How to Prevent and Kill Henbit

Discover how to ID, kill, and prevent this common annual weed.

Henbit got its name because chickens like to eat it. It will happily take advantage of the thin, moist areas of your lawn, especially those areas that are shaded. You will often find it under trees and shrubs where grass has a hard time growing. Each plant can produce up to 2,000 seeds that can take root and keep you fighting henbit for years to come. Here are some tips to help you identify, prevent, and kill henbit.

What Is Henbit?

Henbit plants are sparsely hairy and have green or purplish, square stems. The leave form in pairs along the stem and are round or heart-shaped with rounded teeth on the edges and prominent veins on the underside. The upper leaves attach directly to the stem, while the lower leaves have petioles. It can grow to a height of 16 inches, but usually sprawls along the ground.

Henbit produces distinctive orchid-like, reddish-purple flowers in mid-spring. The flowers have a white face and dark red spot on the lower petal and are formed in whorls at the top of the stems.

The Henbit Lifecycle

Henbit is considered a winter annual. The seeds of henbit sprout in the fall or early winter. During any short period of warm weather throughout the winter months the young seedlings will grow and then go dormant when it turns cold again. When temperatures start to warm in the spring, henbit will grow vigorously and become noticeable in the lawn. In mid-spring, the flowers form. The henbit plant then produces seeds and dies as the temperatures start to get hot in early summer.

Henbit Look-Alikes

Henbit is often confused with purple deadnettle. Purple deadnettle has upper leaves that are triangular with petioles and are distinctly red or purple-tinged, unlike the upper leaves of henbit. It is also commonly mistaken for creeping Charlie (a.k.a. ground ivy). However, unlike henbit, creeping Charlie is an extremely aggressive perennial weed.

How to Kill Henbit in the Lawn

Henbit should be treated in the spring before it flowers. Use Ortho® WeedClear™ Lawn Weed Killer Ready-to-Use (for cool season grasses or warm season grasses), following label directions. It's specially formulated to kill over 250 weeds, including tough weeds like henbit, without damaging the lawn.

How to Prevent Henbit in the Lawn

  1. A good defense against future henbit problems is to grow a thick lawn so weeds don't have any room to grow. Regular feedings of your lawn, 4 times per year, ensure it gets the nutrients it needs to grow thick and strong, leaving little space for weeds.
  2. Mowing at whatever height is best for your lawn allows the grass to grow thick and develop a deep root system so it can out-compete weeds.
  3. It's important to find and control henbit before it flowers. This will prevent the plants from producing and releasing seeds. If you wait until after it flowers, you may be dealing with it for several years to come.

How to Control Henbit in Hardscapes

To kill and prevent henbit from popping up in cracks in sidewalks or a paver patio use Ortho® GroundClear® Vegetation Killer Ready-To-Use2. It kills existing weeds and prevents new ones from sprouting for up to 12 months, when following label directions. To get down to the root of almost any weed—henbit included—use Ortho® GroundClear® Super Weed & Grass Killer. It works both quickly and deeply to kill weeds, and their roots, too.