University of Maryland Extension

Japanese stiltgrass

(More Lawn Weeds)

Japanese stiltgrass *

Microstegium vimineum

Japanese stiltgrass

Lifecycle

Invasive* summer annual.

Growth habit 

Bright green grass has silver hairs down the center of its short bamboo-like bladegrows up to 2 ft. tall.

foliage of Japanese stiltgrass
Closeup of leaf blade
Photo: Bruce Ackley, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org

Japanese stiltgrass foliage
Notice silvery stripe of reflective hairs down
middle of the leaf surface
Photo: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org

Reproduction

Roots at nodes; elongates quickly in fall, then produces seed banks which stay viable in the soil for years.

Conditions that favor growth 

Invades and alters disturbed soils in sun or shade.

stiltgrass on forest floor
Japanese stiltgrass infestation in a natural area
Photo: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org 

Management

Cultural control in ornamental beds

Prevent going to seed; hand pulls easily. Do not compost plants with seed heads.

Lawns

Cultural control: Maintain healthy, dense turf that can compete and prevent weed establishment.
Mechanical control: Hand pulling or using an appropriate weeding tool are the primary means of mechanical weed control in lawns. This is a viable option at the beginning of an infestation and on young weeds. Hand pulling when the soil is moist makes the task easier. Weeds with tap roots like dandelions or have a basal rosette (leaves clustered close to the ground) like plantain are easier to pull than weeds such as Bermudagrass (wiregrass) or creeping Charlie (ground ivy) that spread with stolons or creeping stems that root along the ground.
General chemical control: (lawns) A granular (apply with a spreader), selective, preemergent herbicide. Apply a preemergent without nitrogen fertilizer. Look for the active ingredient: Prodiamine (Barricade) or other preemergents labeled for crabgrass control. Apply in early spring (March) before it germinates. It germinates earlier than crabgrass so to prevent J. stiltgrass the preemergent needs to be applied a couple of weeks earlier than for crabgrass prevention. 

Rainfall or irrigation is required to dissolve the herbicide, which is then absorbed into the upper portion of the soil and forms a barrier which kills weed seedlings. Preemergent grass herbicides have residual activity that lasts for several weeks after application. High temperatures and rainfall will decrease the length of time they remain at sufficient concentration to be effective.

Tips for application:

  • If planning soil disturbance, such as aeration, do it before application.
  • Apply prior to seed germination which begins, in early spring a couple of weeks before crabgrass seeds germinate.
  • Water after application, according to label.
  • A second application may be possible, usually 6-8 weeks later (see product label).
  • Consult label for specific waiting period between application and overseeding.

A postemergent herbicide labeled to control annual grass weeds with the active ingredient Fenoxaprop can provide some control of Japanese stiltgrass. They are more effective when the stiltgrass is newly germinated.

For a glossary of herbicide terms and additional information see: control options  

Additional Resources

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