Floridians who have always dreamed of a white Christmas, are starting to get their wish. Over the last few years, you may have noticed an increased number of snow dusted lots, roadsides, lawns, and pastures throughout our area, despite temperatures in the 80s. From a distance, it looks like a scene from a northern, Christmas card. On closer inspection, it is actually a low growing plant, with lots of small, light colored flowers, giving the appearance of blankets of snow.
Richardia grandiflora is the botanical name, while common names include Florida Snow, Largeflower Pusley or Rough Mexican Clover. Ironically, pusley did not originate in Mexico nor is it a member of the clover family, so “Florida snow” or “largeflower pusley” are the most common names. Richardia grandiflora is closely related to several landscape plants in our area, including penta, ixora, firebush and wild coffee. Although very similar in appearance, largeflower pusley should not be confused with Florida pusley.
You may be wondering: “If largeflower pusley is related to pentas and native, Florida pusley, is it a weed or a desired plant?” Largeflower pusley is extremely drought tolerant and produces thousands of white, blue, pink or violet flowers, from September to January, that attract both butterflies and bees. However, the definition of a weed is “a plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants.” So for most, largeflower pusley is considered a weed. If you are like me and have a Bahia lawn, with a little bit of everything green mixed in, you might not mind it as much. However, if you are a turf purist, with a meticulously maintained St. Augustine yard and notice a patch, you will want to address the situation now.
The key to controlling most weeds is prevention, which is a direct result of sound cultural practices.
- Proper irrigation: To prevent drought stress in fall and winter or prevent fungus in spring and summer.
- Proper nutrition: Too much fertilizer pushes new growth and bugs love new growth, while mowing with a sharp blade, at the correct mowing height, will go a long way to ensure healthy turf.
Thin, stressed, weak areas are where weed seeds take hold first and germinate at the soil line. A healthy lawn has the best chance to overcome most weeds.
For small infestations, you will have the most success by manually pulling the pusley and getting all of the taproot, before it begins to reproduce, because flowers quickly follow seeds. If your lawn is adjacent to an area that is infested, it will be a constant battle to control in your yard, since this weed is a prolific bloomer, capable of dispersing tens of thousands of seeds.
Larger infestations will require an herbicide treatment. However, if the basic causes of the weakened turf are not corrected (proper irrigation and nutrition), weeds will continue to be a problem whether herbicides are used or not. Atrazine can be used on St. Augustine and Trimec on Bahia, in order to control most broad-leaf weeds. Several applications, several weeks apart per the labeled rates and directions will be necessary for noticeable control. Applications made to weeds under stress, may reduce effectiveness. Healthy and actively growing weeds are able to absorb the herbicide easier and distribute it through the plant. If conditions are dry, irrigate a couple days prior to application to ensure active growth of the weed to be treated.