No matter what you call it – ground ivy, gill-on-the-ground, Creeping Charlie, or Creeping Jenny – this troublesome weed is notoriously tough to eradicate. Creeping Charlie belongs to the mint family. It is a persistent and adaptable vine that can rapidly take over a lawn, smothering grass and destroying the turf you have carefully grown over many years. This article explains how to kill Creeping Charlie weed and prevent it from returning to your grass.
Photo Credit Creeping Charlie is an aggressive weed that prefers moisture and spreads quickly into lawns.
The elimination of Creeping Charlie is the holy grail of lawn care for many homeowners who take pride in maintaining a healthy and attractive lawn. The only plant that is more challenging to eradicate and keep under control than the Creeping Charlie is the dandelion. Creeping Charlie multiplies via its square-shaped stems, i.e., the creeps, across the surface of the soil and take root at the nodes wherever they come in contact with the ground.
Like other aggressive perennial weeds, Creeping Charlie must be treated and controlled at an appropriate time with a compelling product and cultural practices that will help prevent its re-establishment in a yard. Using a postemergence broadleaf herbicide is the most effective method for controlling Creeping Charlie on a lawn. In this regard, homeowners should look for a weed killer that either contains a salt of triclopyr or dicamba (3, 6-dichloro-o-anisic acid).
Identifying Creeping Charlie
Photo Credit This shallow-rooted weed also has a minty odor when crushed or cut with a lawn mower.
Creeping Charlie is actually quite attractive, and its variegated (and far less invasive) relative, Variegata, is sometimes marketed in gardens as a ground cover for planters. It is a green vine with rounded leaves that have scalloped edges. In spring, tiny blooms with a funnel shape and a bluish-purple color grow on its short stalks. When the plant is crushed, a pungent odor that is similar to mint is produced. Cool, wet and shady areas, such as those under the trees or shrubs, are the best place for its growth.
How Does Creeping Charlie Spread?
Photo Credit Creeping Charlie spreads readily by setting down roots along its long stems.
Creeping Charlie can quickly spread from seeds, stems that develop roots at the nodes where they contact the ground, and rhizomes. No matter how much effort you put in digging it out of the ground, its rhizomes are so invasive that leaving even a tiny fragment behind can result in the growth of a new plant.
You will find Creeping Charlie in places where the grass on the lawn is sparse and not very resilient. This could happen in areas with compacted soil, plenty of shade, or lots of weeds.
Creeping Charlie has a vining growth habit and spreads low to the soil, smothering all else in the region. Since it is a member of the mint family, it spreads on top of the soil by stolons (surface roots), like all mints. This is known as stoloniferous growth.
If you spot it, you need to act quickly or suffer the consequences later.
How To Get Rid Of Creeping Charlie?
Photo Credit While not planting Creeping Charlie is the easiest approach to manage it, you have a few other options.
Before we get into how you can get rid of Creeping Charlie from your lawn, it is essential to understand that dealing with weeds such as Creeping Charlie is very much like dealing with lawn pests. So, begin with a strategy that will cause the least amount of disruption to the subtle balance of soil nutrients and plant & animal life in your yard. Then gradually increase the severity of the treatment until you can declare triumph.
When you have finished eradicating Creeping Charlie, replace the bare area with native alternatives or grasses that are tolerant of shade. If you are going with pulling these weeds as a way to get rid of them, make sure to use gloves because Creeping Charlies can cause an itching rash if it comes into contact with your skin.
However, if you do end up using chemical treatments, eye, hand, arm, and leg protection is of the utmost importance. Also, pick a day when there is little to no wind, as this will prevent any sprays or seeds from the weeds from drifting into the air.
Pro Tip: When attempting to eradicate Creeping Charlie, the first thing that you need to understand is, similar to the majority of other weeds that can be found in lawns, it proliferates most rapidly in a yard that is in poor health. So, when caring for your lawn, follow proper watering, mowing, and fertilizing practices.
What You Will Need To Eliminate Creeping Charlie?
- Garden hose
- Gardening gloves
- Gardening shears
- Hand cultivator
- Knee pad
- Protective eyewear
- Waste Bags
- Pump sprayer for herbicide
- Spade or pitchfork
- Watering Can
- Weed tool
Hand Pulling Creeping Charlie
Photo Credit Hand-pulling Creeping Charlie is usually ineffective due to its deeply rooted nodes and stubborn rhizomes.
Hand-pulling is among the most common methods to get rid of Creeping Charlie. However, you will likely need to do it multiple times before the issue is entirely resolved. Do not apply industrially manufactured herbicides or weed killer to an area infested with Creeping Charlie if the infestation is not particularly large or is located near edible plants and children or pets play in the area. It is because glyphosate, the main ingredient in a wide variety of weed killers, has been associated with a higher risk of cancer.
You can take Creeping Charlie out by hand without the use of any chemicals. Hand-pulling is among the most common methods to get rid of Creeping Charlie. However, you will likely need to do it multiple times before the issue is entirely resolved.
Here is how to remove Creeping Charlie with your hands:
Prune The Weed
Many people are allergic to Charlie, which can aggravate existing skin conditions and make them itch. So, put on long sleeves and gardening gloves that are good quality but not too thick. Also, if you want to improve your comfort level, you can pick up a knee pad.
Using gardening shears, trim the foliage and creeping stems of the plant, but leave enough length on them so that you can pull the roots up by hand.
Put the clippings in a bag designated for yard garbage. You could also toss them into your compost pile, but only if you are confident that the temperature of your compost pile is high enough to destroy weed seeds.
Soak The Area
Water the Creeping Charlie-infested area with a garden hose. Allow the water to penetrate the soil for one hour. Ensure to thoroughly soak the soil and wait for around half an hour before continuing. Alternatively, you can wait for the rain to wet the ground naturally.
What you need to do is weaken the hold of roots on the soil so that it will be easier for you to yank the roots out without snapping them off in the ground.
Loosen The Soil
Once you have thoroughly wetted the affected area with water, loosen the soil to expose the rhizomes and roots. You can accomplish this by using a pitchfork to remove small portions of soil from the infested area carefully.
Remove The Plants
Next, take hold of the plant near its base and pull it up to lift the roots out of the ground. Do it in a slow but firm manner, ensuring that you pull out all of the roots. If the roots are extremely deep, you may need to manipulate the ground with the pitchfork again to remove all of the roots in a single pull. While you are pulling, immediately place the plants you unearth in a bag for disposal; do not leave them lying around.
Survey The Area
After you have removed all of the Creeping Charlie that is visible in the area, using a weed tool, examine the region for any remaining rhizomes, and remove them. Make sure you have removed all the shattered portions of the root, since they will grow back and you will find yourself in the same position as before again.
Repeat After A Few Weeks
Keep a watch on the surrounding area and as soon as you notice any new Creeping Charlie plants, pluck them up by the roots. It is essential because, irrespective of how careful you are, you will undoubtedly overlook some of the roots in the ground.
How To Get Rid Of Creeping Charlie Naturally?
Understanding what weed killer kills Creeping Charlie can help you manage an infestation without resorting to toxic herbicides like Roundup. It will also give you peace of mind, as you will not be contributing to the pollution of the environment with your work.
Many of the solutions that are discussed here can also be used to get rid of various other types of weeds as well. So, let’s start!
Kill Creeping Charlie With Citrus Oil
Photo Credit Citrus oil is a safe and effective degreasing agent which makes an excellent herbicide.
Oils and juices extracted from citrus fruits are effective herbicides when used alone or in combination with vinegar which we will discuss after this. Citrus oil extracted from lemons, oranges, or grapefruits is a common ingredient in several commercial herbicides.
Home gardeners also have access to various weed control products that feature oil concentrates derived from citrus fruits like lemon and orange. For broadleaf weeds like Creeping Charlie, products that also include iron may prove to be more effective.
I have tried at least three or four of these products myself, and I can attest to their efficiency and the speed with which they work. These products are typically all foliar sprays that destroy most broad-leaved weeds on contact.
They do not destroy roots; nevertheless, applying them repeatedly as long as you follow the guidelines is okay. They are also not damaging to the soil or the environment in any way. When applying a product containing citrus oil, you must always follow the instructions provided on the packaging regarding the mixing and use of the concentrate.
Here is how to kill Creeping Charlie with citrus oil:
- Put on long sleeves, gloves, and goggles to protect yourself from being splashed.
- Blend the concentrate with water using a proportion of one to three.
- Shake the solution well and pour it into a spray bottle or a garden sprayer.
- Spray the solution straight onto the leaves until they are completely covered.
- In the event that large weeds start to grow again, repeat the entire process.
Kill Creeping Charlie With Vinegar
Photo Credit You only need a spray bottle, dish soap, and vinegar to make your DIY weed killer.
When seeking a natural alternative to herbicides, a mixture of vinegar, salt, and liquid dish soap has all the necessary components to eliminate weeds quickly and effectively.
Dish soap is a surfactant, which means it can lessen the surface tension and make weeds more permeable. The acetic acid in the vinegar and salt are excellent at sucking moisture out of the weeds, which, when combined with our surfactant, will kill the weed.
Also, keep in mind that vinegar, even though it is much better for the environment than herbicides, can still be harmful to bees and other essential pollinators on your lawn. Because of this, you should exercise caution when using it in areas where Creeping Charlie is growing alongside other types of grass that you do not wish to eradicate.
Nevertheless, here is how to kill Creeping Charlie with vinegar:
- In a spray bottle, combine two cups of white vinegar, one cup of warm water, and a few drops of liquid dishwashing soap.
- Spray the leaves and stems of Creeping Charlie thoroughly, ideally on a day when there is no wind blowing and lots of sunshine.
- Check back every few days to see if there has been any growth. Then, spray the areas that are greening up once more, and repeat as necessary.
Also, keep in mind that vinegar will cause the stems and leaves of the plant to turn brown, but it will not kill the roots. If you still want to give this method a shot, you will have to use vinegar quite a few times before you will be able to eradicate the weeds completely.
Pro Tip: Make your DIY vinegar weed killer with horticultural vinegar. It is slightly more effective against invasive weeds such as Creeping Charlie because of its higher concentration (at 20 percent, as opposed to 5 to 10 percent for household vinegar).
Avoid Using Borax To Kill Creeping Charlie
Photo Credit Borax is a fairly potent weed killer and typically only needs to be applied once a year.
Some people have the mistaken belief that Creeping Charlie can be killed with Borax. However, in practice, Borax will only slow the unpleasant vine down; it will not kill it.
To make matters even worse, the Borax will kill any plants that it comes into contact with. Most importantly, it is not authorized for use in weed management, and using it to treat Creeping Charlie in your yard might be against the law.
However, if you are adamant about using it, Borax must be diluted in water and administered to the affected area no more often than once every two years. Moreover, if there are plants in the vicinity of the site that you are treating, there is little room for error.
Kill Creeping Charlie By Smothering The Weed
Photo Credit A great, low-effort technique to start a new yard is to smother weeds with newspaper.
The process of smothering weeds involves obstructing their access to light and water in order to bring about their death by starvation. Not only does this eliminate any weeds that could potentially cause damage to the landscape, but the decomposing plant material that is left behind also serves as a great source of fertilizer.
However, since Creeping Charlie prefers to grow in the shade, for this strategy to be successful, you will need to remove the plant from the light and cover it completely. Following is a list of the things that you will require to complete this task:
- Bricks or large rocks
- Garden waste disposal bag
- Newspaper and cardboard
Cover The Entire Plant
Cover the Creeping Charlie plant with a barrier of cardboards, tarp, or newspapers. Ensure that the coverage extends beyond the perimeter of the plant by 12 to 18 inches. This is because the Creeping Charlie roots can spread beyond the canopy deep into the ground. Put some boulders or stones on top of the cover to make it heavier so it won’t blow away or shift through to the plants underneath.
Wait For One To Two Weeks
Depending on your soil’s properties, it can take a week or longer to smother the Creeping Charlie. Glance underneath the cover. When the plant dries out, the leaves turn brown. If the plant is still green or somewhat green, keep the cover in place for a few more days to completely smother and kill the plant.
Pull The Dead Creeping Charlie Out
After you are sure it is no longer alive, you should properly moisten the ground and dig up the root system. If you skip this stage, it is very much possible that Creeping Charlie may regrow from any nodes or roots that have survived.
Side Note: Be aware that any other plants present alongside Creeping Charlie will also perish due to this treatment. For this reason, you should only employ this method in areas where Creeping Charlie has completely taken over or where you want to reseed grass or other plants once the weed has been eradicated.
Killing Creeping Charlie With Herbicides
Photo Credit Ortho Lawn Weed Killer Triclopyr: An excellent herbicide for controlling Creeping Charlie infestations.
For Creeping Charlie infestations that are more widespread or that have completely taken over an entire lawn, more extreme measures are required. If you have been reading my articles regularly, you might know that I advocate using organic methods to maintain a lawn. However, there are situations in which the use of herbicides is unavoidable.
Bear in mind that many herbicides available for purchase on the market are not selective. Read the product labels carefully and select a broadleaf herbicide as many of them, notably glyphosate, kill everything they come into contact with.
Keeping Creeping Charlie under control requires some effort, and there is no guarantee that it will be successful. Also, to eradicate the weed entirely, it may be necessary to apply herbicides consistently for a considerable time. On the other hand, it could be easy to accept it as part of your life and occasionally cut back the weed when it gets too dense to manage.
Best Time To Kill Creeping Charlie With Herbicides
Herbicide applications should be performed when the weeds are in active growth. For optimal effects, apply when temperatures are in the mid-60s to low-80s, there is no rain forecast for the next 24 hours, and there is little or no wind.
Before and after spraying herbicides on lawns, you should wait a few days before mowing the grass in the treated area. Keeping this in mind, the best time to start applying herbicides to Creeping Charlie is in the middle to late part of fall, following the first frost.
At this point, the plants are actively transferring food reserves to their roots, and as a result, the herbicide is also carried down to the roots, resulting in improved control.
It is possible to make a second treatment the following spring as this is the time of year when the plants are most vulnerable to herbicides.
Best Herbicides For Creeping Charlie Infestations
The use of a postemergence broadleaf herbicide is the most effective method for managing the Creeping Charlie weed on lawns. Homeowners should look for a weed killer that either contains triclopyr or salt of dicamba.
Other beneficial compounds are mecoprop or MCPP propionic acid and 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid. So, when purchasing a weed killer, read the label to see if it contains these compounds; if it does, you should go ahead and buy it.
These products are effective for use in applications on lawns, but they are not recommended for use in vegetable or flower gardens. This is because many broadleaf plants are highly vulnerable to these chemicals, and even minute doses of these herbicides can cause severe injury to the plant.
The development of Creeping Charlie indicates that your lawn’s growing conditions might require attention. For example, there could be problems with excessive shade, damp soils, or low fertility. You can make it more challenging for Creeping Charlie to infest your lawn by trying to plant something that performs better than turf grasses and maintaining a healthy lawn. It won’t be fun, and it won’t be simple, but it is possible to get rid of Creeping Charlie. Any of the suggested approaches here, including hand-pulling, smothering, do-it-yourself organic controls, and broadleaf herbicides, will produce satisfactory results when applied to young plants. So, do not procrastinate!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Does vinegar kill Creeping Charlie?
Creeping Charlie is well-known for its resilience and tenacity. To eradicate Creeping Charlie entirely, multiple applications of vinegar are required. If you use it properly, horticultural vinegar, which is more acidic than household vinegar, could provide promising results.
How do you kill Creeping Charlie without herbicides?
One non-chemical strategy for eradicating Creeping Charlie involves smothering the infestation and shielding the weed from all sunlight. Other often used techniques include hand-pulling weeds and killing plants with vinegar. However, these natural approaches are most effective when the infestation is small.
Will boiling water kill Creeping Charlie?
While new plants can be killed with boiling water, existing patches of creeping Charlie will not respond well to this method, and nearby plants may suffer as a result. When killing Creeping Charlie with this method, you can get better results by putting a little dish detergent and vinegar in the boiling water.
Will Epsom salt kill Creeping Charlie?
Epsom salt has traditionally been used as fertilizer; in theory, however, you could apply it to plants in high amounts to kill them, but that would take a lot of Epsom salt. So, use a combination of Dawn dish soap, Epsom salts, and vinegar to kill weeds with Epsom salt.
How do I get rid of invasive ground cover?
The easiest technique to remove an invasive ground cover is to cut it down as short as possible in early spring and then cover it with plastic or mulch. Now that the plants cannot photosynthesize, they will starve and, as a result, die.
Sources for Further Reading
How to manage Creeping Charlie – University of Minnesota Extension Service
Managing Creeping Charlie and Violets – University of Illinois Extension Service
Controlling Ground Ivy in Home Lawns – New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station
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