Many homeowners have discovered a pesky, vining weed invading their yards and garden beds.
With small, scalloped leaves that look very similar to geranium leaves, this vining weed is Glechoma hederacea, commonly referred to as creeping Charlie, creeping Jenny, or ground ivy.
Although gardeners may hope to never become familiar with creeping Charlie on their own property, this weed pest spreads easily and vigorously. If a neighbor has creeping Charlie in their yard, odds are that it will eventually spread to your yard too. Unfortunately, it is not an easy task to kill creeping Charlie.
Creeping Charlie is a perennial weed that grows low to the ground. A member of the mint family, creeping Charlie will produce a minty scent when its leaves are crushed and it sends out tiny, but rather pretty blue-violet flowers in the spring.
Creeping Charlie will reproduce from its seeds, but it spreads most readily by setting down roots all along its long stems. Its ability to spread easily is a trait that makes it so difficult to kill creeping Charlie.
If any bits of the vine remain after attempting to kill the plant, the surviving bits will happily continue to grow and spread.
Creeping Charlie is resistant to a number of chemical herbicides, making it difficult to control this annoying weed. Its growing habits can also make it a daunting task to kill creeping Charlie, but don’t despair.
With diligence you can rid your lawn of creeping Charlie. This weed is persistent, so your eradication efforts must also be persistent.
If creeping Charlie is encroaching on your yard from a neighbor’s lawn and it isn’t yet widespread, you can control creeping Charlie just by consistently pulling up and discarding all parts of the plant.
Be careful to not toss any stems or roots into your lawn. They will take root and spread further. Also be careful to not mow over the creeping Charlie unless your mower has a bagging attachment that captures all of the clippings.
A non-bagging mower will chop Charlie into tiny bits and throw them back out into your lawn where each tiny bit has a chance to set roots, grow and eventually overtake your lawn and gardens.
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Small, isolated patches of creeping Charlie can be hand pulled or removed with a hoe. Keep pulling out or hoeing Charlie as it reappears, and over time you can eliminate this pesky weed.
In many cases, however, creeping Charlie is so widespread that hand pulling or hoeing is out of the question. There are still options available that will kill creeping Charlie.
Plants need sunlight to survive and creeping Charlie is no exception. It does prefer shady areas, but creeping Charlie is opportunistic and will grow in full sun if given a chance to establish itself. But if the sunlight is blocked completely, even creeping Charlie will succumb.
If there is a patch of creeping Charlie that you would like to eliminate, cover the area with heavy cardboard or several layers of cardboard.
A bit of soil, some stones or a few boards can be used as weights to keep the newspaper or cardboard tight to the ground so no sunlight can enter beneath it. After at least one week, peek under the newspaper or cardboard. If the creeping Charlie looks like it still has some life left to it, cover it again for another week.
Once the creeping Charlie is dead, remove the dead vines and foliage with a rake. Once the area has been cleared of creeping Charlie it can be reseeded so it will once again be a beautiful lawn.
If you are not opposed to using chemicals on your lawn, there are herbicides that will kill creeping Charlie. Look for a broadleaf herbicide that contains the chemical triclopyr or dicamba.
Triclopyr is found in Ortho Weed-B-Gon Chickweed, Clover and Oxalis Killer for Lawns or Weed-B-Gon Max, along with a few other products. Dicamba is found in Trimec and Three Way Lawn Weed Killer and others. If one of these chemicals doesn’t do the job on the creeping Charlie in your lawn, try the other.
Research has shown that a creeping Charlie population in one area may be more susceptible to a particular herbicide than it is in another area.
Proper timing is the key if you want to kill creeping Charlie with herbicides. Creeping Charlie is most susceptible to herbicides when it is flowering and when it is preparing to go dormant in the fall. Make an attack on your creeping Charlie in the fall, right around the time the first frost is expected, or right after the first frost.
If treated at this time, the plant will store the herbicide, making it even more effective. Then in the spring while the creeping Charlie is flowering, hit it again with herbicide. Once the plants are dead, you can rake the dead plants from the area, discard them carefully, and reseed.
If creeping Charlie has invaded a vegetable or herb garden, it would be best to use the newspaper or cardboard method to smother the weeds. Triclopyr and dicamba should not be used around food crops.
It has often been suggested that boron can be used to kill creeping Charlie. Boron, or borax, is a naturally occurring crystalline mineral salt that was formed millions of years ago in the beds of ancient lakes.
However, the disadvantages of using boron may outweigh the advantages. Sure, boron is inexpensive and easy to find. Many supermarkets sell boron; it’s known as Twenty Mule Team Borax and is sold in the detergent aisle. Years ago, borax was commonly used as an herbicide but these days it is mainly used as a cleaning product.
The problem with borax is that it is too persistent. It doesn’t break down, ever. If too much is used, borax will kill not only the creeping Charlie, but also the grass and other plants in the area. Since borax does not degrade, if too much is used it will poison the earth and nothing will grow in that spot for many, many years. It’s not worth the risk, in my opinion.
Creeping Charlie is not native to North America. Like many other invasive plants, creeping Charlie was intentionally introduced to this country. Originally a native plant in Europe, creeping Charlie was brought here with good intentions in the hope it would be a useful ground cover.
We know now how well that worked out! But if your efforts to kill creeping Charlie and keep it out of your lawn for good are not successful, you could always look at the problem from another angle and consider it to be a ground cover.