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Quick facts

  • Plantains are low-growing perennials that spread by seed, producing up to 20,000 seeds per plant. 
  • Plantains can regrow from pieces of the crown left behind when hand weeding. 
  • The low-growing fibrous structure of plantains allows them to survive mowing and trampling.
  • Herbicides should be applied in the late summer to early fall or in the spring.


Weedy plantains in Minnesota consist primarily of two members of the Plantaginaceae (Plantains) family: the introduced common or broadleaf plantain (Plantago major) and the native blackseed plantain (Plantago rugelii), also known as Rugel’s plantain or American plantain. Both plantains are low-growing, aggressive perennials that grow between 6 and 12 inches and spread vigorously by seed. 

Flowers, fruit and seeds

  • Bloom time: mid-spring to fall.
  • Plantains produce long leafless flower spikes covered in up to 400 small green to white flowers containing white or purple stamen.
  • After fruiting, each flower on the spike produces a seed pod.
    • A single plant can produce up to 20,000 seeds. 
    • Plantain seeds create a sticky secretion called mucilage when in contact with water, allowing for easy transportation. 
  • Broadleaf plantains have brown rounded seeds, while blackseed plantains have black oval-shaped seeds.


  • Plantains have broad, oval-shaped leaves that narrow sharply at the base.
    • Broadleaf plantain has a white to slightly red leaf petiole (leaf stalk).
    • Blackseed plantain has a prominent red to purple leaf petiole.  
  • The leaves are arranged in a basal rosette (all radiate from one point).
  • Plantain leaves have a generally smooth and leathery texture.
  • Veins stemming from the base of the leaf grow parallel to the leaf tip.

Stem and roots

  • Roots produce a shallow taproot that produces many fibrous roots.
    • Roots may appear to be entirely fibrous. 
  • Plantain stems are typically not visible and are very short.

Where it thrives 

Plantain species thrive in moist soils, although they are adaptable to most environments. The low-growing structure and fibrous leaves allow it to survive mowing and trampling in lawns.

When plantain grows away from disturbance, it tends to have a more upright structure. Broadleaf plantain growth can indicate moist, high pH, and compact soils.

Control and management

Plantains can regrow from pieces of the root crown and resist many different herbicides. 


  • Hand removal is effective for small patches but may need to be repeated.
    • Ensure all of the crown is removed.
  • A dense and healthy turf is the best defense against plantain encroachment.
  • Mowing is not an effective control method due to plantain’s low-growing structure.
  • The best time to apply chemical control is early spring, late summer or early fall.
    • Late summer or early fall is preferred as the plant moves nutrients and herbicides into its roots and crown to prepare for winter. 
    • Herbicide modes of action should be rotated due to plantain’s identified resistance to 2,4-D.
  • Preemergent herbicides:
    • Indaziflam, isoxaben, mesotrione
  • Postemergent herbicides:
    •  2,4-D, 2,4-DP, MCPP, MCPA, dicamba, triclopyr, carfentrazone, sulfentrazone, mesotrione
    • Quinclorac is often ineffective.


  • Hand removal is effective for small patches but may need to be repeated.
    • Ensure all of the crown is removed. 
  • Spot treatments with broadleaf herbicides may be effective but can cause damage to desired plants. 

Benefits to the landscape

Plantain has been used as a medicinal plant in many cultures for treating wounds, burns, coughs, insect stings or bites, and many other ailments. Along with its medicinal properties, plantains are edible and have been used as a source of fiber in weaving. 

Conservation, invasive status and native status

  • Broadleaf plantain (Plantago major) is native to parts of Europe and Asia and is believed to have been introduced to North America in the 17th century.
    • While introduced, broadleaf plantain has become an edible and medicinal plant in many cultures. 
  • Blackseed plantain (Plantago rugelii) is native to North America and was used as a medicinal plant by the Iroquois, Menominee, Ojibwe, Miami, and Potawatomi peoples.

Plants that look similar

  • Narrowleaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata)
  • Some Hostas species and cultivars

Authors: Noah Burley, horticulture graduate student, College of Continuing and Professional Studies

Reviewers: Julie Weisenhorn, Extension horticulture educator, and Jon Trappe, Extension horticulture, turf and urban greenspace educator

Reviewed in 2024

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