Creeping Charlie is an rapidly spreading invasive ground cover that can quickly choke out grass in a lawn as well as crowd out ornamental plants in a flower bed. Native to Europe, creeping Charlie 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.
What Is Creeping Charlie?
Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea), goes by several other common names including "ground ivy", "alehoof" and "catfoot." 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.
Creeping Charlie readily spreads from its seeds, roots (or rhizomes), and stems that root at the nodes. Even if you dig it out, its rhizomes are so invasive that leaving behind just one fragment can result in a new plant.
Equipment / Tools
- Spade or pitchfork
- Gardening shears
- Weed tool
- Gardening gloves
- Protective eyewear
- Garden hose
- Pump sprayer for herbicide
- Lawn waste bags
Hand-Pulling Creeping Charlie
Hand-pulling is one of the most common ways to remove creeping Charlie, although you may have to repeat the process several times to fully eradicate the problem.
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.
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.
Loosen the soil with a pitchfork to expose some of the roots and rhizomes (little white roots).
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.
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. The hand-pulling method typically requires several passes.
Killing Creeping Charlie With Chemicals
If your patch of creeping Charlie is too large to hand-pull, using an herbicide or a weed-control product might be your only option. You can opt for a method that effectively kills everything in the area, though that means 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. The best time to spray creeping Charlie is in the fall after the first frost. Select a day when there will be little wind, and make sure it won't rain or snow within 24 hours of application.
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 weed. Use protective eyewear and gloves when handling chemicals.
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.
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.
Identifying Creeping Charlie
Creeping Charlie has a square stem that varies in length from a few inches to 2 feet long. The color of its leaves 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 (a ground cover).
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.
When to Get Rid of Creeping Charlie
Depending on your level of infestation and your chosen removal method, creeping Charlie is best removed in either spring or fall. For small patches, hand-pulling in the spring before the plant has flowered is recommended as an initial eradication attempt. However, hand-pulling 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.
One home remedy for killing creeping charlie 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.
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 plant and eradicate it completely.
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.