What does creeping jenny look like?

Above: Creeping jenny in bloom. Photograph by Danny S. via Wikimedia.

In summer stems of Creeping Jenny are covered with cheery, cup-shaped yellow flowers.

Above: Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’. Photograph byDerek Ramseyvia Wikimedia.

Given its reputation, it’s wise to position Creeping Jenny away from other plants. In a container, it will drape like a vine.

Cheat Sheet

  • Creeping Jenny will establish and spread quickly so position plants 18 inches apart in moist soil and in full sun to part shade.
  • The sunnier the spot the more yellow the leaves will become—in shady spots they turn a deeper green.
  • Golden Creeping Jenny—Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’— is a vibrant cultivar with chartreuse leaves – use it to brighten up the edge of paths or verges. It is also less rampant than its more common relation.
  • In the wild these plants colonise boggy, damp areas and, as such, they can be used as an aquatic or to cover banks of streams or ponds. Use aquatic pots and compost if you are planting into water and divide congested clumps every three or four years.

Above: A tough plant for city streets, Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ (foreground) mingles with hostas and liriope in Abingdon Square in Manhattan’s West Village. Photograph by Cultivar413 via Flickr.

Keep It Alive

  • This hardy creeper should not be confused with purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), an aggressive and invasive plant often found in reed-beds, marshes, and river banks.
  • If you don’t trust it in the ground, then Creeping Jenny can also make a very attractive plant for containers where it will cascade down the sides of a pot.
  • If you’ve planted it in the ground, keep Creeping Jenny in check by regularly trimming it back. If you want to make more plants its easy to propagate by division or by seeds.

Above: Photograph by Deb Nystrom via Flickr.

This plant has been renowned as a wound healer since medieval times and was used on either fresh wounds or older ones. It has also been used in Chinese medicine where it’s used to treat gallstones.

N.B.: Are you looking for the right ground cover to fill in a trouble spot? See our Garden Design 101 guides:

  • Gardening 101: Lilyturf.
  • Ivy 101: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design.
  • Gardening 101: Stonecrops.
  • Perennials: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design.

Lysimachia nummularia – Creeping Jenny

Phylum: Magnoliophyta – Class: Equisetopsida – Order: Primulales – Family: Primulaceae

There is a ‘lemon and lime’ look to this ground-hugging member of the Primrose Family.

Description

A hairless low-growing perennial creeper, Lysimachia nummularia has five-petalled yellow flowers that are typically 2cm across and shaped like cups. Another distinguishing feature is its bright green rounded heart-shaped opposite leaves. Like other creepers, this wildflower propagates by seed and via runners that root at nodes.

Distribution

Native to Britain and Ireland, where it is most common in the south, Creeping Jenny is only an occasional find in the north of England and Scotland. There is a cultivated variety of Creeping Jenny that has escaped from gardens and now appears quite frequently in the countryside, notably near to towns and villages; the cultivar produces many more flowers than the wild plant, and so the more flowers that Creeping Jenny plants have the more likely it is that they are garden escapes rather than truly wild plants.

Creeping Jenny is widespread throughout northern and central Europe; we have seen it in many parts of France, Slovenia and Bulgaria.

Habitat

In the wild Creeping Jenny is found in damp grassy places nearly always away from bright sunlight.

Blooming Times

In Britain and Ireland the first yellow flowers of Creeping Jenny appear in May, and blooming usually continues until mid August.

Uses

Herbalists find this plant useful, and they have done for many centuries. In the 1600s Culpeper, referring to Creeping Jenny as ‘Moneywort’ and recommended it in particular for treating stomachs that were ‘given to casting’ – vomiting, in other words.

Etymology

Lysimachia, the genus name, is in honour of Lysimachus, (c. 360BC – 281BC), a Macedonian general who, as one of the successors to Alexander the Great, became ruler (king, in effect) of a large part of the divided Macedonian Empire that had all been Alexander’s realm.

King Lysimachus is reputed to have fed ‘loosestrife’ plants from this genus to his oxen in order to calm them down whenever they became agitated and difficult to manage. The name Loosestrife means ‘lose (or forget about) strife’. No worries, then!

The specific epithet nummularia comes from the Latin nummularius via nummulus, the diminutive of nummus, meaning a small coin – hence nummularia means shaped like a small coin.

Similar Species

Creeping Jenny is a close relative of Yellow Pimpernel, which has narrower leaves and smaller flowers with much more pointed petals.

The Lysimachia nummularia plants shown on this page were photographed in West Wales in July and August.

We hope that you have found this information helpful. If so we are sure you would find our books Wonderful Wildflowers of Wales, vols 1 to 4, by Sue Parker and Pat O’Reilly very useful too. Buy copies here…

Other nature books from First Nature…

Creeping Jenny, also known as moneywort, is an evergreen perennial plant found in Europe that grows well in most of the United States. Its rounded yellow leaves look great along pathways, spilling over containers, along the banks of lakes and rivers. Creeping Jenny blooms with yellow flowers from late spring into summer, and, depending on the area, into early fall. Creeping Jenny is a groundcover plant, meaning it grows low to the ground and spreads outward.

The spot where creeping Jenny is planted must be chosen with care, as a single plant can grow up to two feet wide, laying roots as it spreads, and damaging the roots of neighboring plants. Beware though, as this beautiful plant, with leaf colors that can range from green to golden yellow, can grow out of control and become invasive.

While there are different species of this plant available, golden creeping Jenny (which is often referred as just golden Jenny) is the one with the lovely golden hue, the information given here applies to all species.

Due to its rapidly growing and invasive nature, creeping Jenny is considered harmful to native plants in some states. Please check before planting to make sure it in not banned in your area.

Growing Conditions for Creeping Jenny

Creeping Jenny is not a demanding plant when it comes to growing conditions. It does well in most environments, but it thrives best in moist but well-draining soil with a lot of nutrients that is rich with organic matter. Full sun is preferred by creeping Jenny, and sunshine shows off its colors the best, but this plant also thrives in partial shade.

If these conditions aren’t available, don’t worry. Creeping Jenny is a hardy plant that will take root anywhere enough water is provided. If planted in a hotter climate, this plant will need partial or even full shade, as the heat from the afternoon sun can cause blanched leaves and wilting.

How to Plant Creeping Jenny

Creeping Jenny can be grown in containers, inside or outside, or planted in large open areas outdoors. If you are starting from a seed, it is best to plant that seed in a container first, as this makes it easier to keep the seed and seedling moist.

It is best to transplant grown creeping Jenny, either from its container or when it is purchased from a nursery, in the early spring. This will allow the plant to take root enough that it will blossom in the summer.

When planting creeping Jenny, make sure to leave enough room between each plant—about 12 to 18 inches, so there is enough room for them to spread. Do not let newly planted creeping Jenny dry out for the first week after planting. If planted in a cool humid area, these plants need less watering than if they were planted in a hot, dry area. Make sure that the soil is kept moist when first planted so that it can take root.

Given the right conditions, creeping Jenny can grow and spread up to two feet very quickly. Make sure before planting that this plant is in an area where it will not harm others. If necessary, barriers, such as rocks, can be placed to keep this plant contained.

Care of Creeping Jenny

Once creeping Jenny is planted, there are no major care concerns. Pests are unlikely to bother this dense ground covering, and there are no major diseases that are known to affect this plant. It may develop rust or leaf spot, but these minor problems usually go away on their own. Because Creeping Jenny is plant that is in need of a lot of moisture, mold sometimes develops. If this is the case, water the plant from underneath, and give the leaves the ability to fully dry.

If planted in an area where slugs are an issue, all slug-concealing debris needs to be removed. Give the plants full sun and water from below to make this plant less habitable for these pests. If the slugs are being stubborn, scatter iron phosphate around the plant and along the slug trails. This nontoxic bait will get rid of the most persistent of slug infestations.

Don’t be afraid to prune, or trim back, creeping Jenny if it starts to grow where it does not belong. Due to its shallow roots, this plant is easy to pull if it starts to grow in an area where it is not supposed to. This is not a permanent solution, as this plant grows and recovers quickly. Make sure to remove any dead flowers. The blooms are how Creeping Jenny spreads its seeds, so it’s especially important to do this if the creeping Jenny is located next to an area where unwanted seedlings are not welcome.

If you are looking for a plant that’s easy to care for and hardy, creeping Jenny may be the answer. When planted in an area with enough moisture and humidity, creeping Jenny requires almost no help from the gardener to grow fabulously. If planted in a hotter and drier area, this plant will need constant watering, but it should still grow well if given enough shade.

Unfortunately, there are some considerations that must be taken into account before going out and purchasing this plant. Primarily, gardeners should know that sometimes, it grows a little too well. Creeping Jenny grows rapidly, and, if planted in area where it does not have enough room to spread, requires constant pruning and pulling to make sure it does not encroach where it is not wanted. Due to its invasive nature, creeping Jenny is banned in some areas, so make sure to check that it is allowed in your area before falling in love with its range of colors and cheerful yellow flowers.

The good news is that this plant grows well in containers, both inside and outside. So, if you are still interested in growing this gorgeous evergreen perennial but don’t have space in a yard, considering planting it in a pot. The yellow leaves look like a golden waterfall spilling over the sides, adding a splash of color wherever creeping Jenny is placed.

Abbie Carrier graduated from Texas Woman’s University with a Bachelor of Science in history and a minor in political science, and is currently working on a Master’s of Arts in Arts Administration from the University of New Orleans. With this degree, she hopes to gain a position in museum curation and currently works as a grant writer for nonprofit organizations. She enjoys writing about the arts, history, and politics, and topics related to science, health, lifestyle, and entertainment.

Learn more about Creeping Jenny

Fine Gardening writes about creeping ground covers and golden creeping jenny.

Gardening Know How

Sunset

The Big Mistake: Creeping Charlie

Current research does not substantiate its use for any of those remedies, and my dear mother would likely be happy to know that. My mistake started when I decided to pull creeping charlie up by its roots and plant it in Mom’s medicine garden. She already had other medicinal herbs like bee balm and spiderwort; she had a lot of others, too, and along the front of the garden she had planted orange nasturtiums. There was space between them and I thought I would fill those spaces with creeping charlie. I figured it would look really nice growing down the rock wall that was waist high and kept the back yard mountain from creeping down onto the back porch.

Plants grew easily and quickly in the mountains of Kentucky, rich, moist soil and dappled sunshine seemed to be just what creeping charlie needed. By the time my mother noticed it between her orange nasturtiums, it had taken off just like Jack’s beanstalk. It not only crept down the rock wall, but it went in every other direction, too. Keep in mind there were mountains surrounding our house. Sound bounces off mountains, and when there is thunder it is much louder than it is in the flatlands. My mother’s yelling bounced off the mountains several times while I tried to pretend I didn’t hear it. “What have you planted in my garden, Sharon? This better not be what it looks like! I want every one of these weeds out of this garden NOW!”

I tried to tell her it was a good medicine plant, she didn’t listen. I explained that it was to cure coughs, she covered her ears. I even promised that I would keep it cut short so that it didn’t hang over the rock wall. But that weed had to go. About 35 years ago when I moved to western Kentucky, my mother and I gathered plants from her garden to be transplanted four hundred miles away in my own new garden. We thinned daylilies, we gathered bunches of bee balm, we dug graveyard moss and everything else I simply had to have. When I thought I had everything packed nicely in the trunk and the back seat of my car, my mom came down the front steps and handed me one more bag. She said it was a plant that she knew I really needed.

It was a little start of creeping charlie. I laughed at the time and brought it home with me. I planted it along the edge of a rock wall. It was only a couple of small vines, nothing to worry about I thought. Ha. My mother did to me what I did to her all those years ago and now I have creeping charlie all over my back yard. I noticed last fall when I was raking leaves that charlie had crept down along the eastern side of my house beneath the huge oak tree where nothing else will grow. And on the side that gets the setting sun, charlie is the only thing that seems to be green during dry autumn weather. I expect it will soon make an attempt to climb up the bricks and saunter its way into my house just any day now.

If there were mountains here in western Kentucky, I think you would be able to hear my words bouncing around like thunder from one side to the other. And charlie would keep right on growing.

“Magic and Medicine of Plants”, The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. 1986

Photos are from Plant Files.

Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ with red-flowered begonia.

There are many species of Lysimachia that are used as ornamental plants. Golden creeping jenny, the cultivar ‘Aurea’ of the low-growing species L. nummularia (= L. zawadzkii), can be a nice addition to containers or in other locations where its spread can be limited. This genus was traditionally placed in the primrose family (Primulaceae), and was reclassified a few years ago in the Myrsinaceae, but this family was recently redesignated as the subfamily Myrsinoideae in the Primulaceae – confused yet? – so it apparently is back where it started. This European species can be invasive (so planting the green type is not recommended), but the yellow cultivar is much less aggressive and suitable for judicious use in ornamental plantings. Other common names include moneywort, herb twopence, and occasionally creeping Charlie (not to be confused with the lawn weed Glechoma hederacea also commonly called creeping Charlie). This herbaceous perennial is hardy in zones 3-9 and was a winner of the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Merit.

The small, rounded leaves are borne on trailing stems.

The creeping plants produce small, rounded leaves with wavy edges oppositely along the thin, trailing stems. The orbicular leaves are smooth and often shiny – resembling a string of small coins – with a few glandular black dots if you look closely. The almost-evergreen foliage of the cultivar ‘Aurea’ is yellow, ranging from lime green to soft chartreuse in shade, through golden yellow in partial or dappled shade, to a brassy gold in full sun (it may burn out in more southern areas in full sun), while that of the species is a soft green.

The leaves of golden creeping jenny are chartruese when grown in shade, but are more golden in full sun.

The stems grow vigorously, forming slender fibrous roots where leaf nodes come in contact with the soil. This creates a dense mat 2-4 inches tall growing chaotically in all directions.

Single, bright yellow, cup-shaped flowers with are occasionally produced in the leaf axils. Each 1″ flower has 5 petals with dark reddish glandular dots, all set in a hairless green calyx with 5 triangular teeth shorter than the petals.

The species (green form) L. nummularia in flower.

Golden creeping jenny is a good as a trailing plant in containers.

The plants bloom intermittently from early summer through fall, although this cultivar does not seem to bloom as consistently as the species (and sometimes forms just vegetative colonies that never bloom). Because the flowers are not dramatically different in color than the foliage, they are also not as conspicuous as on the green species. Seed capsules do not form readily, so ‘Aurea’ does not spread by seed as readily as the green type will.

Use golden creeping Jenny carefully, to be sure it will not escape from cultivation or crowd out other plants in the garden. It makes a nice groundcover with tulips and daffodils, filling in the space once the bulbs’ leaves die back for the season. But it can overgrow other short plants, so situate it appropriately. It makes a nice underplanting beneath roses or other shrubs and around daylilies, ferns and tall perennials.

Golden creeping jenny (front) used in an annual bed with impatiens and Marguerite ornamental sweet potato.

It makes a great contrast between dark-leaved plants, such as ‘Amethyst Myst’ or ‘Palace Purple’ Heuchera, or mingling with purple ajuga. Or use it as a color echo with lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis) or a chartreuse or golden hosta such as ‘Sun Power’ or ‘Sum and Substance’ or a chartreuse cultivar of ornamental sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas). Use golden creeping Jenny as a trailing plant in containers, window boxes, or hanging baskets, or try planting it where it can cascade over a wall or bank. It can be used in ponds, water gardens, or marginal areas along waterways (as long as there is no danger of it escaping into natural areas) in shallow (up to 2″) water where it provides habitat for frogs, insects and small fish.

Golden creeping jenny as a groundcover in a shady area.

L. nummularia ‘Aurea’ can be planted almost any exposure from full sun to light shade, in moist soils. For the best color, situate the plant so it receives morning sun. It is rather shallow-rooted (so is fairly easy to dig out should it move into an area where it is unwanted), and does best with regular watering. It thrives in damp soils where other ground covers often cannot survive.

Slug damage to golden creeping jenny.

Creeping Jenny has few pests, although in some places slugs may attack the leaves and nearly completely defoliate the plants when high populations are present. The plants will look unsightly, but the plants will usually survive.

This plant is easily propagated by division (removing rooted chunks near the edge of a patch) or cuttings. It will readily root at nodes, so it may require persistent weeding to remove all of it from an area.

– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison


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