Plants

Complete Guide to Creeping Charlie: How to Get Rid of & Kill “Ground Ivy”

Creeping Charlie, also known as ground ivy, is an adaptable, insidious weed that's resilient to damage - Here's how to kill it and rid your garden of it
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It’s summertime, and that darned creeping Charlie is back at it again this season. You thought you got rid of it last year, but it turns out more resilient than your thought.

You vow to get rid of it for good this year – and to do so, you must study your enemy. Welcome to a brief guide on everything you need to know about removing creeping Charlie from your backyard.

Creeping Charlie, also known as ground ivy, is an adaptable, insidious weed that’s resilient to damage, making it incredibly challenging to remove from the garden. The plant is a member of the mint family, and it grows quickly.

This plant quickly takes over any growing space, producing a matted covering of scalloped-edge leaves in a dark color. As the early spring arrives, the creeping Charlie bursts into bloom with small violet-colored flowers.

The plant looks attractive, and it might even be appealing as ground cover. However, the reality is that it’s an invasive weed. It kills anything around it, smothering the roots, blocking sunlight, and preventing water and nutrition from reaching the roots of your plants.

Ground Ivy is a pain
Ground Ivy is a pain

The creeping Charlie likes growing in moist, shady areas of your yard. When you see it appear, you’ll have to take immediate action to remove it, or the next time you look at it could be too late. The larger the plant gets, the harder it is to remove. Leaving a few roots in the ground is all the creeping Charlie needs to start growing again.

Fortunately, we have three methods of getting rid of creeping Charlie from your yard for good. In this article, we’ll unpack each of the ways in further detail.

How Can I Identify Creeping Charlie?

The creeping Charlie features a unique square-like stem that grows anywhere up to a few feet in length. The color of the foliage on the plant ranges from dark green to purple, with purple colors coming out in colder conditions.

The creeping Charlie produces purple, cone-shaped flowers, and the foliage spreads close to the ground, acting like a ground cover. Some gardeners might confuse the creeping Charlie for the creeping Jenny. At a glance, both the plants might look alike. However, the creeping Charlie features scalloped edges on the leaves, while the Creeping Jenny foliage is smooth.

When Do I Get Rid of Creeping Charlie?

Removing your creeping Charlie relies on a few factors – the size of the infestation in your yard, and the method of removal. In most cases, it’s better to remove the plant in the early spring or the fall. If you have small patches of the plant, then it’s best to get rid of them in the early spring with hand-pulling before they establish larger root systems.

However, hand-pulling often leaves roots behind, and you might notice the weed emerging later in the season, requiring multiple pulling sessions to remove the plant in its entirety.

If you want to remove your creeping Charlie using an herbicide, make sure you do this in the fall, and well before the plant has a chance to seed. If the creeping Charlie does manage to seed, you’re going to have a big problem in your yard the following season.

Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea)
Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea)

How to Remove Creeping Charlie by Hand

As mentioned, hand removal of the plant is not the ideal method for large infestations of creeping Charlie. This method will take forever with large plants and only offers you limited success.

However, if there are only a few small creeping Charlie plants in your yard, then pulling by hand is a good choice.

Tools for the job

  • Shovel and fork
  • Gloves
  • Garden waste disposal bag
  • Cultivator
  • Hose
  • Watering can

Prune the plant close to the roots

Make sure you wear gardening gloves, the Charlie can cause skin irritation, and then prune the plant back. Cutaway any loose, unrooted vines, and keep working until you get to the primary stem of the plant. Dig around the base of the plant using a gardening fork to loosen the soil and roots.

Grab and Pull

Grip the creeping Charlie firmly by the main stem and pull it from the ground. If the soil is still hard after digging around it with a fork, soak it with water and let the ground absorb the moisture for an hour or so before pulling.

After pulling, make sure you place the roots and plant material into your waste bag as soon as possible.

Ensure you remove all the roots

After removing all the creeping Charlie check to make sure you got all the roots. Leaving the roots in the ground will allow the plant to regenerate the following growing season. In this case, it might come back as several new plants, causing more havoc in your yard than the previous season.

You can pull it by hand
You can pull it by hand

How to Smother Creeping Charlie

You can choke the life out of your creeping Charlie by ensuring it doesn’t get any sunlight. After a few weeks, the plant dies – but you’ll need to ensure that you cover the plant thoroughly because they still thrive in the shade.

Tools for the job

  • Newspaper and cardboard
  • Tarp
  • Bricks or large rocks
  • Cultivator
  • Gloves
  • Garden waste disposal bag

Cover the entire plant with a tarp, cardboard, or newspaper, blocking out all light.

Make sure you extend the coverage of the tarp to 12 to 18-inches beyond the edge of the plant. The roots of the creeping Charlie can branch out further than the canopy, and you’ll need to ensure the tarp covers this far to make the smothering effective.

Wait for 2-weeks for the plant to die.

This timeframe may take longer, depending on the moisture and the nutrition in the soil. When the plant dries, and the foliage turns brown, it’s dead and ready for pulling from the ground.

Pull the creeping Charlie

Water the ground thoroughly and dig up the root system. Pull the creeping Charlie and dispose of the plant in your garden waste bag. Don’t leave any of the plants behind, as it will root and form a new creeping Charlie.

How to Kill Creeping Charlie Using Herbicide

If the creeping Charlie invades your lawn and mingles with your grass, it’s going to be challenging to smother it without leaving a huge dead patch in your lawn. It’s also going to be a real effort the try and dig it up.

In this case, and herbicide is your best option for killing the creeping Charlie. However, you’ll need to choose a selective herbicide that doesn’t kill your grass along with the creeping Charlie. A selective herbicide is the most effective way of killing off that creeping Charlie, preventing it from returning the following year.

Tools for the job

Pick a date the week before the first frosts land on the ground.

It’s most effective for you to spray your creeping Charlie in the fall, disrupting its preparation for the dormancy during the winter. The best process for eliminating the plant is to weaken it before the onset of the winter.

Strap on your protective gear and mix the herbicide.

Make sure you mix the herbicide with water to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Soak the creeping Charlie all over the plant and at the base of the roots.

Dispose of the remaining herbicide following manufacturer’s guidelines. Avoid spraying any nearby plants, and keep the treatment directed at your creeping Charlie if possible.

Leave the plant for two days to absorb the toxins and start to perish. On the third day, dig up the plant and throw it in your garden disposal bag. Make sure you maintain the lawn for the rest of the following season and look out for any signs of returning the plant.

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How Do I Keep Creeping Charlie from Returning to My Yard Next Year?

As mentioned, creeping Charlie is a very invasive plant. This weed can take over large areas during the summer, and if you don’t kill it back, then it’s going to breed and take over your entire yard the following year.

Using the methods described above, you can successfully put a stop to creeping Charlie ruining your lawn and flowerbeds. However, there is no guarantee that the plant won’t return next year, even if you manage to kill it with one of these methods.

Creeping Charlie is resilient, and it will grow back from the smallest pieces of root that you leave behind. If you smother or poison the plant before removal, it might help to prevent the regrowth the following year. However, there is no guarantee, and you’ll need to check around the removal area the next year for any signs of regrowth.

Check the area in the early springtime, and after the first rains. If you do notice regrowth, pull all the small shoots of the plant before they have time to establish an extensive root system.

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Hollie Carter

Hollie is a life-long gardener, having started helping her Dad work on their yard when she was just 5. Since then she has gone on to develop a passion for growing vegetables & fruit in her garden. She has an affinity with nature and loves to share her knowledge gained over a lifetime with readers online. Hollie has written for a number of publications and is now the resident garden blogger here at GardenBeast. Contact her at hollie@gardenbeast.com or follow on twitter https://twitter.com/greenholliec

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