Shepherd’s Purse Organic Weed Control

Sheperds purse weed 1
Shepherd's purse
Shepherd’s purse

Shepherd’s Purse is a cool-weather annual that is commonly found in lawns, gardens, orchards, vineyards, and along roadsides. It is also called lady’s purse and pepper plant.

Shepherd’s purse is a member of the Brassicaceae or mustard family and so will grow easily where mustard grows.

The young leaves of shepherd’s purse, like mustard, can be served in salads or cooked as greens.

Description and Life Cycle of Shepherd’s Purse:

  • Seeds germinate in cool weather; winter in cool, but not cold, winter regions.
  • Seedling leaves are small, pale green with tiny glossy dots.
  • Plant grows 2 to 20 inches tall with slender, erect stem sprouting from basal rosette.
  • True leaves are silvery grayish green; as leaves mature, they have indented margins.
  • Lower leaves grow on stalks; upper leaves clasp to the stem.
  • Small yellow or white flowers each with four petals alternate along the upper end of the stem.
  • Seedpods are triangular and attached to the main stem; seeds are very small, orange-brown or reddish.
  • Reproduces by seed.
  • Leaves are edible; plant is a member of the mustard family.

Root System: Shepherd’s purse has a long tapering tap root.

Organic Control:

  • Pull, hoe, or dig out plant when young; remove the taproot.
  • Do not let flowers or seed form or drop.
  • Kill seeds by solarizing the soil

Range: Shepherd’s purse is common throughout North America.

Scientific name: Capsella bursa-pastoris

Four Quick Ways to Control Weeds:

  1. Weed early. Control weeds in the first month after they germinate.
  2. Weed often. Hand weed every two weeks through the season.
  3. Weed by hand when the soil is wet (best to get roots).
  4. Use a hoe if the soil is dry. Decapitate weeds before they flower and drop seed.


Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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