How to Kill & Prevent Ragwort


Ragwort, also known as Senecio jacobaea, is a common weed that can be quite invasive and detrimental to pastures, gardens, and natural habitats.

Its deep taproot and ability to produce numerous seeds make it challenging to control.

Key things to consider

  • Hand pulling is an effective method for controlling small infestations of ragwort.
  • Herbicide application can effectively eliminate ragwort (recommend this one).
  • Implementing biological control by introducing species that feed on ragwort, such as the ragwort flea beetle, can help suppress its growth.
  • Cultural practices like soil fertility management, mulching, and regular monitoring can aid in ragwort control.

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How to Identify Ragwort

When identifying Ragwort, look for a weed with a long, straight stem, with yellow flowers. The leaves are bright green, and grow on opposite sides of the stem.

They are slightly toothed on the margins, and the flowers will have five petals.

The plant can grow up to 1.5 metres tall, and has a strong smell.

Hand Pulling

When dealing with a small ragwort infestation or an area where herbicides cannot be used, hand pulling is an effective method.

Hand pulling can be labor-intensive, it is a viable option for controlling ragwort in smaller areas or when labor is available. Here's how to do it:

  • Put on gardening gloves to protect your hands from any potential skin irritation caused by the plant's toxins.
  • Grasp the ragwort plant as close to the ground as possible.
  • Firmly pull upwards, ensuring that you remove the entire plant, including the roots.
  • Dispose of the pulled ragwort plants safely, either by burning or bagging them for proper disposal.

Herbicide Application

Using herbicides is an efficient way to control larger ragwort infestations. However, it is essential to choose a selective herbicide that specifically targets ragwort while minimizing harm to desirable plants.

Follow these guidelines for effective herbicide application:

  • Identify the appropriate herbicide for ragwort control based on your region and local regulations. Common options include Glyphosate, Grazon or Thrust.
  • Read and follow the herbicide product label instructions carefully, including dosage and safety precautions.
  • Apply the herbicide during the ideal time for ragwort treatment, which is typically in the early spring at the rosette stage or in September before the plants become frost-hardened.
  • Ensure that animals are safely removed from the area and stay out of the treated area for the recommended duration mentioned on the herbicide product label.
  • Properly applied herbicides can be highly effective in controlling ragwort, but always prioritize care and safety when using chemical solutions.

Biological Control

Biological control offers a natural and sustainable method to manage ragwort populations. Introducing insects or organisms that feed on ragwort can help suppress its growth.

The main biocontrol agent used for ragwort is the ragwort flea beetle (Longitarsus jacobaeae).

Consider the following steps for implementing biological control:

  • Contact local agricultural or ecological research institutions to determine if ragwort biocontrol agents, such as the ragwort flea beetle, are available in your area.
  • Acquire the biocontrol agents and release them strategically in the affected area according to the guidelines provided by the experts.
  • Monitor the progress of the biocontrol agents and the reduction in ragwort infestation regularly.

It is crucial to follow the recommendations of experts when using biological control methods to ensure their safe and effective implementation.

Picture by Jeff Morris 24/7/03 Pix shows workmen of the Greater M/cr Highways collect the dangerous "Ragwort" from the areas motorway & Trunk rd verges

Pasture Management

Proper pasture management practices can help prevent and control ragwort.

By promoting the growth of desirable forage plants, you can create a dense and vibrant stand that inhibits the establishment of ragwort. Consider the following:

  • Implement regular mowing or grazing to reduce ragwort growth and seed production.
  • Maintain a healthy and diverse pasture by overseeding with desirable forage species that outcompete ragwort.
  • Monitor pastures regularly for any signs of ragwort infestation and take immediate action to prevent its spread.

By incorporating these pasture management practices, you can reduce the risk of ragwort establishment and maintain a healthy grazing environment.

Cultural Practices

In addition to the methods mentioned earlier, implementing certain cultural practices can aid in the control of ragwort. These practices focus on creating less favorable conditions for the weed to thrive. Incorporate the following cultural practices into your management strategy:

  • Soil Fertility Management: Ragwort thrives in nutrient-deficient soils. Regular soil testing and proper fertilization can help maintain the ideal nutrient balance for desirable plants, making it more difficult for ragwort to establish.
  • Mulching: Applying a thick layer of mulch around desirable plants can help suppress the growth of ragwort by blocking sunlight and preventing its germination.
  • Regular Monitoring: Regularly inspect your landscape for any new ragwort seedlings or mature plants. Promptly remove any newly emerging plants to prevent them from spreading and producing more seeds.

By integrating these cultural practices into your weed control regimen, you can create an environment that is less conducive to ragwort growth and reproduction.

Making the right decisions

When considering how to kill ragwort, it's important to make informed decisions based on the unique characteristics of your landscape and the severity of the infestation.

Here are some factors to consider when determining the most suitable control methods:

  • Infestation Size: Assess the extent of the ragwort infestation. For small, localized infestations, manual methods like hand pulling or targeted herbicide application may be sufficient. Larger infestations may require a combination of approaches.
  • Site Constraints: Consider any limitations imposed by the location. For example, herbicide application might not be feasible in areas close to bodies of water or in environmentally sensitive zones. In such cases, alternative methods like hand pulling or biological control can be more appropriate.
  • Environmental Impact: Evaluate the potential environmental impact of each control method. Opt for methods that have minimal impact on non-target plants, aquatic systems, and wildlife.
  • Time and Resources: Evaluate the availability of labor, equipment, and resources needed for each control method. Methods like hand pulling may be suitable for smaller areas with ample labor, while herbicide application using professional services might be more efficient for larger areas.
  • Long-Term Goals: Consider your long-term goals for your landscape. If the aim is to maintain an organic or wildlife-friendly environment, methods like biological control and cultural practices become more significant.

By carefully considering these factors, you can make informed decisions that align with your specific circumstances and goals, leading to effective and sustainable ragwort control.

For instance, in a pasture preservation context, where the presence of livestock limits the use of herbicides, implementing a combination of regular mowing or grazing, overseeding with desirable forage species, and biological control can help maintain a ragwort-free pasture while promoting a healthy grazing environment.

In a residential garden setting, where herbicide use may not be preferred, a combination of cultural practices, such as soil fertility management and mulching, along with regular hand pulling, can effectively control ragwort without compromising environmental considerations.

Remember, while complete eradication of ragwort may be challenging, a diligent and adaptive approach to control will gradually reduce its impact and prevent further spread.

Frequently Asked Questions about Killing Ragwort

1. Can I just cut the flowering stems of ragwort to prevent seed production?

While cutting the flowering stems of ragwort may help reduce seed production, it is not a foolproof method for eliminating the weed. Ragwort has a deep taproot that allows it to regrow even after the above-ground parts have been cut.

To effectively control ragwort, it is crucial to remove the entire plant, including the roots.

2. Is it possible to kill ragwort naturally without using herbicides?

Yes, it is possible to control ragwort using natural methods. Hand pulling, as mentioned earlier, is a natural approach that can be effective for smaller infestations.

Additionally, implementing proper pasture management practices, such as regular mowing or grazing, overseeding with desirable forage plants, and maintaining a healthy pasture, can help suppress ragwort growth naturally. However, for larger infestations, herbicides might be necessary for more efficient control.

3. Can I use vinegar or salt to kill ragwort?

While vinegar and salt are often suggested as homemade weed killers, they may not be effective in eradicating ragwort. These substances can be harmful to the soil and other desirable plants in the area.

Ragwort's deep taproot allows it to survive even in unfavorable conditions. It is best to use proven methods such as hand pulling, herbicide application, biological control, or pasture management strategies for effective ragwort control.

4. Are there any risks associated with using herbicides to control ragwort?

When using herbicides, it is crucial to follow the product label instructions carefully to minimize risks. Always wear protective clothing and equipment as recommended.

Avoid using herbicides near water bodies or in areas where runoff may occur, as this can negatively impact aquatic ecosystems. Additionally, be mindful of the recommended waiting period before allowing animals to graze on treated areas.

5. How long does it take to completely eliminate ragwort from an area?

The time it takes to completely eliminate ragwort can vary depending on the extent of the infestation and the control methods employed.

It may take multiple seasons of active management to achieve effective control and prevent reinfestation. Consistency and vigilance are important in ensuring long-term eradication.

6. Can ragwort be composted?

Ragwort should not be composted, as the seeds can survive the composting process and potentially spread to other areas when the compost is used. T

o avoid unintentional dispersal, dispose of pulled ragwort plants by burning or bagging them for proper disposal in accordance with local regulations.

Remember, for more personalized guidance and advice regarding ragwort control, consult with local experts or agricultural extension services in your area.

About the author 


Hey there, I am founder and editor in chief here at Good Grow. I guess I've always known I was going to be a gardener. I'm on a mission to share my UK based weed control & lawn care tips with you all. If you have any queries please post in the comments below.

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