An annual of basic soils, including light soils over chalk and calcareous boulder-clay, found on the headlands and margins of arable fields (particularly cornfields), and less commonly on tracks, waste ground and in gardens. It is also found on sandy soils, and has been recorded on open peaty ground (Co. Cork). Lowland.
Although this species is often only present in small and scattered populations, its overall distribution shows only limited losses. Simpson (1982) suggests that some Kickxia seeds germinate in late summer and may therefore escape herbicides.
As an archaeophyte K. elatine has a European Southern-temperate distribution; it is widely naturalised outside this range.