How Do You Control Creeping Charlie?

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.

Creeping Charlie control is a steep mountain to climb, but success is possible with several years of careful attention. 

2 Responses

  1. Diane Hurner

    Thank you for addressing the problem of creeping charlie. It has vigorously invaded my lawn and flower beds since a neighbor left a wide patch of bare ground after digging a trench for a sewer project. They think it’s beautiful while it’s flowering so it has been allowed to flourish. Also, could you remind me again what to use on my apple tree to prevent the worms from ruining the fruit. This year it is again covered with blossoms so I need to do something soon. I don’t like using anything that will harm bees or butterflies, so is there any other option? I’m always grateful for your Saturday gardening news. Thank you!

    1. Don Kinzler

      Hi Diane. Thanks for writing. For apple maggot control, spraying begins when the adult fly becomes active in mid-to-late June. Spray every 7 to 10 days from then until mid-August for best control. Pick all dropped apples up quickly, as any maggots present exit the apples, enter the soil, and winter there, ready to emerge the following year to re-infect apples.

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