How To: Get Rid of Creeping Charlie
Banish this pretty yet pernicious weed with one of three trusted methods.
Creeping Charlie—also commonly known as ground ivy—is an insidious weed that is both resilient and adaptable, making it very difficult to combat successfully. A member of the mint family, it grows low to the ground in a vining habit, and will quickly fill an empty space with a mat-like cover of small, round, scalloped-edged green leaves, punctuated in early spring with delicate, violet-blue flowers. 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, and even a lawn, 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 with one of these three tried-and-true methods for how to get rid of Creeping Charlie, or you will have a hard battle later.
METHOD #1: PULLING
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.
Don gardening gloves, as Creeping Charlie can cause skin irritation and itching; some people are even allergic to it. Prune the weed by cutting off any loose vines not rooted to the ground, to help expose the areas where you need to pull and dig.
Grasp the plant by the roots to 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.
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: 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.
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.
Wait at least a week for the Creeping Charlie to smother—it could be longer, depending on your soil conditions. Take a peek after a week, and if there’s any green left, replace the cover for another week. When Creeping Charlie is shriveled and brown, it’s good and dead!
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: 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 and pants
– Protective eyewear
– Garden sprayer
– Broadleaf herbicide that contains tricolpyr or dicamba
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.
Put on protective gloves, clothing, and eyewear. Mix the herbicide in a garden sprayer according to the manufacturer’s directions.
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.
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.