It might be midwinter, but Creeping Charlie is already taking over my walkway.
“A few years ago, I had some trees removed from the back of my house. After the trees were dragged away, Creeping Charlie quickly took over quickly. I find that while other weeds are easy to control, this one is not. Have you any suggestions to eliminate it?” -Joyce
Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea), also known as ground ivy, creeping Jenny, catsfoot, or gill-on-the-ground, is a very difficult plant to control! It has creeping stems that continue rooting and spreading, and it has grown resistant to many herbicides. You’ll know Creeping Charlie by its distinct mint-like aroma when crushed or mowed, and by its tiny purple orchid-like flowers in the spring.
Creeping Charlie was introduced in this country by the early European settlers, who used it as a shade-loving ground cover that doubled as a medicinal herb. From that perspective, they made a great choice! Unfortunately, it has become invasive and gardeners now see it as a weed rather than a garden plant.
Try these suggestions to control creeping charlie:
- Since Creeping Charlie likes moist shade, try increasing the light and improving drainage in the area by thinning trees or shrubs, amending the soil, or addressing grading issues.
- It also loves to take advantage of open areas, such as the spots where trees once grew. As you work to control the Creeping Charlie, also work to fill in the area with an appropriate turf grass or ground cover. As with any weed, a healthy lawn or thick groundcover is your best defense. Mulch doesn’t really pose a challenge for Creeping Charlie.
- Try a post-emergence broadleaf herbicide, particularly a three-way or combination product that contains dicamba (3, 6-dichloro-o-anisic acid) and/or triclopyr.
- Apply herbicides in the fall while the plants are busily storing up nutrients in their roots. Apply again when it blooms in the spring. Unfortunately, this plant will likely need repeat applications.
- Borax has been researched for treatment of Creeping Charlie with mixed results, although some gardeners swear by it. While it seems to be true that Creeping Charlie is more sensitive to boron than other plants, it’s very difficult to get the correct dosage. The risk of injuring surrounding plants – and the toxic buildup of boron in the soil over time – cast doubt over this method.
- Keep a close watch on it – you’ll have more success if you can remove or kill it before it has time to spread.
- Thankfully, Creeping Charlie’s roots are shallow, making it easy to pull, but it’s very difficult to remove all of the spreading roots.
- Most measures to control Creeping Charlie do just that – “control” it. “Eliminating” it is a feat that many gardeners consider wishful thinking.
- How to Control Weeds in Your Lawn
- Controlling Creeping Charlie (Wisconsin Master Gardener Program)
- Using Borax to Control Creeping Charlie (Univ. of Minnesota)