.

One of the spotted spurge’s most distinctive features is its pink or purple stems. If you have a spurge with this kind of stem, you probably have spotted surge.

Creeping Spurge

Creeping spurge has leaves that are shaped like an egg. The leaves don’t have spots.

Creeping Spurge Weed

However, they may have different colors, such as nearly white, light red, and light green. You may also notice they have a hairy texture.

With creeping surge, you may see white flowers on the stem tips, as well as on the stem (especially at the place where the leaf and steam come together).

Petty Spurge

Areas of lawn with a lot of shade and too much moisture (for example, if there is inadequate drainage) are most likely to end up with petty spurge.

Petty Spurge Weed

It often pops up in areas around shrubs, as well as garden beds. Petty spurge has a light green color, and the stems are quite slender.

Nodding Spurge

If you see spurge with leaves that have a reddish or pink tint, it may be nodding spurge.

Nodding spurge leaves may grow quite long, sometimes reaching two inches. Nodding spurge leaves have an oblong shape. If you look at the center, you may notice a red spot.

Nodding Spurge Weed

Like other weeds and the different kinds of spurge, nodding spurge tends to thrive in poor-quality soils.

Nodding spurge also tends to prefer dry soils. In some cases, you may see it in clay, gravel, or sand.

This weed may vary in color.

For example, you may see a nodding spurge that is completely greenish red or reddish green.

Purslane vs Spurge Comparison

Often confused with Spurge is Purslane, but the two plants are different and it’s important to understand these differences.


Purslane vs Spurge
  • Purslane has red stems and fat, fleshy leaves.
  • The stems of purslane tend to be thicker and more “juicy” looking than spurge.
  • Purslane grows more upright, while Spurge sprawls lower and closer to the ground.


Spurge vs Purslane
  • Like Purslane, Spurge also has reddish stems, but they are more woody and thin.
  • Spurge leaves are thinner and grow across from one another on the stem.
  • Spurge always sprawls low and flat.

These two plants often grow near one another, so you may notice both growing on your property.

About Spurge Weed’s Taproot

Spurge weed’s structure includes a taproot, which is the central and primary root.

The Spurge Weed's Taproot

The spurge weed’s extremely long tap root makes it tricky to completely eliminate on your lawn.

When you look at the visible spurge weed above ground, you see the leaves are placed all along its stems, with the leaves in parallel positioning to the ones on the opposite side of the steam.

As spurge weed grows, it stays quite close to the surface of the ground.

Where Does Spurge Weed Grow?

If your soil is depleted in nutrients and/or is sandy and dry, it may be more likely to end up with a spurge problem.

Where Does Spurge Weed Grow

Thin and/or unhealthy lawns overall are more prone to weed growth, including the growth of spurge weeds. If the soil has been depleted or disturbed, or if it’s compacted, it’s easier for this weed to grow.

Have you noticed your turfgrass having trouble staying healthy in hot weather. If so, you need to make some adjustments to your lawn care.

If you don’t, weeds (including spurge weed) will likely become an issue.

Is Spurge a Perennial or Annual Weed?

Spurge is an annual weed, and it grows in the late spring and summer.

Is Spurge Weed a Perennial or Annual Weed

It’s when your soil temperature gets to 60 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer that spurge weed starts to germinate and grow.

Of course, when the weather gets warm and hot weather depends on your region. In many regions, this may be between March and August.

How to Get Rid of Spurge in Your Lawn or Garden

As soon as you’ve noticed spurge weed in your lawn, you should start making plans for how to get rid of it. This is a fast-growing weed and tricky to eliminate (because of its tap root).

Weed in My Garden

Pull Out the Spurge

The simplest method of getting rid of spurge is to pull it out. Here are the steps you should follow.

1. Identify Areas With Spurge Growth

Find the areas of your lawn where there is spurge growth.

How to Get Rid of Spurge Weed

As touched on earlier, it’s best to start as early as possible when trying to get rid of spurge. Start the process as soon as you notice any sign of spurge on your lawn.

Most importantly, you need to do this before seed production starts.

2. Moisten the Soil

Use some water to moisten those areas, as it will make it easier to pull out the weeds.

3. Put on Gloves

Remember, this weed can irritate the skin, so you’ve got to wear gloves.

As I talked about earlier, when you break open spurge leaves, you may be exposed to the sap inside it, and this can irritate the skin (and eyes).

4. Pull Out the Weeds But Don’t Break the Stems

Make sure the steam doesn’t break. Rather, than pull the entire, intact plant (including the roots) from the soil.

If you have a larger spurge problem, you will probably need a spade. When using this, you want to take out the root ball, and you’ll dig into the ground to do so.

5. Dispose of the Weeds

After you’ve pulled out each spurge weed (the entire plant), place it in a bag (probably a garbage bag) to dispose of it.

Using Herbicide to Kill Spurge Weed

One of the reasons spurge is so hard to eliminate is that it resists many herbicides.

Using Herbicide On Spurge Weed

Most herbicides that may be effective for this weed will only kill it when it’s in early growth. In other words, they may not be effective on mature (full-grown) plants.

If you do use post-emergent herbicide on spurge, you should do so in the later part of the spring or perhaps early summer at the latest.

This is when this weed first starts to emerge.

As you probably already know, there are both pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides.

  • A pre-emergent lawn herbicide is a chemical meant to be applied to your lawn before the weed germinates and grows. In other words, it prevents spurge from growing at all.
  • A post-emergent herbicide, on the other hand, is meant to kill a weed that has already germinated and is present in your lawn. If you can see Spurge, you’ll need to use a post-emergent herbicide to kill it.

Best Post-Emergent Herbicide to Kill Spurge Weed in Your Lawn

Fahrenheit Herbicide

The herbicide I recommend to kill Spurge in your lawn is called Fahrenheit, a broad-spectrum herbicide that controls annual and perennial broadleaf weeds and grasses.

It is a water-soluble granule available in a small bottle that you’ll mix with water and apply with a sprayer when temperatures are above 50 degrees. You’ll see results in 7-10 days.

I also recommend that you add a surfactant like this one from Southern Ag to your herbicide solution for best results.

Herbicide Mixing Ratio to Kill Spurge

My suggested mix ratio Fahrenheit herbicide would be:

If you’re not used to spraying herbicide, I recommend adding 1/2 teaspoon of blue dye spray pattern indicator (so you can see where you have and have not sprayed).

Here’s the manufacturer’s recommended application rate for Fahrenheit herbicide:

Use RateOunces per 1,000 sq. feetGrams per 1,000 sq. feet
Manufacturer’s Recommended Application Rate for Fahrenheit Herbicide

At the medium application rate, one bottle of Fahrenheit will give you about an acre of coverage.

If you plan to blanket spray your whole lawn, you can calculate your lawn square footage using this tool to dial in your mix rate, and consider upgrading to a good backpack sprayer. But most homeowners will probably want to mix less and just treat trouble areas where Spurge is present.

NOTE: Any time you’re handling and applying herbicides it’s important to read and follow all manufacturer’s directions, wear long sleeves, gloves, eye protection and a mask or respirator, and apply the product on a day without wind.

In some cases, people end up using non-selective herbicide to kill their spurge, and while this can be effective, it will also put your turfgrass at risk.

Post-Emergent Herbicides to Kill Spurge Weed

In other words, a non-selective herbicide will kill your lawn grass as well as your weeds. You have to be careful to only apply it to the weeds.

If you’re going to DIY your herbicide application instead of hiring a lawncare professional, be careful to follow the instructions that come on the product packaging, choose a time without wind to apply the product, and use PPE.

Lawn Care Habits that Can Keep Your Lawn Free of Weeds

Good lawn care is key to helping keep away weeds, including spurge. That is because when you have a thick and healthy lawn, it means there is less space for weeds to grow in.

How Does a Healthy Lawn Look Like

Below I’ll talk about some of the most important lawn care tasks you should do to give your grass optimal health.


Mulching your garden beds and using a mulching lawn mower is one of the most effective steps you can take to help stop spurge from growing on your property.

Like most weeds, Spurge needs exposed mineral soil to germinate in and take root. Deny this weed that and you’ll see a lot less of it.

Mowing Your Lawn Properly

The height at which you should cut your grass depends on what kind (species) of grass you have in your lawn.

Mowing Weed Lawn

Some types of grass need shorter lengths, but other kinds should be kept higher. Also, mow your lawn at the right time of day, which is usually in the late afternoon or early evening.

Don’t mow in the morning, as your grass will be covered in dew and being moist could lead to damage when you cut it.

And if you can, let your grass grow taller than you may be accustomed to. Mowing your lawn at a taller length creates a longer, more dense canopy, denying weed seeds the light they need to germinate in your lawn.

Raising the deck height on your mower also helps your lawn be more resistant to drought conditions in the summer, as taller grass tends to grow deeper roots which can access moisture as the surface of your yard dries out.

Correct Watering

Keeping your lawn properly irrigated is key to thick and healthy grass.

The right level and kind of irrigation will depend on the type of grass you have and your region. It also varies based on how much moisture mother nature is providing.

I like to shoot for about 1″ of water per week for my lawn. The clouds will provide that to my grass most weeks, but sometimes I need to get out the sprinkler and supplement.

Dethatching and Aeration

Dethatch and aerate your lawn every year. These processes will mean that more sunlight, water, and oxygen can get down to your grass roots.

Lawn Aeration

This in turn allows your lawn health to improve, and your grass will grow more vigorously and form a dense and beautiful canopy which crowds out weeds.

Final Thoughts About Controlling Spurge Weed in Your Lawn & Garden

Now you understand what spurge weed is, what it looks like, and how to control it in your lawn!

And remember – with lawn weeds, one of the best defenses you have is a thick and healthy yard. Grab my free cheat sheet for a schedule and game-plan to follow this year to get your yard into shape.

And if spurge isn’t the only weed you’ve noticed, you may find my lawn weed identification article to be an informative read.

At Lawn Chick, I am committed to publishing accurate, useful, and trustworthy resources for my readers. As part of this commitment, I’ve invited subject matter experts to review our articles for accuracy. I invite you to read our editorial policy and publishing standards which outlines in detail how every article on this site is sourced, edited, fact-checked, and vetted.


Additional Resources
  • Spotted Spurge, Chamaesyce (=Euphorbia) maculata by Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin-Madison Horticulture Division of Extension (link)
  • Spotted Spurge (TurfFiles) by Fred Yelverton, Extension Specialist (Turfgrass/Forage Crop Weed Mgt), NC State Extension (link)
  • Weed of the Month – Prostrate Spurge by Jackie Jordan, Commercial Horticulture Agent, Clemson University Cooperative Extension (link)


Sarah Jameson’s blog, Lawn Chick, is read by over 2 million homeowners each year and she is regularly cited as an expert source of lawn care knowledge by major publications. Her goal is to meet you where you are, and help you achieve a yard you’ll be proud of. Ready to take the next step toward improving your lawn? Grab her free lawn care cheat-sheet: What to Do When - Take the Guesswork Out of Lawn Care, or upgrade your garage by browsing her favorite DIY lawn care products.

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