What Is Broadleaf Plantain?

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Broadleaf plantain (Plantago major) is a common weed found in lawns and gardens across Georgia and the rest of the world. It is a perennial, broadleaf weed that many homeowners and landscapers have to deal with as an invasive nuisance, but knowing some basics about this plant can help prevent it from taking over your property. 

The SKB team is here to help you learn how to properly identify and control broadleaf plantain so that you can keep your landscape looking lush and healthy this season. Be sure to contact us or a landscaper near you for more information on the best weed control strategies for lawns and properties in Georgia

Identifying Broadleaf Plantain

As its name suggests, broadleaf plantain is classified as a broadleaf weed type due to its prominent wide and flat leaves. Though this is the most noticeable feature of the plant, there are many broadleaf weeds with similar-looking leaves, which is why knowing how to identify the less recognizable features of broadleaf plantain is so important for controlling it.

One of its distinguishing features is its growth habit, forming low-growing rosettes comprised of the aforementioned broad, oval-shaped leaves with prominent parallel veins. These leaves exhibit a glossy texture and vary in color from bright green to dark green. The leaf margins are often smooth, but they can sometimes appear slightly toothed or wavy. The arrangement of leaves in a basal rosette is characteristic of broadleaf plantain, with each leaf originating from a central point near the soil surface. These leaves have thick stems that meet at a base. When these stems are broken, they reveal string-like veins that resemble those in celery. 

As the plant matures, it sends up tall stalks from the center of the rosette, bearing greenish-white flowers. Plantain flowers occur in compact spikes on erect, leafless stalks from among the basal leaves. Each spike is about the size and shape of a pencil but consists of many tiny, stalkless, greenish flowers, giving it a coarsely granular texture. Each flower measures 2 to 3 mm across. The flowers appear from spring until late autumn. These flowers develop into seed capsules containing numerous small seeds, contributing to the plant's ability to spread rapidly. The root system of broadleaf plantain is fibrous and shallow, enabling it to thrive in a variety of soil types and moisture conditions. 

Key Characteristics 

  • Broad Leaves: Broadleaf plantain is characterized by its large, broad, and oval-shaped leaves that have prominent parallel veins.
  • Low-Growing Rosette: It typically forms a low-growing rosette close to the ground, with leaves radiating from a central point.
  • Distinctive Ribbed Texture: The leaves have a ribbed texture, creating a unique pattern that aids in identification.
  • Tall Flower Spikes: In the flowering stage, broadleaf plantain produces tall spikes (up to 6 inches) with small, greenish flowers clustered along them.
  • Shallow Taproot With Fibrous Roots: The plant often establishes a short taproot that is accompanied by a secondary fibrous root system. 

Life Cycle Of Broadleaf Plantain

Broadleaf plantain is a perennial weed, meaning it can survive for multiple growing seasons. It reproduces both by seeds and vegetative means. The plant begins its life cycle as a seed, which can remain dormant in the soil for several years before germinating. Once the seed germinates, it forms a rosette of leaves and establishes its root system. As the plant matures, it produces flowers and seeds, enabling it to spread further. Below is a breakdown of the different life stages of broadleaf plantain. 

Germination & Seedling Stage

  • Broadleaf plantain seeds germinate near the soil surface when conditions are favorable.
  • Optimal soil temperature for germination is around 50°F, while the ideal temperature for seedling growth is approximately 77°F.
  • The seedlings emerge with a pair of cotyledons (seed leaves) and develop a rosette of leaves.
  • The root system is relatively weak, originating from the crown area at the soil surface.
  • Young plants are vulnerable to defoliation but can persist due to their shallow root structure.

Vegetative Growth

  • As the plant matures, it produces more leaves in a basal rosette.
  • The oval, smooth leaf blades measure 2 to 7 inches in length.
  • Several parallel veins run from the base to the leaf margins.
  • The leaves have a thick petiole (stem) and are slightly sticky when touched.
  • Broadleaf plantain adapts well to compacted soil and can tolerate both full sun and partial shade.


  • Flowering typically occurs from May to August or September.
  • The flowering stalks emerge from the center of the rosette.
  • Each stalk bears a dense, cylindrical spike of small flowers.
  • The flowers are greenish and lack showy petals.
  • Stamens protrude from the flower head as it blooms.

Seed Production

  • The flowers give way to small black or brown seeds.
  • A single plant can produce hundreds of seeds.
  • The seeds are dispersed by wind, water, animals, and human activity.

Persistence & Spread

  • Broadleaf plantain persists due to its ability to regrow from the crown even after mowing or defoliation.
  • It can form dense populations in lawns and compete with desirable grass species.
  • Seeds and vegetative structures can contaminate equipment and spread to new areas.

How Does Broadleaf Plantain Spread? 

Seed dispersal is a significant mechanism by which broadleaf plantain propagates, facilitated by various factors such as wind, animals, and human activities. The small seeds produced by the plant are lightweight and equipped with structures that allow them to be easily carried by the wind over long distances. It is estimated that a single broadleaf plantain plant can produce somewhere between 14,000 and 36,000 seeds. 

Animals, including birds and mammals, may also aid in seed dispersal by inadvertently transporting seeds on their fur or feathers or through excretion. More commonly in lawns, human activities, such as mowing, walking, or gardening, can inadvertently spread plantain seeds as they become attached to clothing, shoes, or garden tools. 

  • Don’t Forget Their Roots! In addition to seed dispersal, broadleaf plantain can spread vegetatively through root fragments in the soil. When the plant is disturbed or removed, small pieces of the fibrous root system may break off and remain in the soil. Under suitable conditions, these root fragments can give rise to new plants, contributing to the expansion of broadleaf plantain populations within the lawn.

What Does Broadleaf Plantain Do To Lawns?

Broadleaf plantain can inflict various forms of damage on a lawn's health and aesthetics. Its robust growth habit allows it to outcompete desirable grass species for vital resources such as nutrients, water, and sunlight. This competitive advantage often leads to the weakening and thinning of the turf, resulting in the formation of bare patches and an uneven lawn surface. 

The broad leaves of plantain can create a stark contrast against the finer texture of grass, disrupting the uniform appearance of the lawn and detracting from its overall aesthetics. As broadleaf plantain continues to spread and establish itself within the lawn, its presence can significantly diminish the visual appeal of the landscape, undermining the efforts of homeowners and landscapers to maintain a lush and attractive lawn. Remember that the presence of broadleaf plantain may indicate underlying issues with lawn health and management, requiring attention to prevent further deterioration of the turf. 

Controlling Broadleaf Plantain

Preventing and controlling broadleaf plantain in a lawn or garden is essential for maintaining a healthy and aesthetically pleasing landscape. This weed will destroy your landscape’s aesthetics due to its bold appearance and invasive habits, but there are some methods that have proven effective for controlling it. We always encourage our readers to reach out to professionals for the best weed control possible, but there are things you can do at home to keep your property looking its best! 

Consider calling a professional near you to administer selective herbicide treatments that target broadleaf weeds if the invasion is widespread, but keep the following tips in mind for DIY weed control: 

  • Implement proper lawn care practices, such as regular mowing, watering, and fertilizing, to promote the growth of healthy turf and minimize weed establishment.
  • Hand-pull or dig small infestations of broadleaf plantain, ensuring removal of the entire fibrous root system to prevent regrowth.
  • Promote dense turf growth through overseeding and aerating to create unfavorable conditions for broadleaf plantain establishment.
  • Mulch garden beds to suppress weed growth and prevent the germination of broadleaf plantain seeds.
  • Amend and maintain proper soil pH and fertility levels to encourage the growth of desirable vegetation and discourage weed colonization.