How to Kill Buttercup Weeds

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Things You'll Need

  • Gloves

  • Trowel or garden fork

  • Hoe

  • Eye protection

  • Measuring spoons

  • Broadleaf herbicide

  • Pump sprayer

Ranunculus repens is an invasive plant in many locations.

Buttercup weeds (Ranunculus repens) form a creeping mat of dense foliage that can quickly overtake the lawn or a garden bed. These perennial plants, which grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9, bear dark green, three-segment, toothed leaves and produce yellow flowers. Buttercups spread through both roots and seeds. Manual removal is necessary in planted garden beds, but you can use chemical herbicides to kill the weeds in lawns or unplanted beds.

Manual Removal

Step 1

Broken roots or stems left in the soil can reroot.

Break up the soil around the base of the weed with a trowel or handheld garden fork, working carefully so you don't break the roots or stems. Wear gloves when pulling buttercups because the sap is toxic and can cause skin irritation.

Step 2

Place the pulled buttercups into a plastic bag or garbage can for disposal.

Grasp the weed by its base and pull it out of the loosened soil. Sift through the soil and remove any root pieces that broke off, otherwise these will grow into new plants. Dispose of or destroy pulled buttercups; do not compost them or they may spread back into your garden or lawn.

Step 3

Don't let buttercups reestablish themselves into your garden or lawn by keeping on top of their growth.

Break up exposed soil with a hoe, such as in a garden bed, once or twice weekly so buttercups don't reestablish in the bare area. Pull up any new weeds as soon as they sprout.

Step 4

If buttercups flower, be sure to remove the plant before the flowers fade and seeds develop.

Inspect lawn areas for reemergence of buttercups every two or three days, and pull young weeds immediately so they don't set seeds or send out long roots. Buttercup seeds remain viable for 20 years, but regular inspection and removal can prevent them from reestablishing in the yard.

Chemical Control

Step 1

Mix the herbicide in an well ventilated area.

Put on heavy waterproof gloves, cover exposed skin and wear eye protection before mixing and applying chemical herbicides. Broadleaf herbicides work best when applied in spring or fall, when the buttercups are actively growing and temperatures are between 75 and and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 2

Test the spray pattern of the herbicide in the sprayer on a concrete area before using.

Combine 2 tablespoons of a broadleaf herbicide containing 2, 4-D or MCPP with 1 gallon of water in a pump sprayer. Refer to the herbicide label for exact mixing instructions as these may vary among brands. Mix the herbicide thoroughly with the water and pump the sprayer to build pressure.

Step 3

Apply the herbicide on a sunny day when rain isn't forecasted.

Spray the mixture over the affected lawn, coating the buttercup weeds thoroughly so the mixture wets the foliage. Apply 1 gallon of the solution every 250 square feet. If your lawn is St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum), which grows in USDA zones 8 through 10, or centipedegrass (Eremochloa ophiuroides), hardy in USDA zones 7 through 10, apply 1 gallon every 500 square feet.

Step 4

The buttercups should turn brown and die once the herbicide take affect.

Reapply the herbicide two to four weeks later to destroy any new buttercup plants that come up or mature plants that recover from the first application.


Buttercups are less likely to establish in healthy, lush lawns that aren't suffering drought stress or other cultural problems. There are over 20 species of buttercups (Ranunculus spp.) in just the Midwest, with many having invasive tendencies.


Keep all herbicides out of the reach of children and pets, and keep children and pets off the lawn following application until after the pesticide has settled and completely dried.


Jenny Harrington

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.