There is growing interest in whether invasive species may be controlled by utilizing management strategies that target vulnerable life stages. We manipulated the timing of fire and measured its effects on sericea lespedeza germination and seedling survival. Although fire strongly decreased germination in the laboratory, fire increased germination under field conditions. Additionally, fire caused small decreases in seedling survival in the field. Therefore, controlled burns are likely to encourage spread of sericea lespedeza and are unlikely to effectively control this invasive species. Although targeting vulnerable life stages is a promising strategy for invasive species control, our results illustrate that system-specific studies may be needed to unravel potentially complex interactions between biotic and abiotic factors before effective control strategies can be devised.