fighting grass lawn weeds with post emergent herbicides

Post-emergent Herbicide: What Type Is Right For You?

Do you feel like you’re constantly losing the battle against weeds in your lawn? You’re not alone. Many people struggle with keeping their lawns free of weeds. One solution for existing weeds is a post-emergent herbicide. 

Weeds can quickly turn a beautiful yard into an eyesore and signal an unhealthy lawn. While it’s best to use pre-emergent herbicides to prevent weeds from sprouting in the first place, people often forget to apply it at the right time or miss spots when applying. Post-emergent herbicides can help if weeds do show their ugly heads in your lawn.   

What Are Post-emergent Herbicides?

Post-emergent herbicides, also known as weed killers, are chemicals used to control already existing weeds. In contrast, pre-emergent herbicides kill weeds before they emerge or sprout above the soil line. The best defense against weeds in your lawn is to apply both pre- and post-emergent herbicides.  

There are many different types of post-emergent weed killers, making it important to identify the variety of weeds you need to control and to pay close attention to the product description.

Types of Post-emergent Herbicides

Post-emergent herbicides can be classified in a few different ways. Knowing the key differences will help you determine the most effective treatment for your lawn.

Systemic vs. Contact
(Mode of Action)

Post-emergent herbicides work with one of two methods:  either attacking the foliage or getting absorbed through the roots. Post-emergent herbicide formulas come as either systemic or contact applications, depending on the preferred means of attack. 

  • Systemic 
    Systemic post-emergents are absorbed directly into the plant, causing the weed to be destroyed from the inside. Systemic post-emergent herbicides can kill both the leaves and the roots of the weed. It can take several days for systemic herbicides to work, so results will not be immediately noticeable.

    Systemic post-emergents are especially useful on perennial weeds, such as dandelion, poison ivy, and ragweed. Perennial weeds are often difficult to control, as they spread by seed and hardy roots. If the entire root is not killed, the plant can continue to reproduce and grow in your lawn.  

  • Contact 
    Contact post-emergent herbicides target the exposed part of the plant, causing damage to the leaves and making it impossible for the plant to receive the necessary nutrients it needs to thrive. Contact post-emergents typically work quicker than systemic post-emergents but may not fully destroy the weed’s roots, making it possible for the weed to reappear.  

    Contact post-emergents are commonly used on annual weeds that live only for a single season, such as crabgrass and chickweed, so the death of the foliage is enough to kill the entire plant. 

Selective vs Non-Selective

Post-emergent herbicides are also classified as selective or non-selective.   

  • Selective 
    Selective post-emergent herbicides are used to target specific weeds. This is especially helpful in areas such as lawns where contact with the grass is unavoidable.
Pre-emergent being sprayed on weeds
  • Non-Selective 
    Non-selective post-emergent herbicides eliminate weeds along with any other plant in the application area.  While this type of post-emergent can control weeds quickly, it will also damage or kill any other plant it comes in contact with, such as surrounding grass and nearby flowers or shrubs.


    Non-selective weed killers are mostly commonly used to treat hardscaped areas like sidewalks and driveways. They can also be useful when clearing off large plots of unwanted vegetation. 

Form: Liquid Spray vs. Spreadable Granules

Another way to classify herbicides is by the method of application.

sprayable option of pre-emergent herbicides
  • Liquid Spray
    Liquid post-emergent weed killers can come in ready-to-use bottles with spray nozzles or concentrates that must be mixed before use. Liquid weed killers cling to the weeds’ leaves, for immediate effectiveness. 
spreadable granules of pre-emergent herbicide
  • Spreadable Granules
    Post-emergent herbicides can also come in spreadable granular form. The granules can be distributed with a spreader, making it easy to apply to a large area, such as an entire lawn. 

Why Use Post-emergent Herbicide

If a post-emergent herbicide is used properly, it can control existing weeds and help prevent future weeds from germinating.

Pro Tip
Before choosing a post-emergent herbicide, it is important to know what weeds you are trying to control and what variety(ies) of grass you have. 

When to Apply Post-emergent Herbicides

Early to late spring, when weeds are small but actively growing, is the best time to apply post-emergent herbicides. It is easier to kill smaller weeds and while they are actively growing because they more easily absorb the weed killer.  

Post-emergent herbicides can also be used during the summer and fall months, but it may take several applications to fully control the targeted weeds.  

Regardless of the time of year, post-emergent herbicides should be applied when temperatures range between 55 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.  

  • If applied when temperatures are too hot, products may burn or damage the lawn.  
  • If applied when temperatures are too low, the herbicide will not be effective since weeds must be actively growing for the weed killer to work. 

Pro Tip
If your lawn is suffering from drought or disease, wait until your grass has recovered before applying a post-emergent. Weeds that are stressed can struggle to take in weed killer. 

How to Apply Post-emergent Herbicides

Once you have determined what type of post-emergent herbicide you should use, you must consider how you will apply it.  

Spot Treatment

Spot treating your yard means focusing on the weeds themselves and not the surrounding grass. Spot treatments are great for lawns with a few weeds and work well along sidewalks, driveways, and pools.  

Blanket Treatment

If a large portion of the lawn contains weeds, a blanket treatment may be warranted. Blanket treatments work best with selective post-emergent herbicides, or else you risk killing your entire lawn. Blanket treatments may be applied using a liquid post-emergent spray or by spreading granules evenly on the lawn.

Regardless of the type of application you use, be sure to keep pets and children off the lawn until the application is completely dry.  

Tips When Applying Post-Emergent Herbicide

  • Monitor the weather forecast. 
    • Some post-emergent herbicides need to be watered in, while others should be allowed to dry after application. Be sure to read and follow the product label for watering instructions. 
    • Never spray on windy days. 
  • Apply when temperatures range between 55 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.  
    • Don’t apply when temperatures are too hot to avoid damaging the lawn.
    • Don’t apply when temperatures are too low for better efficacy.  
  • Do not mow the lawn three days before or after post-emergent application so the weeds herbicide can be absorbed well into the plant. 
  • Use caution during application to prevent drift of spray or contact with non-target plants.
  • Avoid skin contact and inhalation. 

  • Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when applying herbicides, including long sleeves, pants, closed-toe shoes, gloves, and protective eye wear. 
  • Carefully read and follow all package directions and warnings. 

Post-emergent herbicides are a great way to control unexpected, pesky weeds that pop up in your yard. If you have any questions about selecting the best herbicide for your grass type, the Certified Turfgrass Professionals at NG Turf are happy to speak with you. Give us a call at 770-832-8608 or email 


related posts

NG Turf Logo

An industry leader throughout the Southeast, providing premium grass varieties backed by superior service and
a one-year warranty
*Terms apply.

Recent Posts


Sod Calculator

How much sod do I need?  Use our custom sod calculator to find out.

One Year Warranty

Enjoy the peace of protection with the NG Turf One Year Warranty.
*Terms apply.

Follow us on Social