- How To Kill Creeping Charlie Plant
- Identifying Creeping Charlie Weed
- How to Kill Creeping Charlie Plant
- How To Control And Kill Creeping Charlie In Your Lawn
- Control of Ground Ivy in the Lawn
- Ground Ivy Control for Home Lawns (E0006TURF)
- What is Creeping Charlie?
- Identifying Creeping Charlie
- Other Uses of Creeping Charlie
- Chasing Creeping Charlie
- As with many of the most detested weeds, settlers brought creeping Charlie here on purpose, with nothing but the best of intentions.
- Creeping Charlie has every trait you wish a weed didn’t have.
- Fall is reportedly the best time to apply herbicide to creeping Charlie.
- The “minor detail” is that there is a fine line between enough boron to control creeping Charlie and enough boron to kill every other plant around it as well.
- Creeping Charlie Arsenal Control Options
- Some ‘organic’ weed-control remedies aren’t as safe as they sound
- How To: Get Rid of Creeping Charlie
- METHOD #1: Remove Creeping Charlie by Hand
- METHOD #2: Remove Creeping Charlie by Smothering
- METHOD #3: Remove Creeping Charlie with Herbicide
- Borax Weed Killer for Creeping Charlie
- Natural Creeping Charlie Borax Weed Killer Formula
- Creeping Charlie
- Additional Images
- The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc.
How To Kill Creeping Charlie Plant
Successfully killing creeping charlie is the dream of most homeowners who like a nice lawn. The creeping charlie plant is rivaled only by dandelions in terms of difficulty to get rid of and control. While getting rid of the creeping charlie weed is difficult, if you know a few tips and tricks about how to get rid of creeping charlie, you can beat this annoying lawn invader.
Identifying Creeping Charlie Weed
Creeping charlie (Glechoma hederacea) is often called ground ivy due to its appearance and growth habits. Creeping charlie weed is a green vine whose leaves are round with scalloped edges. Creeping charlie has a small purple flower.
Creeping charlie plant is most easily identified by its growth habit. It is a vine that grows close to the ground and will form a mat-like ground cover if allowed to. The vines have nodes at each of the places where leaves grow and these nodes will form roots if they come in contact with the soil. This is part of the reason that creeping charlie weed is so frustrating, as you cannot simply pull it up. Every rooted node can turn into a new plant if left behind.
How to Kill Creeping Charlie Plant
The first thing to understand when working to get rid of creeping charlie plant is that it, like most lawn weeds, thrive best in an unhealthy lawn. Be sure to use proper mowing, watering and fertilizing practices when caring for your lawn.
While creeping charlie weed is considered a broadleaf weed, it is not affected by all broadleaf spectrum herbicides. The only weed killers that are successful at killing creeping charlie are weed killers that contain dicamba. Even dicamba is only successful if applied several times at the right time.
In order to kill creeping charlie, you must apply dicamba based herbicide to your lawn in early fall when creeping charlie plant is growing most actively, which will leave it weakened enough so that it will have a difficult time surviving the winter. You can also apply in the late spring to early summer, but late spring to early summer applications will stall rather than eradicate creeping charlie in your lawn.
Also, only apply dicamba herbicide 3 days after mowing and do not mow for 3 days after applying it. This will allow the creeping charlie to grow more leaves, which will cause it to take in more herbicide and then will allow time for the herbicide to work through the plant’s system.
You can get rid of creeping charlie in flower beds by either hand pulling (after rain or watering works best) or with smothering techniques, either using several layers of newspaper or a thick application of mulch, or even both together. After taking steps to control creeping charlie in your flower beds, keep a close eye out for it to reappear. Immediately remove any small creeping charlie plants that appear.
While many sources recommend Borax to kill creeping charlie, understand that this method can also easily kill your other plants as well. Not only that but using Borax to get rid of creeping charlie does not often work. It is best to avoid using Borax for killing creeping charlie.
How To Control And Kill Creeping Charlie In Your Lawn
Last Updated: April 25, 2015 | by Mike McGroarty
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.
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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.
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Control of Ground Ivy in the Lawn
A common weed in many lawns is ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea). Ground ivy is a low-growing, creeping, invasive perennial. It spreads by seed and the vining stems which root at their nodes. The leaves of ground ivy are round or kidney-shaped with scalloped margins. Stems are four-sided. Flowers are small, bluish-purple, and funnel-shaped. Ground ivy thrives in damp, shady areas, but also grows well in sunny locations. A member of the mint family, ground ivy produces a minty odor when cut or crushed. Ground ivy is also known as “creeping charlie.”
Control of ground ivy in lawns is difficult. The key to control is the use of the proper broadleaf herbicide. The most effective broadleaf herbicide products are those that contain dicamba. Trimec and Ortho’s Weed-B-Gon Weed Killer for Lawns are two widely sold products that contain dicamba. Fall (mid-September through early November) is generally the best time to control ground ivy. Two applications are usually necessary. The second application should be 14 days after the first. As always, when using pesticides, read and follow label directions carefully.
Ground ivy infested areas that contain very little grass should be completely destroyed and the turfgrass reestablished by seeding or sodding. The small amount of grass is simply not worth saving. Ground ivy infested areas can be destroyed by using the non-selective herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) or by tilling and removing the plant debris. When seeding shady areas, be sure to select seed mixes that contain shade-tolerant grass species.
Once the ground ivy has been effectively controlled and a healthy lawn reestablished, the home gardener needs to use good mowing, fertilization, watering, and cultivation practices to maintain a dense, healthy, competitive stand of turfgrass that should help discourage future invasions of this aggressive weed.
Borax and Ground Ivy
In the early 1990s, research at Iowa State University found that borax (sodium tetraborate) can be used to selectively control ground ivy in turfgrass. Borax contains the element boron. All plants require small amounts of boron for growth. However, boron becomes toxic when large quantities are present in the soil. Sensitivity to boron varies greatly between plant species. Borax can be used to control ground ivy in turfgrass because the ground ivy is more sensitive to boron than the cool-season turfgrasses.
To selectively control ground ivy in turfgrass, dissolve 10 ounces of borax in 2 to 3 gallons of water and apply the solution uniformly to 1,000 square feet. Selectivity is achieved by applying a specific amount of borax to a given area. Problems may occur if the borax solution is misapplied. For example, if the solution containing 10 ounces of borax is applied to only 250 square feet, both the ground ivy and the turfgrass may be destroyed. For small areas, dissolve 5 teaspoons of borax in 1 quart of water and apply the solution uniformly to 25 square feet.
This article originally appeared in the 10/10/2003 issue.
Ground Ivy Control for Home Lawns (E0006TURF)
May 28, 2015 – Author: Ronald Calhoun
Mention ground ivy or creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea) to lawn care professionals or homeowners, and you’ll most likely make them wince, scream or both. Ground ivy is a common invader of lawns. In some parts of southeastern Michigan, it is regarded as the most common and most difficult-to-control weed problem in home lawns. Ground ivy is an aggressive, low-growing perennial that favors shaded, moist areas. A member of the mint family, it has square stems and is mildly aromatic, particularly after mowing. If you roll the stem between your fingers, you will feel the ridges of the stem and can get a sense of the square stem phenomenon. This pesky weed has very distinctive coin-shaped leaves with round-toothed edges. This plant is competitive in lawn situations because it creeps along the soil surface and can establish roots at each node (where the leaf attaches to the stem). This feature allows it stick to the ground surface like Velcro and makes hand weeding frustrating, if not impossible. When the soil conditions are just right, however, it is possible to pull up a long string of plants, which brings a smile to the face of most gardeners.
Integrated Management Strategies
As with many turfgrass problems, the long-term approach to managing ground ivy begins with a critical evaluation of the growing conditions for the desirable turf. In most cases, the conditions favorable for ground ivy are not favorable for robust turf growth. Combinations of shade, wet soils and poor fertility stack things against the turf and in favor of the ground ivy. Correcting these conditions will allow the turf to compete better with the ground ivy. In addition, make sure your mowing height is at least 2.5 inches and preferably 3 inches or above – this will give the turf a competitive edge.
The aboveground runners (stolons) allow ground ivy to quickly fill in voids in the turf.
Removal: Spring and Fall
Hand weeding is certainly an option for removing ground ivy, but it is usually a tedious task because of the many roots along the stem. Most often the will of the ground ivy to invade outlasts the will of the gardener to weed. Chemical strategies are also effective if the timing of application is correct. In general, fall is the best time to apply postemergence herbicides for broadleaf weed control. Fall is, in fact, an excellent time to treat ground ivy. However, in a compelling study, Dr. Frank Rossi examined several herbicide products and timings and identified another effective time for ground ivy control. Herbicide treatments were effective not only in the fall but also in the spring when the ground ivy was in flower. Ground ivy has small, bluish purple, funnel-shaped flowers that usually appear in May. Using 2,4-D alone provided adequate control when applied at each of these timings. Combination products of 2,4-D, dicamba and MCPP/MCPA provided better control than 2,4-D alone.
All the products in these studies provided less effective control when applied during the summer. Plants are often more difficult to control in the summer because of slow uptake and metabolism associated with high temperatures. Late spring and summer control options do exist, but the products are currently limited to professional lawn services. Studies at MSU have shown that certain combinations of broadleaf herbicides with quinclorac (Drive) are effective against ground ivy during the summer. Quinclorac is primarily a postemergence crabgrass herbicide that also has good activity on clover and knotweed. Results from the past several years indicate that the broadleaf weed control (ground ivy, speedwell and violets) of several broadleaf herbicides can be dramatically increased by tank mixing them with quinclorac. Products containing 2,4-D have benefited the most from this combination. These combinations deserve consideration for mid-to late summer weed control applications.
Products containing triclopyr (Confront, Chaser, Battleship, Momentum, Weed-B-Gon purple label) have proven to be highly effective in spring and fall and more effective than 2,4-D-based products during the difficult summer period. Triclopyr is available to homeowners and has activity on weeds that are traditionally labeled hard-to-control (i.e. 2,4-D didn’t work). For this reason, triclopyr is probably the first alternative to try when a 2,4-D mixture has failed to provide acceptable control. Because of their complementary activity, combinations of triclopyr + 2,4-D can be very effective.
Researchers at Iowa State University reported control of ground ivy using 20-Mule Team Borax. That’s right – the laundry product on the shelf at your favorite market that has been around since the frontier days. Dr. Rossi also used this treatment in the Wisconsin study. The rates were 20 or 30 ounces mixed in 1 gallon of water. ISU researchers concluded that the ground ivy was sensitive to the boron in the Borax and was injured to the point of dysfunction. The treatment was not effective in Dr. Rossi’s trial, and he concluded that Wisconsin soil conditions likely tied up the boron before it had any effect on the ground ivy. This treatment is untested in Michigan. If you try it, please let us know the results.
Ground ivy control from herbicide applications will be temporary, at best, unless the growing conditions that initially encouraged the infestation are improved. Combining good maintenance practices with judicious herbicide use is the best strategy to combat ground ivy in the lawn. Always read, understand and follow the directions on the herbicide label.
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Although it has many beneficial uses, creeping charlie or ground ivy is most commonly viewed as a weed. Perhaps you’ve recently found yourself wondering how to kill or control it. Or perhaps your question is simply how to get rid of creeping charlie without using chemicals?
If this plant has taken over your yard or garden, you need to know what to do next. Since there are many different species that can be mistaken for creeping charlie, you’ll definitely want to make sure that you know what you’re dealing with before proceeding any further.
I’ve asked similar questions myself when faced with this pest before. If you’re dealing with a creeping charlie infestation, the tips that follow will help you eradicate this pesky purple flowered weed from your yard.
What is Creeping Charlie?
Creeping charlie (Glechoma hederacea) is also known as ground ivy, gill-over-ground, or cat’s foot, among other common names. It is a member of the mint family that might occasionally be seen as a garden perennial, particularly in its variegated form. After all, ground ivy is a fairly hardy plant and it grows well in areas where ordinary lawn grasses wouldn’t normally work.
This species has also been used medicinally in the past, which could be one of the main reasons that it was exported from its home in Europe to other countries. Creeping charlie is now seen in a lot of places throughout the world.
However, most people now consider this purple flowered plant to be a nuisance that’s determined to gobble up their lawn. Creeping charlie can be very hard to destroy since it spreads by runners as well as by seed. Once you pull it up, any pieces that are left behind will make new plants. As a result, it has been labeled an invasive weed in most of the United States.
Identifying Creeping Charlie
Purple flower of the Creeping Charlie weed
Creeping charlie has fuzzy, fan shaped leaves with scalloped edges. Clusters of small, orchid-like blue or purple flowers grow on its square stems. However, the plant’s height can vary a great deal based on its growing conditions. Ground ivy can get up to 1.6 feet tall in ideal circumstances but it can just as easily be under 2 inches in height. In fact, it’s usually viewed as a groundcover, which was one of its original purposes in being brought to America.
Creeping charlie has a decided preference for damp, wooded environments but doesn’t shy away from full sunlight either. It’s often seen on ailing lawns as yet another problem that gardeners need to fix before it gets out of hand. This plant likes nutrient-rich, moist soils in boron deficient areas. Creeping charlie also has a pronounced aroma.
Since one of its common appellations is ‘creeping jenny’, Glechoma hederacea may be mistaken for the plant that more commonly goes by that name (Lysimachia nummularia). The difference between them is pretty obvious since Lysimachia nummularia typically has round leaves and yellow flowers.
Creeping charlie can also be mistaken for common mallow (Malva neglecta). However, common mallow doesn’t spread by runners and it hasn’t got the characteristically strong spicy scent that creeping charlie does.
There are other plants that look like ground ivy. One of these is dichondra, a Texas native with smooth leaves. It too can be used as a lawn substitute and have a weedy nature. Creeping charlie may likewise mistaken for henbit (Lamium amplexicaule), which is an annual that grows during the winter.
Taking immediate action is the best way to keep this purple flowered weed from getting out of hand. This video provides a brief look at how to get rid of creeping charlie. However, if you’re secretly looking up stuff online rather than actually working and want to keep it on the quiet side, feel free to read on for some extra tips on getting rid of ground ivy.
What You’ll Need
- 20 Mule Team Borax
- Ortho Weed B Gon Herbicide or Weed-Free Zone
- Fine Mist Spray Bottle
- Pump Sprayer
Some commercial broadleaf herbicides can be used to treat ground ivy. Products that contain dicamba are generally said to work fairly well if they’re used correctly. However, the effectiveness of other products tends to vary. So make sure that the product you plan on using can successfully be used to kill creeping charlie before you proceed any further.
You’ll want to read the instructions very carefully before you start applying whatever product you’ve chosen. While most of these products are appropriate for use on your lawn, they will certainly kill any tender vegetable or flower garden plants that they encounter. You’ll definitely need to be careful when spraying to avoid getting the herbicide either on yourself or on other garden plants. (Some recommended sprayers can be found here.)
Another thing to be aware of is that you can’t the same product for several years running or it might cease to work. Gardeners with really bad creeping charlie problems might even decide to spray their entire lawn with broad spectrum herbicides and start over from scratch. However, this drastic measure is only recommended by professionals if the lawn in question is more than half covered in this noxious weed.
Time Herbicide Use Correctly
Most herbicides should be used when the weather is around 70ºF (21ºC). You should apply your chosen product just after you’ve mowed the grass. You may want to avoid doing further yard work for a few days after that to give the stuff a chance to sink in. It’s then customary to wait about two weeks before applying the herbicide again. A final treatment about a month later might even be necessary.
It’s best to apply herbicide in the fall. During this time, the ground ivy roots are storing the nutrients that they’ll need to survive the winter so they absorb chemicals more effectively at such times than they otherwise would. This helps weaken and kill creeping charlie plants over the winter so they don’t return. Although ground ivy can be treated in the early spring and summer when it’s in bloom, additional treatments must be applied in order for the process to be successful. Even so, applying herbicides may only keep it at bay rather than kill it entirely.
Hand weeding can be an effective way to get rid of creeping charlie without chemicals. However, this process will only work if the plant hasn’t established a stronghold in your yard. You must keep pulling the ground ivy out for some time afterwards to make sure that you’ve gotten rid of all of it and that it’s gone for good. It’s also a good idea to take the added precaution of wearing gloves while doing so because some people are severely allergic to ground ivy. Do keep in mind that it’s easiest to weed just after a rainstorm or after your garden has been watered.
You can also make life less pleasant for old charlie by reducing the amount of shade in your yard and regularly mowing the grass to the recommended height. A lush lawn will provide you with some protection from this weed. Just make sure that you select a lawn grass that’s suitable for your area or you may have difficulty getting it to grow. You’ll also want to avoid over watering your grass, because this can encourage creeping charlie to pay you a visit. (About an inch is enough for most varieties.)
Another method of keeping ground ivy from taking over is to improve your yard’s soil quality and overall drainage. Keeping your garden neat and well-pruned is important for many reasons, primarily that it encourages airflow and will subsequently help reduce problems such as creeping charlie. Of course, mulching your flowerbeds can additionally help keep ground ivy out. It might even be a good idea to use shade plants as a filler in wooded or moist areas instead of attempting to have a lawn there. Growing desirable plants that flourish in damp, shady environments instead will leave little space for problematic weeds.
Before attempting to use borax as a weed killer, you should be aware that this method is generally discouraged by college agricultural departments. However, this treatment does appear on a variety of websites as an effective way to get rid of creeping charlie.
The process is to first dissolve 10 ounces of borax in 4 ounces of warm water. Then you should add 2.5 gallons of water to it and blend that together. Finally, the mixture should be sprayed on the affected area. You’ll need to apply the mixture during periods of dry weather in order to obtain the best results. Getting the amounts in this formula right is very important because otherwise the process could destroy your yard. You could easily end up with toxic soil and even more problems if you’re not careful.
You should also keep in mind that boron is hazardous to other plants and animals when it’s encountered in large quantities. It is certainly not good for other plants. Too much of it can cause them to grow slowly or turn yellow. Using borax may additionally make it hard for the lawn to regrow where the treatment was applied. It could even be bad for the environment over time. However, more research is needed before that theory can be accepted as a fact.
Using a large amount of nitrogen on your lawn can help eradicate this weed. Chelated iron is another effective treatment because it burns creeping charlie. The downside is that it must be applied over the entire lawn, unless you want random dark green patches all over your grass. Applying chelated iron can also be an expensive treatment method.
Other Uses of Creeping Charlie
The ancient Saxons once used creeping charlie as part of their beer brewing process. It was generally used to clarify the beverage and give it some flavor. This plant has also been used as substitute for rennet in the cheese making process. Various species of wild bees still feed upon ground ivy, making it useful in that regard.
In Traditional Medicine
The plant can be used to concoct a vitamin-rich tea that’s no doubt helpful for a variety of ailments. Creeping charlie was once used to treat minor problems such eye inflammations, common colds, headaches, and ringing ears. Another historical function of this plant was to clean the internal parts of the body. Ground ivy was used in this manner to cure kidney problems, urinary tract infections, and indigestion. Lung and respiratory problems, such as bronchitis, have also been treated with creeping charlie in the past. However, you should never use any plant for medicinal purposes without first consulting an accredited physician or herbalist.
As an Edible Green
This easy-to-grow plant was traditionally eaten cooked and in salads, which is no doubt because it’s has a pleasantly spicy flavor. It’s additionally said to be full of antioxidants and vitamin C.
Despite the fact that creeping charlie has been consumed for centuries, there still remains some scientific concern over its edibility. After all, the plant does contain the same harmful chemicals that are found in pennyroyal, which can damage the liver and induce abortions. However, these compounds are present in creeping charlie in much smaller amounts. No matter what ground ivy’s debatable effects are on human beings, the plant is clearly poisonous to cows and horses. It can even make house pets sick if they eat enough of it.
Understanding how to kill weeds, creeping charlie in particular, is a topic that affects anyone who takes pride in their yard’s appearance. After all, there is nothing worse than a weed that won’t go away no matter what you do. I hope that this tutorial on killing ground ivy has helped you tackle that problem with aplomb and move on to the next item on your to-do list. Of course, please feel free to add your own comments in the section provided below and don’t forget to share the article with your friends if you’ve enjoyed it.
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Chasing Creeping Charlie
Chasing Creeping Charlie
Q. I unknowingly made a huge mistake by mowing over a patch of creeping Charlie last fall and it has now taken over almost ALL of our backyard. We have small children so we wanted to solarize the entire yard with clear plastic sheeting instead of spraying poison. Is it too late for that this year? If it is too late, when should we try? Are there any other methods that are “safe”? We were hoping to have a nice lawn by next Spring but now I think that might be impossible.
—-Holly in Silver Spring, Maryland
Q. My lawn is two-thirds covered with Creeping Charlie. My lawn guy recommended applying weed killer this Fall, but I’m balking as I hate chemicals—and he says my lawn would be all muddy in the Spring. So—If I use the 20 Mule Team Borax home-made herbicide solution as described in your A to Z article on creeping Charlie, when would be the best time to apply it? Or would you just leave Charlie alone to finish killing the lawn and be happy ever after? (Not counting my having to periodically weed the flower beds.)
—Susana in Minneapolis
A. Well first, don’t beat yourself up too much about the mowing, Holly. You may have spread some seed around, but this weed (also known as ‘ground ivy, ‘lawn ivy’ and ‘Gill Over the Ground’) mostly spreads via underground rhizomes, often overtaking lawns that are cut too short or that have to tolerate a lot of shade.
Now, soil solarization? Yes, it should work well in Holly’s near-to-DC region, but like her Nationals (and the Dodgers, and the Phillies, and the Mets, and…), you’ll definitely have to ‘wait until next year’.
As we explain in detail in a (very popular!) previous question of the week, solarizing can destroy the absolute worst weed seeds, disease spores and invasive rhizomes lurking in soil, but it has to be done precisely and correctly. The area must be tilled up—or at the very least, scalped down to bare soil (we want to see dirt blowing out the back of the mower!). Then it has to be leveled, absolutely saturated with water and covered tightly with clear plastic (1 or 2 mil thick is ideal) for a good long time.
Here in the mid-Atlantic, it takes an entire summer of sun to achieve the desired result of cooking every bad thing in the soil—grubs, disease spores, weed seeds and the invasive rhizomes specifically in question here —to absolute death; making this a technique much better suited to reviving a single bed than an entire yard. AND effective solarization requires full sun or close to it. If the area is shady, solarization is not a viable option. (And ‘creeping Charlie’ is a weed of shady places. It also does well in the sun, but its specialty is to thrive in the kind of shade that makes lawn grass struggle.)
Borax: Yes, researchers did find a very specific concentration of the element Boron—in the form of the classic laundry additive 20 Mule Team Borax—to be more effective on creeping Charlie than chemical herbicides. You’ll find the exact recipe in our previous article on creeping Charlie.
But that cure—made famous by Iowa State Turfgrass Professor Dr. Nick Christians (who also discovered the pre-emergent properties of corn gluten meal)—was popularized many years ago, before the new Iron-based broadleaf herbicides hit the market. And from what we hear from listeners, iron might be a better bet here. (Although if the area is big enough, you could try a sample of each non-toxic herbicide and see which one works best.)
Now: herbicides are going to work best on most weeds when the weather is hot and dry, but that’s not the case here. Most sources specify that creeping Charlie is much more vulnerable to this kind of attack right now—in the fall, when the plant is storing energy—than in the summer. So if you are going to go after Charlie with Iron or the Mule Team, don’t delay. Do a first run ASAP, and then repeat it a few weeks later.
And be warned that if the ‘lawns’ in question are almost all creeping Charlie, it will turn out just like the lawn guy said—the area will be all muddy in the Spring because you killed the only viable plant out there.
So first, let us make the pitch for leaving the bad thing alone; because while creeping Charlie is invasive, it’s also a very useful ground cover. That’s how it got its start here in the US—as an attractive groundcover sold to thrive in the shady spots where lawn grasses struggle. It prevents erosion, needs no mowing and produces beautiful purple flowers in the Spring that attract pollinators like ‘the hairy-footed flower bee’ (which like Charlie, emigrated to the US from Europe) and several species in the Osmia genus—the prime pollinators of blueberries and orchard fruits. Very good bees to have around—and gentle!
So one option is to consider making peace with Charlie. Install strong edging to keep it out of flower beds and neighboring yards and then enjoy the aroma (it’s actually a member of the mint family), the beautiful flowers and the pollinators it attracts. (Plant blueberries!)
BUT: It is difficult to keep this plant contained. And while I would love to say it makes an ideal lawn alternative, many people suffer allergic-like skin reactions to the plant, making it a potentially poor choice for an area with lots of child activity. (But if it’s in a low-to-no traffic area and you’re diligent about keeping it in bounds, it does look very nice.)
Back to getting rid of it. A couple of direct assaults now should weaken it, but there will probably be survivors in the Spring. (Once established, this is a tough plant to control using any kinds of tactics.) So repeat the iron and/or borax in the early spring, before the plant really gets growing. Then a round of pulling (wearing gloves so you don’t get a rash) could be very helpful if you’re careful to go slow and low and get it out roots and all.
Then how do we establish the new lawn?
If our questioners were in warmer climes, they could cover the previously-weeded area with a nice load of compost and/or topsoil and install a warm season lawn in the Spring. (In years past, you had to install warm season grasses ‘vegetatively’ via springs, plugs or sod, but these days you can do it by seed.) Go with an aggressive, spreading grass that will have the ability to out-compete any missed rhizomes.
But in the mid-Atlantic and North, you probably want a cool-season grass. If the area is smallish (or if you just have the money) laying sod in the Spring is your first shot at a fast cure. Sod is much more expensive than seed, but high quality cool-season sod is widely available in the Spring and provides an almost-instant lawn for children and/or dogs to play right away. And the installers would remove all or most of the existing Charlie rhizomes as they prepare the soil for installation. And then the thick sod and its roots should prevail. But sod is expensive. And you’d probably want to hire someone to do the (hard) work of installation.
To get the best results from seeding a cool-season grass, you have to wait until August to install the seed; but you’ll probably need the time in between to prepare. I’m not sure if soil solarization is viable up in “Minnie-Snow-Ta” (the season might be too short) but if Holly in Silver Spring wants to pursue this path, she now understands the commitment—that area would be covered in clear plastic and unusable over the summer.
Either way, do what you can to knock Charlie back now and in the Spring; and DON’T TILL! Tilling would essentially cut up and replant the rhizomes and make the problem worse. Maybe hit it a couple of times with non-toxic herbicides, scalp the area down to bare dirt, and then cover it a few inches deep with arborist wood chips for the summer. (Don’t use nasty dyed wood mulch!) That would give the kids some non-mud to play on and could well smother most if not all of what’s left of the Charlie.
Then in August, clear away the mulch, apply an inch of topsoil or compost, sow your new seed and keep everyone off of it for a month while it establishes. After that, it is critically important to care for the lawn correctly:
Never cut the grass lower than three inches; three and a half inches for areas in the shade. Feed cool season grasses in the spring and fall. Use a mulching mower to return the clippings to the lawn. And most of all, be vigilant! If Charlie starts to creeps back in, pull and/or spray right away. And if you see any of those distinctive flowers, burn them with a flame weeder before they can set seed.
Tackling Creeping Charlie can frustrate even the most seasoned gardener. For some people, like my dad, declaring victory becomes downright personal.
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For as long as I can remember, my dad has relentlessly battled creeping Charlie (a.k.a. ground ivy). It’s amazing I didn’t grow up to hate gardening despite how many hours I spent pulling every bit of this plant that I could grasp, trying to subdue the tireless march of green across our yard. Nothing he tried over the years seemed to be more than a temporary fix. This defeat just fueled his hatred.
I can recall entire phone conversations after I was an adult living in central Illinois centered around his current plan of attack against creeping Charlie. No matter what I suggested he try, it fell on deaf ears (I just might know something about plants, but that’s a topic for another article. I guess I’m always his little girl). Every year, he focused on eliminating this plant from his slice of the universe once and for all. It conjured up images of the movie Caddyshack where Bill Murray blows up the golf course in pursuit of the gopher. But in this case, it’s my dad, Bill attacking creeping Charlie.
As with many of the most detested weeds, settlers brought creeping Charlie here on purpose, with nothing but the best of intentions.
European settlers are the guilty party people believed responsible for spreading creeping Charlie, more formally known as Glechoma hederacea, worldwide.
Creeping Charlie is a native plant in Europe and Southwest Asia and historically was used in traditional medicines, and as a food crop for thousands of years. As a medicine, it was used to treat everything from congestion to indigestion, kidney disease, and as a general anti-inflammatory agent. As food, people drank it steeped as a tea rich in Vitamin C, and ate it as a cooked green, or as a salad green.
Before hops were used to flavor beer, brewers used creeping Charlie!
Despite its long medicinal and culinary history, modern chemistry has isolated several compounds within creeping Charlie that are toxic to the liver, gastrointestinal tract, and kidneys. Armed with that knowledge, I would suggest you avoid consuming it!
This extensive history of creeping Charlie and its medicinal and culinary applications is the main reason Europeans brought it with them as they settled in all corners of the world. They also grew the plant as an ornamental ground cover and a potted plant. If you can set your dislike of the plant aside for a moment, it really does have attractive fan-shaped leaves with toothed edges and striking blue-violet flowers in the spring. Its flowers also reportedly support some pollinator insects, so that’s another redeeming quality.
Close inspection of a creeping Charlie plant reveals a big reason it is so aggressive in yards and gardens.
It has square-shaped stems, making it a member of the mint family. Mint is a big bully in the backyard. It can find its way over, under, around and even through some barriers designed to contain it.
Combine this aggressive nature with creeping Charlie’s preferred location containing heavy, rich soil with high fertility and moisture, and it’s the perfect storm for your garden. It also loves to grow in shady areas where grass grows poorly. So it’s no surprise my dad has the worst problems with creeping Charlie on the edge of the vegetable garden where the soil is super rich, fertile and watered, and in a shady, moist corner of his yard where grass never grows well.
Creeping Charlie has every trait you wish a weed didn’t have.
It’s a perennial plant. You can pull it, but any little bit left behind will just grow into a new plant. Various weed killers may or may not be effective; different sources have recorded creeping Charlie’s susceptibility and resistance to the same chemicals.
A friend of mine studied herbicides to control creeping Charlie as his Ph.D. project! That alone should tell you this is one tough plant. He said creeping Charlie does not allow most herbicides to be distributed throughout the plant, resulting in partial dieback, but never complete elimination of the plant.
The most effective recommendations for chemical control suggest using a combination of herbicides rather than just one. One popular combination is 2,4-D, dicamba, and MCPP. Another is 2,4-D and triclopyr. The idea is that by attacking the plant with different chemicals that kill via different modes of action, this lessens the chances of a plant developing resistance to the chemicals. The likelihood of a plant population developing resistance to one chemical is a lot greater than a population developing resistance to three different chemicals that attack in three different ways.
If traditional herbicides worry you, there are several effective non-synthetic options that use iron toxicity to kill weeds. Broadleaf weeds and lawn grasses are both plants, but they have some fundamental differences in their physiology. Broadleaf weeds take up iron very quickly, much quicker than grasses. They take it up so quickly, they poison themselves. Grasses don’t absorb the iron fast enough to cause harm.
Fall is reportedly the best time to apply herbicide to creeping Charlie.
This is probably because plants naturally transport materials to the roots in preparation for winter. The second best time for herbicide application is spring when creeping Charlie is actively growing and flowering. Again, this is when the plant is naturally transporting a lot of materials through its system. Applying herbicides at either of these times makes it more likely that the chemicals will get distributed throughout the plant, increasing their effectiveness.
In just about any discussion of controlling creeping Charlie, someone mentions using borax. Like most home remedies, while it has its basis in truth, I don’t recommend people try it. Creeping Charlie prefers soil with low boron levels; too much boron will kill it. Borax contains boron, so if you apply a solution of borax to the soil, you can raise the level of boron in the soil enough to kill the creeping Charlie.
Seems simple, right?
The “minor detail” is that there is a fine line between enough boron to control creeping Charlie and enough boron to kill every other plant around it as well.
Plus, Boron doesn’t break down or otherwise “go away” after its applied. So there is a good chance that in your zeal to finally kill creeping Charlie once and for all you will also kill every other plant near it, potentially for years.
Two other control methods to consider are using a dethatching rake or if you’re really desperate, killing off an area and starting over. After decades of attempts and hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars in herbicides, my dad used a dethatching rake over the course of an entire summer to finally declare victory over the creeping Charlie. Most of the spots needed reseeding with grass as he removed the creeping Charlie. Overall this process worked very well, but it was incredibly time and labor intensive.
Some people wave the white flag and use non-selective herbicides like glyphosate (Roundup) or black plastic to kill off areas overrun with creeping Charlie. Placing black plastic over an infested area will heat up the soil and kill all plants and seeds present, but it takes time. I’ve read time estimates ranging from weeks to three months or more.
I hope I’m not jinxing myself in writing this, but so far we haven’t seen creeping Charlie in our yard. If it ever does make an appearance, especially if it’s where grass refuses to grow, I’ll probably just leave it alone and be thankful. I’ve dealt enough with creeping Charlie to last my lifetime!
Creeping Charlie Arsenal Control Options
Herbicides– apply according to label directions; repeat applications may be necessary.
- 2,4-D, Dicamba, and MCPP
- 2,4-D and Triclopyr
- Glyphosate— A non-selective herbicide (which means it kills everything in it’s path); keep an eye on the various formulas available. Some have additives that increase the residual effects. This means you may not be able to plant anything where you use it for week, months, or even a year. This may be good or bad depending on your goals!
- Iron Chelates— There are several brands available with chelated iron listed as the active ingredient (usually as Iron HEDTA or FeHEDTA). They reportedly have less health and environmental effects than traditional synthetic herbicides. Plus they’re effective against tough weeds like creeping Charlie.
- Dethatching Rake— This link shows the style of rake my dad used to rid his yard of creeping Charlie. It’s straight up, old-school brute force labor. He worked on a small section at a time and reseeded the resulting bare sections with grass seed along the way.
- Black Plastic Tarp— There are tons of options available for purchasing black plastic for the garden (see link). Basically you cover up the section of yard invaded by creeping Charlie with the black plastic, anchor it to keep it in place. Then sit back and let the summer sun cook the creeping Charlie (and everything else under the plastic) to death. In my opinion this would be one of my last-ditch options. Not because it doesn’t work, but because you have to leave it in place for weeks to months at a time for it to work well.
Arrgh! I found my first thriving patch of creeping Charlie in my yard in 2018.
I think I did jinx myself by writing this post. This spring (2018) while cleaning up down by the big retention pond in our backyard, I spotted it. We have a lot of henbit, but as I got closer I knew it was my old buddy Charlie. It’s in an area right along the bank of the pond. It can grow there all it wants. If it starts spreading into my actual yard, maybe I’ll worry. Maybe.
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Some ‘organic’ weed-control remedies aren’t as safe as they sound
You can learn a lot on the Internet. Here’s some of the garden wisdom I’ve gleaned lately on how to control pesky weeds with supposedly organic solutions:
• To kill weeds, use a mix of Dawn dish soap, Epsom salts and vinegar.
• Boiling water will kill weeds.
• To get rid of creeping Charlie, use borax (as in 20-Mule Team Borax) instead of conventional lawn chemicals.
All of these remedies are pitched as safe alternatives to chemicals like Roundup, the glyphosate-based chemical that kills anything green. But are they really safer?
We tend to be comfortable with products we cook with and use in the kitchen. But it’s good to be cautious even with supposedly safe homemade remedies.
Boiling water really is organic. If you pour it piping hot on small weeds, it will likely kill them, and possibly harm whatever is growing around them. Many organic websites recommend it for killing small weeds that are growing in cracks in sidewalks or driveways.
Bigger weeds like dandelions that have taproots and are perennial may shrivel but they usually bounce back from such treatment.
The Dawn dish soap remedy pops up constantly as a miracle weed cure on Facebook pages devoted to gardening. There’s some logic behind the concoction. The dish soap helps the mix stick and spread on leaves. Salt can be toxic to plants. And vinegar has been used to fight weeds, though usually horticultural vinegar, which has about four times the acetic acid of the vinegar we use in the kitchen. At 20 percent acetic acid, horticultural vinegar is dangerous enough that users are supposed to wear long sleeves, gloves and goggles to protect themselves from burns and splashes.
The dish soap mix is a contact herbicide that works by drying out the leaves of the plant. Like Roundup, the mix doesn’t distinguish between good plants and bad plants, so if you decide to use it, watch where you spray it.
But like boiling water, this mix may kill only small weeds. Although results on bigger weeds look good at first when leaves show damage, perennial weeds and big weeds will likely bounce back. Roundup will take those weeds out, because it’s a systemic product that, unlike the soap mix, will kill the root of the weed.
There’s really nothing organic about the dish soap mix, either. All three main ingredients are chemicals, and one weed scientist who has written about it argues that toxicity levels in vinegar and salt may be higher than in glyphosate. (You can read his analysis here: weedcontrol-freaks.com/2014/06/salt-vinegar-and-glyphosate/)
The wild card in mixing your own “safe” weed killer is that people tend to get dangerously creative. I recently saw an online suggestion to add a cup of bleach to the dish soap mix, something that could not only create a toxic gas but that will permanently damage soil.
Lastly, the creeping Charlie question. The borax recipe came from research in Iowa and was embraced by homeowners because creeping Charlie is so hard to kill. While it’s still floating out there as an option, it’s no longer recommended by the University of Minnesota Extension. Borax, too, is a chemical. Use it more than twice to fight creeping Charlie, and it will kill your grass as well — lingering in the soil, and creating a dead zone where nothing else will grow.
So what’s a gardener who’s looking for organic solutions to do? There’s always good old muscle power, applied every couple of weeks aided by dandelion diggers and trowels. A stiff rake can remove a lot of creeping Charlie.
And there’s education. Magic solutions usually aren’t half as good as they sound, and sometimes they can do considerable harm. Do your research before you use any chemical — homemade or not — in the garden.
Mary Jane Smetanka is a Master Gardener and Minneapolis freelance writer.
How To: Get Rid of Creeping Charlie
Creeping Charlie—Glechoma hederacea, also commonly known as ground ivy—is an insidious weed that is both resilient and adaptable, making it very difficult to control successfully. A member of the mint family, it will quickly fill an empty space with a mat-like cover of small, round, scalloped-edged green leaves punctuated with delicate violet-blue flowers in early spring. It’s actually quite pretty, and you often see Variegata, its variegated (and far less invasive) cousin, sold in nurseries as a ground cover or cascading filler for planters.
But don’t be charmed! Left to its own devices, Creeping Charlie can quickly take over landscaping beds, even a lawn. It grows low to the ground in a vining habit, killing everything else around it. It thrives in moist and shady areas, where grass and other plants don’t grow well. If you see it, act fast, or you will have a hard battle later. One of these three tried-and-true methods for how to get rid of Creeping Charlie should solve your landscaping trouble:
- Pull out Creeping Charlie by hand if you only see a plant or two here or there.
- Smother a larger Creeping Charlie infestation by blocking all sunlight with a barrier of newspaper, tarp, or cardboard for at least a week.
- Use a special broadleaf herbicide containing either tricolpyr or dicamba on Creeping Charlie that has taken over your lawn—these chemicals will kill Creeping Charlie without harming your grass.
Keep reading for more in-depth explanation of each method below.
METHOD #1: Remove Creeping Charlie by Hand
Manual removal is not recommended for large infestations of Creeping Charlie. It will take too long, and success will be minimal. But if you see a plant or two here or there, you can get rid of it with your own two hands quite effectively.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
– Lawn waste disposal bag
– Watering can
– Garden hose
STEP 1: Prune Creeping Charlie to expose the roots.
Don gardening gloves, as Creeping Charlie can cause skin irritation and itching; some people are even allergic to it. Then, prune the weed by cutting off any loose vines not rooted to the ground in order to help expose the areas where you need to pull and dig out the weeds.
STEP 2: Grasp the plant by the roots and pull it out.
If the ground is hard and dry, watering the area first to soften it will make for easier yanking. If the roots are particularly deep, loosen the soil around them with a rooting tool or cultivator. As you pull, put plants immediately in a disposal bag; do not leave them lying around.
STEP 3: Make sure that you’ve removed all root pieces from the soil.
When you’ve removed all the Creeping Charlie in sight, dig through the soil with your hands or a cultivator to ensure you’ve gotten any root pieces that have broken off, as they will regenerate, and you’ll be right back where you started. Any little bits left behind, or that go wayward, are bound to reseed themselves.
METHOD #2: Remove Creeping Charlie by Smothering
You can banish a larger Creeping Charlie infestation by depriving it of sunlight for an extended period. Remember, this weed thrives in shade, so you’ll need to cover it and block the sun out completely for this method to be effective. Be aware that any other plants mixed in with the Creeping Charlie will also die.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
– Rocks or bricks
– Lawn waste disposal bag
STEP 1: Completely cover the patch of Creeping Charlie with a tarp or newspaper.
Cover the Creeping Charlie with a barrier of newspaper, tarp, or cardboard to completely block sunlight. Extend the coverage six to 12 inches beyond the vines and leaves, as the roots underneath the ground can reach further out from what’s on top of the soil. Weight the cover down with rocks or bricks to keep it from blowing or shifting back, allowing light to reach the plants.
STEP 2: Wait at least a week.
It may take a week—or longer, depending on your soil conditions—for your Creeping Charlie to be smothered. Take a peek at the week mark; if there’s any green left, replace the cover for another several days. When Creeping Charlie is shriveled and brown, it’s good and dead!
STEP 3: Remove the dead Creeping Charlie by hand.
Pull the Creeping Charlie out of the ground and dispose of it as you would in the hand pulling method, or it could come back from the nodes and roots. It ought to come out much more easily once dead.
METHOD #3: Remove Creeping Charlie with Herbicide
If Creeping Charlie has infiltrated your lawn, you can’t very well smother it without killing your grass. It will also be nearly impossible to pull out manually, as it will be entangled with the roots of your turf.
Stumped on how to get rid of Creeping Charlie in your lawn? This situation may best be battled herbicide, but heed this warning: Many of these plant poisons are not selective. They kill whatever they touch, not just weeds, so read product labels carefully and choose a broadleaf herbicide containing tricolpyr or dicamba—two chemicals will kill Creeping Charlie, but not harm your turf grass.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
– Garden gloves
– Long-sleeved shirt
– Protective eyewear
– Garden sprayer
– Broadleaf herbicide with tricolpyr or dicamba
STEP 1: Pick a day before or after the first frost for the best results.
You can spray Creeping Charlie with herbicide anytime during the growing season, but it will be most effective if you treat it in the fall, when it’s preparing for winter dormancy. Spray right before or right after the first frost, and it will store the herbicide along with its winter nutrients.
If you do spray earlier, be sure to spray once again before winter. Your best chance of eliminating it is to weaken it going into the cold season.
STEP 2: Don protective gear and prep your herbicide.
Put on protective gloves, clothing, and eyewear. Mix the herbicide in a garden sprayer according to the manufacturer’s directions.
STEP 3: Concentrate the spray on the Creeping Charlie.
Spray the herbicide on the Creeping Charlie, being careful to soak all the leaves, while avoiding any nearby garden plants. Store or dispose of any remaining spray according to the manufacturer’s directions. Do not mow for at least two days after spraying, so that the chemicals can be absorbed down into the roots of the plant.
STEP 4: Maintain your lawn to prevent the return of ground ivy.
Control regrowth of Creeping Charlie long term by preventing it from growing in the first place. A thick, healthy lawn of turf grass is inhospitable to weeds—there’s simply no room for them. Maintaining your lawn’s overall health will ensure Creeping Charlie, and other pesky weeds, can’t get a foothold.
Are you looking for an effective weed killer to control Creeping Charlie? Instead of resorting to chemical herbicides or Round Up, why not try this Borax Weed Killer? Established lawns are tolerant of Borax and this formula works well on them.
Glechoma hederacea, also known as Creeping Charlie, Creeping Jenny or ground ivy, is a common invasive plants that can ruin the look of your lawn. Creeping Charlie is an aggressive, low-growing perennial that loves to live and spread in shady, moist areas.
This plant is a member of the mint family and has a slightly aromatic scent, particularly right after you have mowed your lawn. Ground ivy spread by its seeds and also by its vining stems which root at their nodes.
The leaves of creeping Charlie have a distinctive coin shape with rounded toothed edges. Since it is a creeping plant, it can move out of borders and invade the lawn, which makes hand weeding a real challenge.
Hand weeding works fairly well in spring, but as soon as the lawn has started growing, it becomes more difficult. Weeding by hand can be an arduous task because of the numerous roots along the stems of the weed. If you have ever pulled up a long string of creeping Charlie, you will know how this brings a smile to your face!
Creeping Charlie is native to Europe and was first used in the US as a ground cover. It was soon discovered to be a pest because of its spreading habit.
I have made a vinegar weed killer in the past, but it will kill surrounding grass if used in a lawn, so I needed an alternative.
Borax Weed Killer for Creeping Charlie
Note on usage
Even though this weed killer works well for killing Creeping Charlie and not killing your grass, care must still be exercised when using it. If excessive quantities are used, Borax can damage and even destroy lawns. I am not suggesting this weed killer as a general all around remedy for weeds.
This weed killer is effective against Creeping Charlie but can be damaging to other plants, so take care using it. It does work wonders on weeds in cracks in walkways, though, since it will not hurt surrounding plants.
This weed killer uses Twenty Mule Team Borax. Borax as a base. Borax is actually sodium tetraborate, which contains Boron, a white, crystalline, mineral salt. All plants need a certain amount of boron to survive, but this varies from plant to plant.
As early as the 1920s, this mineral salt was being used not only for its natural cleaning properties, and also because gardeners learned that it was able to eradicate weeds. When borax powder is used on weeds, it will exceed the amount that the plant needs to a toxic level and will thus kill the weed.
How well it works, and how toxic the weed killer is depends on how much boron is already in your soil. Soil testing will give you this information and much more. Borax is not harmful to people, but since most plants cannot tolerate too much of it, using it on weeds in a vegetable garden is not recommended.
Borax is not only great as a weed killer for creeping Charlie. I also tested five versions of a Borax ant killer against Terro and found that many of them are quite effective at controlling ants. Borax can also be used to preserve flowers when combined with corn meal with great results.
Natural Creeping Charlie Borax Weed Killer Formula
There are lots of retail weed killers which are effective at killing Creeping Charlie, but if you are looking for a more natural weed killer, this one is known to be effective.
This formulation is one that I found on the University of Iowa’s website. They suggest taking care to use the proper formulation to avoid adding excessive amounts of Borax to your lawns.
This formula will treat 1,000 sq. feet: (Don’t use it on a smaller area, or it will be too strong.) For use on established lawns.
- 10 oz. Twenty Mule Team Borax
- 4 oz. warm water
Mix well and then dilute in 2.5 gal. water.
TIP: If you have trouble mixing the Borax, a reader Claudia has suggested that she mixes hers formula in a blender for 30 seconds and it does a good job. An old blender would be better than one you use for food preparation.
For uniform application on weeds, pour the Borax weed killer into a spray bottle and evenly apply the mixture over the area to be treated. I use a spray bottle that holds about 3 cups of the mixture and know that it will treat 62 square feet.
Remember that creeping Jenny spreads by underground runners, so it’s a good idea to treat a slightly wider area than the one where you find the weed.
For smaller areas, cut the amounts down but keep the percentages the same. i.e. For 500 feet, use 5 oz of Borax in 2 oz of warm water and dilute with 1.25 gallons of water.
For best results, apply the Borax weed killer when the creeping Charlie weed is actively growing in the fall. Choose a day when no rain expected for at least 48 hours. Then repeat two weeks later.
You can print out the Borax weed Killer here. I set my printer to print it in the center of a piece of photo paper and chose 5 inches as my width. It fit nicely around my spray bottle.
What to expect for results
The type of soil that you have may impact the amount of weed killer that it will accept. Leaf browning of the weed normally begins by the end of the first week. This weed killer should be used once a year for two successive years.
Be sure not to get too energetic with the formula once you see it working. Adding too much can leave you with dead patches in your lawn which will need re-seeding. It is normal for some light browning to occur on the good grass in the lawn. They should recover over time.
The biggest problem that people encounter when using this weed killer is applying too much. The formula covers 1000 square feet and that is how much it should be used on. More is not always better and certainly not in this case.
The key to the successful eradication of ground ivy is proper application. After the weed has been controlled and your lawn re-established, practice good lawn care tips so that your lawn develops a thick stand of turf grass. This will help to discourage creeping Jenny from being a problem in future.
Good lawn care means making sure to practice good mowing, (2.5 to 3 inch grass height helps) watering and fertilizing habits. Selective tree pruning will allow more sunlight, which will help to control the weed, too.
In spite of this Borax weed killer doing a good job at killing creeping Charlie, nothing works as well as having a thick, healthy lawn to keep the weed out of it in the first place.
A note on toxicity. Borax is known to be toxic to both dogs and cats, so be careful of this formula around them. Vinegar is the only weed killer that I know is perfectly safe near pets and it is not selective, so it will kill the grass too.
Do you have a problem with Creeping Charlie? What did you do to get it under control? Please leave your comments below.
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Creeping Charlie produces kidney-shaped leaves with scalloped edges on creeping stems
Susan Mahr and John Stier, UW Horticulture
Item number: XHT1170
What is creeping Charlie? Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea) is an herbaceous perennial plant that spreads by seed and by creeping stems (called stolons) that grow along the ground. Creeping Charlie was introduced into North America from Europe by early settlers who thought it would be a good groundcover for shade. A variegated form of the plant is sometimes used in hanging baskets. Creeping Charlie is also known as ground ivy, gill-on-the-ground, and creeping Jenny.
What does creeping Charlie look like? Creeping Charlie produces bright green, round or kidney-shaped leaves that have scalloped edges. The leaves are produced opposite each other on square (i.e., four-sided), creeping stems that root at the nodes. In spring, small, bluish-purple,funnel-shaped flowers appear. When the plant is crushed, it produces a strong mint-like odor. Creeping Charlie is often confused with henbit (Lamium amplexicaule), which is a winter annual.
How can I control creeping Charlie? Creeping Charlie thrives in moist, shady spots such as under trees and shrubs, and along the north sides of buildings. Altering these moist, shady conditions can discourage growth of creeping Charlie. If possible, improve soil drainage or water less frequently to dry the soil, and prune trees to open the canopy and increase light levels. If creeping Charlie is invading a thin lawn, try to improve turf health and density to get weeds under control. This can be accomplished by mowing regularly (to a height of two to three and one-half inches), fertilizing and watering appropriately, and overseeding in the fall. Also, make sure to grow the most suitable type of turfgrass for the location (e.g., plant shade tolerant turfgrass varieties under trees). to access University of Wisconsin-Extension Bulletin A3700 for additional information on growing grass in shade. Alternatively, consider removing grass and growing shade-loving plants such as vinca, English ivy, pachysandra or hosta that compete well with weeds. In areas where creeping Charlie has become established, try removing plants by hand. This is the control method of choice in vegetable or flower gardens. However, this may not be a viable option in heavily infested areas, as the extensive spreading stems of creeping Charlie can be difficult to completely remove. Once plants are pulled, make sure to dispose of the plants in such a way that they cannot re-root.
An alternative (and oftentimes more effective) means of controlling creeping Charlie is with a postemergence broadleaf herbicide. The best choice for homeowners is a weed killer that contains triclopyr. This active ingredient is found in many commercially available homeowner lawn care products, oftentimes in combination with other herbicides such as dicamba (3,6-dichloro-o-anisic acid), 2,4-D (2, 4 dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) and mecoprop or MCPP . Products containing 2,4-DP can also provide adequate control. All of the products listed above can be used for treating lawns, but cannot be used in vegetable or flower gardens as many common vegetables and ornamentals are broadleaf plants that are very susceptible to these herbicides. In areas of a lawn with an extensive creeping Charlie infestation, it may be easier to use a broad-spectrum herbicide (e.g., glyphosate) to kill all of the vegetation in the area and then reseed the lawn.
When using an herbicide for creeping Charlie control, be sure to read and follow all label instructions of the product that you select to ensure that you use the product in the safest and most effective manner possible. A general rule of thumb is to make applications when temperatures are in the mid 60s to low 80s, there is no rain expected for 24 hours following application, and there is little or no wind. DO NOT mow the treated area for several days before and after an herbicide application. Dicamba, triclopyr, MCPP, 2,4-D or 2,4-DP applications for creeping Charlie control should be made when plants are actively growing. A mid to late autumn herbicide application (after the first frost) is often particularly effective. During this period, plants are drawing nutrients from their leaves and into their roots for storage over the winter, and herbicides are more effectively moved into the roots as well, resulting in better control. A second application can be made in the fall if needed. Herbicide applications can also be made in the spring, but should be timed to correspond to creeping Charlie’s blooming period (typically April to June). Plants are more sensitive to herbicides during this time. Again, a second application may be necessary to obtain adequate control. Note that any herbicide containing dicamba should not be used in a given area more than twice per year. Finally, borax has been touted as an organic control for creeping Charlie. However, research at both the University of Wisconsin and Iowa State University has shown that borax does not provide longterm control of creeping Charlie, and can injure turf and other plants, causing stunting and yellowing. Thus borax is not recommended for creeping Charlie (or other broadleaf weed) control.
Links & Downloads
- Creeping Charlie (PDF)
- Lawn Weed Prevention & Control
Small, bluish-purple, funnel-shaped flowers of creeping Charlie Creeping Charlie rapidly invades lawns, crowding out and replacing turf
Tags: lawn, weed Categories: Lawn Problems, Weeds & Invasive Plants
The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc.
Creeping Charlie, or Ground Ivy, is an invasive perennial. Stems: It grows from a creeping stem, (square stem like most mints) which rises up from 1 to 16 inches, but is usually prostrate with the flowering parts erect to show off its blue-purple 5 part flowers. The stem branches frequently and it can set roots near the axils of the leaves which allows the plant to form dense groupings.
Leaves are green to greenish-purple, opposite, long-stalked, round to kidney shape, with rounded coarse teeth (crenate) and a quite noticeable palmate vein structure. The underside of the leaf is dotted with glands. Both the upper leaf surface and the calyx of the flower are covered with fine fuzzy hair. Leaves are subject to attach by a leaf gall, Rondaniola bursaria. See photo below.
Flowers: The inflorescence usually has 3 short-stalked flowers, 1/3 to 3/4 inch long, in loose whorls from the leaf axils. Flowers are tubular with a narrow corolla that flares outward creating an upper lobe which is notched, a large lower lobe and 2 smaller side lobes. The corolla tube is 2 to 3 times as long as the green hairy calyx. There are 4 stamens, 2 short and 2 long, a single pistil and a divided style. The throat of the flower has fuzzy hairs.
Fruit: Each flower matures to four brown 1 seeded nutlets.
Habitat: Ground Ivy will be found growing in moist disturbed sites and lawns. While it accepts full sun, it prefers shade to partial shade. Small amounts can be controlled by hand pulling when the ground is moist; large infestations can be controlled or eliminated with broadleaf herbicides. Non-toxic corn gluten treatment is also said to be effective, but takes time. The plant has a somewhat rank balsamic odor and a bitter taste. Ground Ivy was frequently cultivated in former days. It makes a good ground cover, but is quite invasive in lawns, so it should be grown in controlled areas.
Names: The genus, Glechoma, is derived from the Greek word glechon, which describes a type of mint. The species, hederacea, means ‘resembling ivy’ and is derived from Hedera, the Latin name for Ivy. The author name for the plant classification, ‘L.’ is for Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), Swedish botanist and the developer of the binomial nomenclature of modern taxonomy. In older literature you may find the plant listed as Nepeta hederacea. As to the other common names, Ground Ivy is self-explanatory from the plants creeping stems and multitude of green leaves. The use of the plant for clarifying beer in Saxon times (see notes at page bottom) produced the names ‘Alehoof’ and ‘Tunhoof’. ‘Gill-go-over-the-ground’ derives from the same use but ‘Gill’ comes from the French ‘Guiller’, meaning ‘to ferment beer’.