How to get rid of nettles and banish the stinging plants from your garden forever

Not sure how to get rid of nettles? Our expert guide has all the answers...

A close-up of nettles in a garden
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There usually comes a point in every gardener's life when they are forced to learn how to get rid of nettles – and that's in spite of the fact that they're on many an expert's list of the weeds to leave in a garden.

Why? Well, while nettles are a great addition to any wildlife garden (pollinators love them!), they thrive and spread quickly, which means they have an unfortunate habit of muscling other plants out of your flower beds and vegetable gardens.

'The root system [of nettles] is usually quite shallow, with most roots found in the top 20cm of soil, and plants can regenerate from sections of rhizome or stolon, they may be spread unintentionally by gardeners chopping them up when digging,' explain the experts at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).

How to get rid of nettles

If you're keen to avoid making any weeding mistakes when you set to work removing nettles from your garden, you'll be pleased to learn that these stinging plants are actually quite easy to stop in their tracks.

'If you really do need to get rid of nettles, the best action is to put on some good gardening gloves, cover up your arms, and pull them out,' says Morris Hankinson, director of Hopes Grove Nurseries, who adds that it is important you take care to remove the roots.

Morris Hankinson of Hopes Grove Nurseries
Morris Hankinson

Morris Hankinson is the founder and managing director of Hopes Grove Nurseries Ltd, the UK’s only specialist grower-retailer of hedging plants. He established the thriving business in 1992, shortly after graduating with a Commercial Horticulture Degree from Writtle College, Essex.

Morris continues to explain that using a pair of sharp secateurs to cut back the unwanted nettle stems can be helpful, as it will help you avoid too many stings.

Then, depending on how big your patch is, you can either 'dig it up with a spade or, for smaller areas, a hand fork will do.'

What you will need

Before you set to work on ticking off all the steps in our How To Get Rid Of Nettles 101 guide, you'll want to gather the following tools to hand:

What to do

If you want to get rid of nettles like a pro, there are a few options available to you.

As mentioned already, you can use a hand trowel or spade (depending on the size of the nettle patch) to lift and remove as much of the root system of common stinging nettles as possible.

A rare Swallowtail Butterfly, Papilio machaon, resting on a stinging nettle leaf in springtime

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Alternatively, some people prefer to deadhead nettles, although this can be quite a fiddly task to do well. All you have to do is 'snip off the spent flowers of common stinging nettles to prevent them setting seed', advises the RHS.

If you're keen to try the No-Dig Gardening approach, you can hoe off nettle seedlings on a dry, warm day. Or, for 'less soil disturbance, simply mow over the nettles or cut back frequently,' advises Morris.

'This will weaken the plants and they will eventually give up in a year or two.'

FAQs

Are nettles hard to get rid of?

Nettles are surprisingly easy to get rid of, although it's worth considering if you actually need to before you set to work.

'Nettles are a garden plant that gets a bad reputation because they sting, but in fact nettles are very useful to have in the garden,' says Morris.

'As long as they aren’t taking over or causing problems for cultivated plants, nettles can be grown for pollinators, used as an edible such as tea, pesto or soup and even chopped up and made into a nettle feed for other plants.'

To that end, it might be worth controlling the spread and designating one end of your raised garden bed to a crop of nettles.

How do you permanently get rid of stinging nettles?

If your aim is to banish stinging nettles from your garden forever, be sure to cut them down before they start to flower (or set to work deadheading if you miss this cut-off point!) and dig out the plants, including their roots.

Be sure to regularly hoe (or even mow) the area to disperse any seedlings, too.

Now that you know how to get rid of nettles, you can set to work ridding your garden of these unwanted weeds – or valuable wildflowers, depending on your point of view.

Just be sure to keep a dock leaf or two handy for any stings...

Kayleigh Dray
Acting Content Editor

Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.