8 Best Pre-Emergent Herbicides for Lawns [Reviews]

Pesticide application/keep off sign on treated grass

Pre-emergent herbicides create a barrier to prevent weed seeds from sprouting, but which one is best for your lawn? Our list of the 8 Best Pre-Emergent Herbicides for your Lawn crowns one overall champ and spotlights other winners by type and weed.

Why should you add pre-emergent herbicides to your lawn care? Pre-emergent herbicides are your first line of defense when it comes to common lawn weeds, especially crabgrass.

How pre-emergent herbicides work: By attacking root formation, pre-emergents kill weed seeds while they germinate. They stop grassy weeds, such as crabgrass, chickweed, and foxtail from taking hold in your turf.

Pre-emergent vs. post-emergent herbicides: Pre-emergent herbicide works differently from a post-emergent herbicide (aka weed killer): Pre-emergents won’t kill existing broadleaf weeds. Instead, applying a pre-emergent in the early spring and fall will prevent pesky annual weeds from taking over your turfgrass.

Which pre-emergent is best for your lawn? That depends on the particular weed you are fighting, whether you prefer organic or chemical herbicides, type of pre-emergent (granular or liquid), and even your budget. 

Here are LawnStarter’s picks for the 8 best pre-emergent herbicides and a helpful buyers guide below to ensure you make the right choice for your yard.

Top 8 Pre-Emergent Herbicides — Reviews

1. Best Overall Pre-Emergent Herbicide: Qualipro Prodiamine 65WDG

Quali-Pro Prodiamine, Pre-Emergent Herbicide, 5 lbs, Yellow Granules

Trusted by pros across the country, Prodiamine is generally considered the most effective chemical barrier for crabgrass, henbit, spurge, and other broadleaf weeds. The Quali-Pro formula comes concentrated in a 5-pound bottle that is dissolved in water for a more thorough coating when spread.

Specifications

Active ingredient: Prodiamine
Application: Dissolved and spread as liquid
Package size: 5-pound bottle
Square footage covered per package: Varies by turf type
Price Range: Moderate

Pros

✓ Professional quality control
✓ Can be used in spring and fall
✓ Can be mixed with fertilizer (for weed-and-feed applications)

Cons

✗ Requires pump-style liquid sprayer
✗ Stains clothes

2. Best Granule Pre-Emergent Herbicide: The Andersons 0.48% Barricade

The Andersons Barricade Professional-Grade Granular Pre-Emergent Weed Control - Covers up to 5,800 sq ft (18 lb)

If you’re looking to spread a prodiamine-based herbicide but don’t want to invest in a liquid sprayer, The Andersons’ Barricade is a great alternative. This granule-based solution can be dispersed with a push spreader, shaker bottle, or scoop. Though not quite as effective as liquid distribution, this is a less expensive option for homeowners that provides excellent weed control.

Reviewers with Bermudagrass lawns particularly endorse this herbicide.

Specifications

Active ingredient: Prodiamine
Application: Spread as granule
Package size: 18- or 40-pound bag
Square footage covered per package: 5,800 or 12,800
Price Range: Inexpensive

Pros

✓ Good value for area covered
✓ Can be spread in spring and fall
✓ Easy to spread

Cons

✗ Less effective on poa annua
✗ Complicated directions in small print

3. Best Natural/Organic Pre-Emergent Herbicide: Epsoma Organic Weed Preventer

Espoma Weed Preventer Plus Lawn Food, Natural Lawn Food, Prevents Dandelions, Crabgrass, & Other Weeds, 25 lb

If you’re concerned about spreading chemicals into your lawn and local waterways, there’s a natural solution. Corn gluten provides an effective barrier against crabgrass, dandelion, and other common weeds. Epsoma’s Organic Weed Preventer does double duty: Corn gluten feeds grass as it breaks down in the soil.

Specifications

Active ingredient: Corn gluten
Application: Spread as dry granule
Package size: 25-pound bag
Square footage covered per package: 1,250
Price Range: Moderate

Pros

✓ No chemicals, just corn
✓ Feeds grass
✓ Won’t burn lawn

Cons

✗ Less effective than chemicals
✗ Can’t withstand heavy rain

4. Best Pre-Emergent Herbicide/Fertilizer Combo: Scotts Turfbuilder Halts Crabgrass Preventer

Scotts Turf Builder Halts Crabgrass Preventer with Lawn Food, 15,000 sq. ft.

Scotts Turf Builder Halts Crabgrass Preventer is a pendimethalin-based pre-emergent with added fertilizer. As one of the most trusted names in residential lawn care, Scotts products are easy to use and affordable. Aimed specifically at crabgrass prevention, this pre-emergent herbicide is applied in the spring.

Specifications

Active ingredient: Pendimethalin
Application: Spread as dry granule
Package size: 13.35- or 40-pound bag
Square footage covered per package: 5,000 or 15,000
Price Range: Inexpensive

Pros

✓ Works in rain or light snowfall
✓ Helps green up your lawn after winter

Cons

✗ Spring application only

5. Best Pre-Emergent Herbicide for Crabgrass: Pendulum 2G

Pendulum 2G Herbicide - 40 Pound Bag

Pendulum 2G is not the cheapest pre-emergent herbicide on the market, but nothing takes out crabgrass and poa annua quite as well. This granular herbicide is designed for early spring application and can be used on turf lawns, garden beds, and wooded areas.

Specifications

Active ingredient: Pendimethalin
Application: Spread as dry granule
Package size: 40-pound bag
Square footage covered per package: 8,000-16,000 based on turf type
Price Range: Expensive

Pros

✓ Large bag lasts a while
✓ Safe for a variety of landscape types
✓ Very effective on crabgrass and poa annua

Cons

✗ Expensive
✗ Hazardous to touch

6. Broadest Spectrum Pre-Emergent Herbicide: Snapshot 2.5 TG

Snapshot 2.5TG Pre-emergent Herbicide - 50 Pound Bag

Snapshot 2.5 TG is a broad-spectrum barrier designed for lawns with a wide variety of weeds. If your yard backs up to an open field or naturally growing area, this pre-emergent may be the best solution. With two active ingredients, Snapshot attempts to cover all the bases to block weeds from springing up on your lawn.

Specifications

Active ingredient: Trifluralin and Isoxaben
Application: Spread as dry granule
Package size: 50-pound bag
Square footage covered per package: 11,000
Price Range: Expensive

Pros

✓ Spring and fall use
✓ Prevents a wide variety of weeds
✓ Can be used on all landscape types

Cons

✗ Expensive

7. Best Value Pre-Emergent Herbicide: Dimension 2 EW

Dimension 2EW Dithiopyr Pre-Emergent Herbicide - 1/2 Gal

Despite the larger initial price tag, this half-gallon bottle of Dimension 2 EW will last a long time as you battle weeds in your home’s yard. Designed for commercial sod farms and other large-scale operations, this highly-concentrated formula dilutes into 85 gallons of water. When they say a little goes a long way with this pre-emergent, they aren’t kidding.

Specifications

Active ingredient: Dithiopyr
Application: Diluted and spread as liquid
Package size: Half-gallon bottle
Square footage covered per package: 100,000 or more
Price Range: Expensive

Pros

✓ Half-gallon covers 85,000 sq. ft. 
✓ Best value for longevity
✓ Can be combined with fertilizer

Cons

✗ Requires liquid sprayer
✗ High initial cost

8. Best for Fungal Growth: Scotts DiseaseEX Lawn Fungicide

Scotts DiseaseEx Lawn Fungicide - Fungus Control, Fast Acting, Treats up to 5,000 sq. ft., 10 lb.

Though not exactly a herbicide, Scotts DiseaseEX performs a similar pre-emergent function for lawns that show signs of fungal infections. This formula treats existing fungus, but also creates a barrier that stops 26 separate lawn diseases from taking root.

Specifications

Active ingredient: Azoxystrobin
Application: Spread as dry granule
Package size: 10-pound bag
Square footage per package: 5,000
Price Range: Inexpensive

Pros

✓ Prevents emergence of fungal growth
✓ Can be combined with other pre-emergents

Cons

✗ Does not prevent crabgrass or other vegetal weeds
✗ Avoid contact with skin and clothes

Buyers Guide: Pre-Emergent Herbicides

The wide array of pre-emergent herbicides on the market can be overwhelming. Choosing the right one will depend on a variety of factors, including your region, equipment, and budget. In this guide, We’ll walk you through the points to consider when choosing a pre-emergent.

Price

The cost of a pre-emergent herbicide, or any lawn care product, is more complicated than the price on the tag. You have to consider the amount of coverage you’ll get out of each product. A $100 bottle of herbicide seems more expensive than a $30 bag at first glance, but that bottle will cover more area and last longer. Paying a higher price upfront can save you money in the long run.

Equipment

Some pre-emergent herbicides are spread in liquid form, and you’ll need a pump-style liquid sprayer to get the even, precise coating required. Quality sprayers can cost over $100, and this should be taken into consideration when choosing your pre-emergent herbicide. Check out our guide to the 9 Best Backpack Pump Sprayers to learn more.

Granule herbicides can be spread more easily, with less expensive equipment. For a more in-depth look at the spreading tools you’ll need, check out the 8 Best Fertilizer Spreaders.

Region

The yearly window for putting down pre-emergent herbicide will vary from region to region. Depending on the climate in your area, you may look into differing options. 

For example, granular herbicides have to be watered into the grass, but most of these can’t withstand heavy rainfall. If your region has a lot of precipitation, a liquid pre-emergent will seep into the soil faster and stay longer. 

Some granule pre-emergents, like the Scotts Turf Builder crabgrass deterrent, are designed to work in the rain or light snowfall.

Check out the video below to learn more about choosing and applying a pre-emergent herbicide.

FAQ About Pre-Emergent Herbicides

1. What is pre-emergent herbicide?

Pre-emergent herbicides are any chemical or substance that prevents germinating seeds from sprouting. Pre-emergents are applied as a preventative measure to keep broadleaf weeds from growing in lawns. For this reason, they are often referred to as barriers.

2. Which pre-emergent herbicide works best?

Prodiamine-based herbicides are generally considered the most effective against common weeds. We recommend the Quali-Pro prodiamine concentrate.

3. When should I apply pre-emergent herbicide?

Whether you’re spreading your pre-emergent herbicide in the spring or fall, you need to do this when weeds are germinating. This generally means you should spread your herbicide when the soil temperature reaches 50-65 degrees.

4. Is there a natural alternative to pre-emergent herbicides?

Yes! Corn gluten products, such as Epsoma Organic Weed Preventer, act as both a natural weed killer and fertilizer. Though slightly less effective as a weed deterrent than its chemical counterparts, corn gluten is non-toxic and safe for children and pets to touch.

5. What’s the difference between pre-emergents and post-emergents?

With weeds, your first defense is a pre-emergent herbicide to block weeds at seed level. Once you see weeds in your yard, apply a post-emergent herbicide or weed killer to get rid of dandelions, crabgrass, and other lawn interlopers. Together, pre-emergents and post-emergents are like a one-two punch to knock out weeds in your yard.  

When to Call a Lawn Care Pro

Still worried about choosing the right pre-emergent herbicide for your yard? Don’t have the time to spread your own herbicides? LawnStarter pros are just a call or click away to handle weed control and all your other lawn care needs

Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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Stephen Kime

Stephen Kime

Stephen Kime is a freelance writer and professional actor based in Washington, D.C. When he isn't in rehearsal, Stephen enjoys running, hiking, and experimenting with new cocktail recipes.