Florida Betony

Florida betony (Stachys floridana) is an aggressive weed native to Florida that appeared in South Carolina in the 1940s and 50s. It is also known as wild artichoke and rattlesnake weed.
Florida betony is a member of the mint family. Leaves are about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide, slightly toothed, and lance shaped. The flowers are white to pink, can have purple spots, and are trumpet-shaped. The flowers grow in whorls of 3 to 9.
The name “rattlesnake weed” comes from the underground tuber that is segmented, white and resembles the rattle of a rattlesnake. New tubers are formed in late spring when temperatures begin to increase before the plant goes dormant in the summer.
Florida betony grows in full sun to part shade and tolerate a wide variety of soil conditions. This cool-season perennial emerges during the cool, moist months of fall and continues to grow vigorously until it temporary dies back in the winner if the temperature is very cold. Vigorous growth resumes in early spring and flowering occurs from late spring to early summer. During high temperatures, growth stops and the plant becomes nearly dormant.
Maintaining a healthy, dense lawn is the best way to reduce the growth of Florida betony. Fertilize and lime according to soil test results and mow at the appropriate height. A 3-way herbicide is available to homeowners to help with lawn weed control in turfgrass. The 3-way herbicide will contain 2,4-D, mecoprop (MCPP), and dicamba and sometimes may also have carfentrazone or sulfentrazone for improved control of this aggressive weed. These products can be spot treated on tall fescue, bermudagrass, and zoysiagrass. Read the label to see if reduces rates are needed on centipedegrass or St. Augustinegrass because of their sensitivity to 2,4-D. Injury can occur if applied to centipedegrass or St. Augustinegrass during the spring green-up (the transition between the dormant state and active growth in spring). Both fall and early spring applications will be needed to completely control this aggressive weed.
In landscape beds, tubers should be removed by digging them out to eliminate the primary source of spread. Landscape fabrics and mulch are usually not successful in controlling this aggressive perennial weed. Glyphosate is the safest choice for spraying applications in existing flower and shrub beds because these applications has less soil activity (a few days) compared to the 3-way herbicides (a few weeks) and triclopyr (several months). Because of the weed’s large tubers and root systems, repeat sprays in fall and spring for two years to eliminate Florida betony. For more information on Florida betony, please visit the Home and Garden Information Center website at hgic.clemson.edu. Tune in on Tuesday nights to watch “Making it Grow” at 7 p.m. on SCETV or mig.org. E-mail Outen at callenb@clemson.edu.
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