How to get rid of hitchhiker weeds

Hitchhiker weeds stick to clothing and animal fur and are really difficult to remove. You might be unable to avoid spreading these weeds, but you can get rid of them from your garden or farm through the following ways:

Uproot by hand

If you observe any hitchhiker weeds appearing in your garden, pull them out before they establish. In a small garden, uprooting should be easy and quick. Hand weeding is more effective in the early stages of development before the plants begin seeding.

Mature weeds have robust root systems, which make them tough to pull out. Further, the root fragments can be left in the soil and then sprout again after a while. 

Use weeding tools

A weed wacker or a scuffle hoe can help eliminate hitchhiker weeds in your garden. Some good weeding tools are a diamond hoe, crevice weeder, scuffle hoe, and long-handed thinning hoe. Use the tool that best fits your gardening needs and completely removes the weeds. 

Plant a cover crop

Clover (Trifolium spp.)

When weeds appear in your garden, you can plant cover crops to suffocate them. These crops prevent sunlight from reaching the ground or produce chemicals that suppress weed growth.

Fast-growing cover crops such as mustard, clovers, annual ryegrass, and cow grass are good for weed control. Edible cover crops are a bonus as they can feed you and your livestock. 


Lay down a plastic tarp over the area of your garden infested by hitchhiker weeds. This process eradicates weeds by preventing sunlight and moisture from reaching the soil. A plastic covering will get rid of weeds after a few weeks. However, you will have to clean up the dead weeds under the sheet by raking and plastic fragments. 

Use herbicides

Herbicides are a simple solution to controlling weeds. There are a variety of herbicides available in the market, each having different uses and advantages. Some chemicals kill not only weeds but also desirable plants in your garden. Therefore, if your hitchhiker weeds are growing among your beneficial crops, you should choose selective herbicides that will only kill unwanted plants. 

spraying herbicide to control weeds
City of Greenville/Flickr

Additionally, some herbicides require reapplication after every few months. Therefore, when identifying the best herbicide for your garden, consider the frequency of application and potential implications for your beneficial crops. Re-applied herbicides are easy to use but will cost more. 

Animals for weed control

Some animals will feed on specific categories of weeds. Chickens can feed on seeds of smaller plants, while goats can eat some leaves and stems of hitchhiker weeds.

white goat eating grass
Photo by Maria Tyutina on

Use fire

Fire can be used as a tool to control weeds in some areas. Use a flamer to focus intense heat on weeds, destroying their cell walls. This process is best used for eradicating annual weeds.

For hitchhikers with deep roots, you need to torch them repeatedly. You must be careful using fire as it is dangerous and can cause unintended property damage. Do not use fire on dry grass, bush or near forested areas. Take the necessary precautions and wear protective clothing.

Identifying hitchhiker weeds

If you know the common hitchhiker weeds in your locality, you can easily avoid them. There are approximately 600 species of hitchhiker weeds, most of which are invasive to North America. They can originate from herbaceous plants and woody shrubs. The most common hitchhiker weeds are:

Desmodium– Herbaceous plants with alternate leaves that have hooked hairs underneath. Their attractive flowers resemble sweet peas. 

Desmodium intortum (Tick clover)
Forest and Kim Starr/Flickr

Bidens/ beggar ticks– These weeds have vibrant yellow flowers and seeds with bristles and barbs that attach to clothing and animals. 

Krameria (Krameria grayi)- These shrubs can be identified by their purple or red flowers and long, spiny stems.

Jumping cholla (Optunia bigelovii)- The plant is native to Mexico and the US. Jumping chollas resemble cacti, with spines that change color from silver-gold to dark brown or black as they mature. 

Sandbur/ Blur-grass (Cenchrus)- Sandspur is light green, and its seeds have stiff spines that can damage your skin or your pet’s eyes. 

Sandbur/ Blur-grass (Cenchrus)
David Eickhoff/Flickr

Common burdock/ Beggar’s buttons (Arctium minus)- Triangular or oval leaves, purple or lavender flowers, and hairy leaves characterize burdock. 

Hound’s tongue (Cynoglossum officinale)- This is a very poisonous weed identified by elongated leaves with the texture of a dog’s tongue. Its distinctive little red flowers seed consistently. 

Wear appropriate clothing

Avoid wearing cotton or furry clothes when going for hikes. Many hitchhikers will get caught in such material, and you can transport them back home. Wear smooth polyester or nylon instead. For footwear, choose rubber or leather boots. Additionally, you should cover your hair when going out for a picnic in the open. 

Use a vacuum to clean your car or clothes once you return from a picnic or hike to get rid of any seeds from hitchhiker weeds. 


Hitchhiker weeds embed onto clothing and fur and are then deposited in a different location where they sprout. These weeds are invasive and can damage your beneficial crops. You can control them by uprooting, tilling, using herbicides, or fire. Apply a combination of treatments to eradicate the weeds from your lawn completely.