Anyone who’s suffered a Creeping Charlie attack knows the difficulty of control. How did a plant get to be so weedy? Well, we have ourselves to thank. Early settlers brought this non-native plant to North America from Europe, as they felt it would make a hardy groundcover. And that it is. Unfortunately it escaped cultivation long ago, and now is one of the most tenacious weeds in the lawn and landscape.
Creeping Charlie, also known as Ground Ivy, Glechoma hederacea, is a winter-hardy perennial, spreading by creeping stems (stolons) that root as it goes. Blue-lavender flowers produce seed, giving it a second source of spreading. Creeping Charlie is a serious weed problem in lawns and flower gardens where it establishes. In lawns, the low-growing plant habit hugs the ground, escaping the lawn mower.
Control takes persistence. The following recommendations are based on information from University of Wisconsin, University of Minnesota and North Dakota State University.
- One of the more effective herbicides for control of Creeping Charlie is the active ingredient triclopyr. The main headline of the herbicide package won’t say triclopyr, but look at the fine print ingredient label, and it will be listed as the active ingredient.
- Spray triclopyr at least twice per year, at two key times: (1) in spring or early summer, particularly when the small blue flowers appear, and the plant is actively and freshly growing. (2) Apply triclopyr spray again in September, especially after the first light frost. This fall application is very important, as weeds are moving material (including the weed killer) down into their roots for winter storage.
- Triclopyr is a broadleaf weed killer, killing broadleaf plants, but not harming lawngrass.
- In landscapes or flowerbeds, herbicides must be spot-applied, as chemicals that kill Creeping Charlie will also kill broadleaf perennials and plants.
- Always follow the directions on the label.
- Spray on days with temperatures in the mid-70’s.
- Control by digging is difficult, but might be the only solution in perennial flowers or landscapes. Perennial flowers can be dug out in early spring or fall, set aside, and the Creeping Charlie treated with herbicide or dug out. Care must be taken to remove every sprig of stems.
- Borax has been touted as control for Creeping Charlie. University research showed that Borax doesn’t provide long-term control, and it has the potential to damage the lawngrass, making it a non-recommended method.