How to kill stinging nettles

Written by kristina seleshanko
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Worldwide, there are around 500 species of stinging nettle, sometimes called Tread Softly, Bull Nettle, or Finger Rot. While those found in the U.S. sting the skin, the discomfort doesn't last very long. Other, non-American, species of stinging nettle, however, leave the skin hurting for days. Although the leaves are irritating to the skin, the weed has been used in herbal medicine throughout history, and some people even eat it.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Mower, pruning shears, or hoe
  • Protective leather gloves
  • Herbicide (optional)

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  1. 1

    Mow down stinging nettles repeatedly. This treatment works well, but must be continued for two or three years. Stinging nettle roots usually remain in the soil this long before they die.

  2. 2

    If the weed is in a garden bed, cutting the foliage down to the soil will work, too. (Be sure to wear long leather gloves as protection.) Again, repeated treatment for several years is required.

  3. 3

    Hoe the weeds down repeatedly for several years, if working in a vegetable bed.

  4. 4

    Try hand pulling. Some gardeners report success with this method (again, while wearing protective gloves), but it only works with young plants--and sometimes not even then. Stinging nettles quickly form dense roots that stretch far and wide beneath the soil. If any bit of root is left below the soil, it will grow into a new stinging nettle plant.

  5. 5

    Apply a translocated or systemic herbicide, like Gylophosate or SBK, according to the manufacturer's instructions. Several applications will most likely be required and care should be taken not to allow the spray to reach desirable garden plants. It will take three or four weeks for the weed to die down after the herbicide is applied.

Tips and warnings

  • If you do manage to get "stung" by a stinging nettle, look for another weed that tends to grow nearby--dock. Bruise the leaf and apply the sap and leaf to the affected area of skin. Mint, sage, and rosemary leaves may work, also.

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