How to Identify and Get Rid of Spurge Weed

Spurge weed, also known as Euphorbia, is a common and persistent garden invader that can quickly take over landscapes. Getting rid of spurge requires identifying the specific type you have and using a combination of manual removal, chemical treatment, and prevention methods. With some knowledge and persistence, you can eliminate spurge from your yard and keep it at bay.

Identifying Spurge Weed

The first step in controlling spurge is learning to identify it correctly. There are several varieties of spurge weed found across North America:

Spotted Spurge

  • Light green leaves with characteristic red spot markings
  • Stems radiate outward along the ground in patches
  • Pinkish-white flowers bloom in spring
  • Grows 2-12 inches tall

Prostrate Spurge

  • Mat-forming weed with thick, low-growing stems
  • Small green leaves are oval-shaped
  • Tiny pinkish flowers in summer
  • Height ranges from 2-5 inches

Petty Spurge

  • Waxy blue-green leaves with smooth edges
  • Stems branch upward 8-12 inches tall
  • Small green flowers clusters in leaf joints

Garden Spurge

  • Upright weed with green stems reaching 1-3 feet tall
  • Alternating narrow green leaves have pointed tips
  • Greenish-yellow flowers bloom spring to fall

Wood Spurge

  • Perennial with thin, erect woody stems
  • Linear green leaves have smooth edges
  • Tiny pinkish-white blooms in late spring
  • Grows 6-18 inches tall

Look closely at the leaf shape, growth habit, height, and flowers to identify the type of spurge growing. Proper identification ensures you use the right removal methods.

How Spurge Spreads

Spurge spreads aggressively through seeds, runners, and fragments:

  • Each plant produces hundreds of seeds that spread several feet and remain viable for many years.
  • Runners along the ground put down new roots, forming dense patches.
  • Broken stem pieces readily root to colonize new areas.

Left uncontrolled, spurge can quickly colonize flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, lawns, and pathways. It robs native plants of moisture and nutrients. Learning to control spurge relies on understanding how it reproduces and spreads.

Manual Removal of Spurge

Manually digging up and removing spurge is effective for small infestations. Use these manual methods:

Hand Pulling

Grasp stems at the base and pull slowly to remove the entire root system. Pulling too quickly may break the stem, leaving the roots intact to resprout. Discard pulled weeds promptly.


Use a sharp hoe to slice weeds off just below the soil surface. Hoe every 2-3 weeks during the growing season to control spread. Avoid shallow hoeing that merely chops off top growth.


Place sheets of cardboard or multiple layers of newspaper over infested areas. Top with 3-4 inches of mulch or soil. This smothers spurge by blocking light needed for growth. Keep covered for at least one growing season.

Manual removal works best when the soil is moist but not soggy. It must be repeated regularly to control regrowth until the weed seeds and roots are exhausted.

Herbicides to Eliminate Spurge

Chemical weed killers provide an efficient means of eliminating large spurge infestations. Systemic herbicides that kill the entire plant are most effective:

Glyphosate (Roundup)

The broad-spectrum glyphosate in Roundup and other products kills most weeds, including spurge. Apply when spurge is actively growing and re-treat as needed. Glyphosate takes 7-10 days to kill weed roots.

Concentrated Vinegar

High acetic acid vinegar products like horticultural vinegar kill on contact. Treat spurge in the morning on a sunny day for best results. Results are visible in hours, but retreatment is needed.


Selective 2,4-D weed killers only kill broadleaf weeds like spurge, not grasses. Sold under brand names like Weed-B-Gon, 2,4-D injures the weed, turning it yellow and twisted before killing it. Retreatment is often needed.

When using chemical weed control, always follow label directions carefully for safe and effective use. Avoid windy conditions to prevent drift onto desired plants. Systemic herbicides work best for large, established spurge patches that are difficult to control manually.

Preventing Spurge Weed Re-Infestation

Once you achieve control, focus on spurge prevention to avoid repeated infestations:

Remove Roots

Dig or till to remove roots left behind after weeds are pulled or die back. Remove every piece of root and runners to prevent regrowth.

Plant Ground Covers

Establish dense ground cover plants like vinca, ajuga, or sedum to prevent weed seeds from sprouting. Use native plants suited to your light and soil conditions.

Spread Mulch

Apply 2-3 inches of leaf litter, wood chips, or other organic mulch over bare soil. Mulching blocks light from reaching weed seeds and reduces sprouting. Replenish as it decomposes.

Maintain Vigilance

Check regularly for new weed seedlings. Pull stray sprouts before they become established. A thick weed-free plant cover with diligent monitoring provides the best spurge prevention.

With persistence in manually removing every plant, using herbicides on heavy infestations, and taking prevention measures, you can rid your landscape of this stubborn weed. Stop spurge now before it multiplies and spreads out of control.

Frequently Asked Questions About Spurge Control

Controlling spurge weeds takes patience and persistence. Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about getting rid of this stubborn garden invader for good.

What is the fastest way to kill spurge?

The quickest way to kill established clumps of spurge is using a systemic herbicide containing glyphosate or 2,4-D. These herbicides are translocated throughout the plant to kill the entire weed, including the roots and runners. Results are visible within 7-10 days compared to weeks of repeated manual removal.

Does baking soda kill spurge?

Baking soda has minimal effect on killing spurge weeds. It may dry out and damage above-ground portions of the plant but does not kill the roots. Vinegar provides more effective contact weed killing. For best results, use systemic herbicides that kill the roots.

Will digging up spurge kill it?

Simply digging up spurge is rarely effective. The plants have deep roots and runners that easily break off and re-root if not completely removed. Follow digging by treating any remaining roots with full-strength vinegar poured into the holes. Monitor for regrowth and repeat digging or use systemic herbicides.

What temperature kills spurge?

Freezing winter temperatures do not reliably kill spurge weeds. The roots survive and generate new growth each spring. However, hot steam applied directly to plants can kill above and below-ground parts. Temperatures of 210-220°F maintained for at least 5 minutes are needed, making steam impractical for large infestations.

Does mulch help control spurge?

Mulching alone does not kill established spurge but can help prevent new growth by blocking light from reaching seeds. Remove existing weeds, then put down landscape fabric topped with 2-3 inches of organic mulch. Maintain the mulch layer to deprive weed seeds of the light and warmth needed to germinate.

How do I get rid of spurge naturally?

Manual removal methods like digging, hoeing, and hand pulling are the most natural ways to eliminate spurge without chemical herbicides. Use a forked weed removal tool to pry up the roots. Be sure to remove all root fragments so the plants do not re-root. Follow up by establishing dense plantings of native ground covers to inhibit weed regrowth.

What herbicide kills spurge permanently?

No herbicide provides permanent one-time elimination of spurge. The weed seeds remain viable in the soil for many years. Systemic glyphosate products provide the longest residual control when applied repeatedly over 2-3 years to fully deplete the seed bank in the soil. Combining herbicides with manual removal and prevention provides the best long-term control.

Does bleach kill spurge?

Applying undiluted household bleach may damage and kill emerged spurge plants but does not destroy the roots. The salt content also makes the soil unfavorable for plant growth. Vinegar or systemic herbicides are better options. Bleach is not selective and will kill other plants it contacts. It poses safety concerns and should be avoided.

How do farmers control spurge?

Commercial farmers use integrated weed management programs to control spurge and other weeds. This involves crop rotation, competitive ground cover crops, tillage, and selective herbicides applied by licensed professionals. Multiple years of vigilance are required to fully remove spurge from agricultural fields.

Eliminating spurge takes repeated effort using a combination of manual uprooting, herbicide treatments, and prevention techniques. With persistence, you can fully remove spurge from your lawn and gardens for good. Consistent maintenance will keep it from returning and taking over your landscape again.


Spurge can quickly become a stubborn, invasive weed. Identifying the specific type you have is the first step toward effective removal. Controlling small patches can be accomplished by hand pulling or spot treating with vinegar or systemic herbicides. Larger infestations may require repeated herbicide use to fully kill the weeds and underground roots.

Preventing spurge re-infestation relies on removing every plant fragment, maintaining good ground cover, and mulching bare areas. Annual monitoring is key to getting rid of spurge permanently. Quick action against young plants before they multiply and spread will provide the best long-term control.

With knowledge of spurge’s growth habits, diligent effort using proven removal methods, and vigilant prevention measures, you can eliminate this invasive weed from your lawn and garden. Your landscape will be free to thrive and flourish spurge-free for years to come.