How to Get Rid of Creeping Charlie: Hand-Pulling & Herbicide

Keep this invasive weed out of your lawn and prevent it from coming back

How to Get Rid of Creeping Charlie

The Spruce

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 3 hrs
  • Total Time: 2 hrs
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $0 to 30

Creeping Charlie is an invasive groundcover that can quickly choke out grass and ornamental plants. Native to Europe, it was introduced to North America in the 1800s as both an ornamental and a medicinal plant. Now, it has proliferated into a hard-to-kill lawn weed. Creeping Charlie readily spreads from its seeds, roots (or rhizomes), and stems that root at the nodes. Here's how to get rid of creeping Charlie plants.

What Is Creeping Charlie?

Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea) goes by several other common names including ground ivy, alehoof, and catsfoot. This ground-hugging plant is an aromatic evergreen and a close relative of mint. It's a perennial—meaning it lives more than two years—that thrives in moist and shady areas, though it also tolerates some sun.

Identifying Creeping Charlie

Creeping Charlie has a square stem that varies in length from a few inches to 2 feet long. Its leaf color ranges from dark green to purple. The plant grows purple funnel-shaped flowers and spreads to form a dense mat that's low to the ground (i.e., a groundcover).

Creeping Charlie is sometimes mistaken as creeping Jenny, the common name for Lysimachia nummularia. At a glance, the two weeds look alike. But on closer inspection, you'll see that creeping Charlie's leaves have scalloped edges while creeping Jenny's leaves do not. Creeping Jenny flowers are yellow.

Creeping Charlie weed plant with roots laying on wooden surface

The Spruce / Colleen & Shannon Graham

When to Get Rid of Creeping Charlie

Depending on your level of infestation and your chosen removal method, it's best to get rid of creeping Charlie in either the spring or fall.

For small patches, hand-pulling in the spring before the plant has flowered is recommended as an initial eradication attempt. Hand-pulling will kill creeping Charlie but not grass, and it's a pet-safe method to get rid of creeping Charlie. However, it often requires several attempts throughout the season to fully eradicate the plant.

If you decide to use an herbicide, do so in the fall when the plant has reached its prime and before it sends out seeds. An herbicide is typically a more effective method to permanently get rid of creeping Charlie plants. Select a day when there will be little wind, and make sure it won't rain or snow within 24 hours of application.

Warning

One home remedy for killing creeping Charlie plants involves a solution of Borax. However, this method has fallen out of favor. Unless you use scientific precision in mixing and applying the solution, you can end up with a case of boron toxicity in your soil.

1:44

Click Play to Learn How to Get Rid of Creeping Charlie

Prepare for your landscaping project with a pro

You don't have to go at it alone! Find and compare quotes from top-rated professionals near you.

Get a Quote

The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which The Spruce receives compensation.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Gardening gloves
  • Pruners
  • Garden hose
  • Spade or pitchfork
  • Weed tool
  • Protective eyewear
  • Pump sprayer for herbicide

Materials

  • Lawn waste bags
  • Herbicide
  • Piece of cardboard (optional)

Instructions

Hand-Pulling Creeping Charlie

Hand-pulling is one of the most common—and pet-safe—ways to get rid of creeping Charlie. You'll likely have to repeat the process to permanently get rid of creeping Charlie plants if you see new growth emerging, but the upside is you won't kill your grass in the process like chemical methods can.

Materials and tools to remove Creeping Charlie weeds

The Spruce / Colleen & Shannon Graham

  1. Trim the Leaves and Stems

    Trim the leaves and creeping stems from the plant with your gardening shears, leaving just enough above the ground to pull with your hands. Place the trimmings in a lawn waste bag.

    Creeping Charlie weeds trimmed from top of plant with hand shears

    The Spruce / Colleen & Shannon Graham

  2. Soak the Area

    Using a garden hose, soak the area with the creeping Charlie. Make sure to thoroughly saturate the soil, and wait about 30 to 60 minutes before proceeding.

    Garden hose soaking Creeping Charlie weeds with water

    The Spruce / Colleen & Shannon Graham

  3. Loosen Soil

    Loosen the soil with a pitchfork to expose some of the roots and rhizomes (little white roots).

    Garden soil loosened under Creeping Charlie weeds with pitchfork

    The Spruce / Colleen & Shannon Graham

  4. Remove the Roots

    Grasp the plant at its base, and pull up to remove the roots. If the roots are particularly deep, rework the soil with the pitchfork, so you can remove them all in one pull. Place the entire plant and its roots in the lawn waste bag.

    Creeping Charlie plant pulled from soil with garden gloves

    The Spruce / Colleen & Shannon Graham

  5. Inspect the Area

    With a garden trowel or weed tool, inspect the area for any leftover rhizomes and remove them. Removing all the rhizomes you see will make any subsequent elimination efforts easier.

    Weed tool moving soil to inspect for leftover rhizomes

    The Spruce / Colleen & Shannon Graham

Killing Creeping Charlie With Herbicide

An herbicide or weed-control product can kill creeping Charlie the best, especially if the patch is too large to hand-pull. You can opt for a method that effectively gets rid of everything in the area, but that means it will kill your grass and you'll have to restart your lawn from scratch. Or you can selectively spray the creeping Charlie with a lawn-friendly product, following the manufacturer's directions. An herbicide that contains dicamba or 2,4-D will usually be successful for killing creeping Charlie.

  1. Mix Herbicide With Water

    Place the herbicide into a pump sprayer, and mix it with water per the manufacturer's instructions. Be precise. Too much product can harm your soil, and too little might not kill the creeping Charlie plants. Use protective eyewear and gloves when handling chemicals.

    Herbicide container next to gallon of water for pump sprayer

    The Spruce / Colleen & Shannon Graham

  2. Spray

    Spray the herbicide onto the creeping Charlie, concentrating on the leaves and stems and allowing the solution to soak down to the roots. Be careful of overspray, so you don't hit any nearby foliage you want to keep.

    If creeping Charlie appears in flower beds or adjacent to ornamental plants, use a large piece of cardboard to shield your garden plants from overspray.

    Herbicide solution sprayed on to Creeping Charlie weeds

    The Spruce / Colleen & Shannon Graham

  3. Leave the Area Alone

    Leave the treated area for winter. Then, in the spring rake up any leftover weed debris. Till and amend the soil with a nitrogen-fixing natural fertilizer. Then, replant or reseed your lawn.

    Leftover Creeping Charlie weed debris raked up before replanting

    The Spruce / Colleen & Shannon Graham

How to Prevent Creeping Charlie From Coming Back

If you're hand-pulling creeping Charlie, check the area at least weekly for regrowth. Pull it out and dispose of it as you see it. The more you can disrupt the plant's growth and stop it from getting nutrients, the easier it will be to prevent the creeping Charlie from coming back. Moreover, if you're going the herbicide route, you can use a pre-emergent weed killer in the spring to help prevent regrowth. 

It's also important to maintain a healthy lawn to give it a better shot at fighting encroachment from creeping Charlie plants. Ensure that your grass is cut to an appropriate height and is sufficiently watered and fed throughout the growing season.

If grass doesn't grow well in a particular area—because of too much shade or poor drainage, for example—look for plants that thrive in those conditions. This can help to prevent creeping Charlie from moving in. 

Tips for Getting Rid of Creeping Charlie

When hand-pulling, remember that even the tiniest piece of rhizome left behind will eventually shoot up as a new plant. In most cases, creeping Charlie will likely return after the first hand-pulling. So keep an eye on the area to catch new plants as soon as possible. It takes determination, but eventually you will wear down the creeping Charlie and permanently get rid of it.

For the chemical control of creeping Charlie in lawns, use a selective broadleaf weed killer that works specifically on creeping Charlie. And make sure the product is suitable to use on the variety of grass you grow. Many broadleaf weed killers can be applied more than once in a season with a minimum waiting period between applications. Furthermore, observe the recommended waiting period before reseeding a lawn or starting any other plants after using a chemical product. Avoid starting edible plants in the area unless your product specifically says it's safe for them.

You can try killing creeping Charlie with vinegar if you want to take a more natural method. Mix 2 parts vinegar to 1 part water in a spray bottle, and spray it all over the plant. Vinegar helps to get rid of creeping Charlie by causing foliage dieback. However, creeping Charlie is a notoriously tough plant and will likely regrow from its roots. So to get rid of creeping Charlie permanently, you'll likely need multiple applications of vinegar in conjunction with some hand-pulling.