Creeping Charlie, or ground ivy, is an invasive nuisance ground cover that can quickly overpower grass and ornamental plants.
This groundcover is native to Europe, and it was later introduced to North America in the 1800s as a medicinal and ornamental plant.
Nowadays, Creeping Charlie has proliferated into a hard-to-kill lawn weed. This ground ivy readily spreads from its seeds, rhizomes, and stems that root at the nodes.
Continue reading for tips and tricks on how to get rid of this invasive intruder.
What is Creeping Charlie?
Creeping Charlie is a ground-hugging plant classified as an aromatic evergreen and a mint relative.
Creeping Charlie is a perennial, meaning it can live over two years and thrive in moist shady areas, though it can also tolerate sun. Creeping Charlie was thought to be a good shade groundcover.
Creeping Charlie flowers bring in pollinating bees and butterflies with their nectar-producing blooms in spring and summer. These bluish-purple flowers grow in clusters, have five petals shaped like funnels, and typically grow in one-sided axillary whorls.
A variegated form of Creeping Charlie can be used in hanging baskets.
- Scientific name: Glechoma hederacea
- Common names: ground ivy, catsfoot, alehoof
- Family: Lamiaceae (Mint family)
- Native Status: Introduced
- Habitat: Lawns
Is Creeping Charlie Really That Bad?
Although some homeowners are not fond of creeping Charlie, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a nuisance weed; it can add flavor to different dishes and offer other benefits.
- Creeping Charlie can be used as a lawn substitute. This ground-hugging plant is a good option if you’re looking for a low-maintenance, eco-friendly alternative to turf grass in a shady area. You don’t need to mow as it grows in thick mats. This non-invasive ground cover is a great choice to replace turf.
- Pollinators love Creeping Charlie’s flowers! These flowers produce nectar from April to late June. Butterflies and bees love these wonderful pollinating plants.
- This groundcover grows in poor soil and shady conditions, making it a good ground cover option for erosion control. So, if you have an area prone to washout, creeping Charlie can help keep the soil in its place.
Is Creeping Charlie Edible?
Young creeping charlie leaves can be eaten raw and cooked. Creeping Charlie leaves have a strong mint-like odor and can be tossed into salads or fresh dishes to add a slight aromatic tang. This plant’s leaves can be cooked like spinach and added to stews, soups, or omelets. Creeping Charlie tea can be made from fresh and dried leaves, often mixed with lovage or verbena leaves. Creeping Charlie has even been added to beer to improve its flavor.
Identifying Creeping Charlie
Weed identification is always a necessary first step.
This ground-hugging plant has a square stem that can vary in length from a couple of inches to two feet long. Charlie’s kidney-shaped leaves can vary from dark green to purple. Charlie plants grow purple funnel-shaped flowers that spread to form a low-to-the-ground dense mat (groundcover).
Creeping Charlie can be easily mistaken for a creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia). At first glance, these two weeds look alike, but if you pay close attention, you’ll realize that Charlie’s leaves have scalloped edges, unlike Jenny’s.
How and When to Get Rid of Creeping Charlie
It all depends on your level of infestation and the weeding removal method you pick; it’s best to get rid of this evergreen creeper during early-spring or fall (after the first frost).
Grasses on the thin and sparse side need to improve turf health and increase density to get a handle on these weeds.
One way to accomplish this is by regularly mowing your lawn, ensuring it does not grow over 3 inches, and maintaining your overall landscaping.
Hand pulling in spring, before the plant begins flowering, is recommended as an initial eradication attempt for small patches.
Hand pulling will kill this ground-hugging plant but not the grass, and it is also pet safe. However, it often requires numerous attempts to eradicate the plant entirely.
If you choose to use a herbicide, do it during the fall. During this season, the plant has reached its prime state and hasn’t sent out any seeds.
Pick a day when there’s little to no wind, and make sure it won’t rain within 24 hours of application.
As previously mentioned, hand pulling is one of the most pet-safe common ways to eliminate Creeping Charlie.
Although you’ll likely have to repeat this process to eliminate it completely, it may be a practical solution for vegetable or flower gardens.
Here’s how to do it:
- Trim the creeping leaves and stems from the plant with gardening shears. Leave just enough to pull from the floor.
- Place trimmings in a lawn waste bag.
- Water the infested area with a garden hose until it is soaked. Ensure the soil is saturated and let it sit for 45-60 minutes.
- Using a pitchfork, loosen the soil to expose some of the roots and rhizomes.
- Grab the plant at its base and pull until you remove the roots. You can use a pitchfork to rework the soil if the roots are deep.
- Inspect the area for leftovers and remove them using a weed tool or a garden trowel.
A postemergence broadleaf herbicide application is the most effective way for weed control for homeowners, especially if the patch, or areas of a lawn, are too big to hand pull.
You can opt for a method that’ll effectively eliminate everything, but it will also damage your grass.
Or you can use a lawn-friendly spray for Creeping Charlie during winter.
A herbicide containing the active ingredients 2,4-D (dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) and mecoprop, or MCPP 2- methly-4-chlorophenoxy (propionic acid), triclopyr, or dicamba, usually kills Creeping Charlie.
Here’s how to get rid of Creeping Charlie using a herbicide:
- Mix water and herbicide in a pump sprayer using the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Spray the Creeping Charlie leaves and stems with herbicide, allowing them to soak down to the roots.
- Leave the herbicide-treated area throughout winter, and rake up any leftover weeds during spring.
- Amend the soil with a nitrogen-fixing fertilizer, then reseed or replant your lawn.
If you’re using this method, keep in mind these tips:
- Use protective gloves and eyewear when handling chemicals.
- These methods are not recommended for vegetable or flower gardens since broadleaf plants can be susceptible to this method.
- Be as precise as possible; if you don’t add enough herbicide, it won’t work, but adding too much can harm your soil.
- Do not overspray; you can hit nearby foliage, trees, and shrubs.
- If Creeping Charlie appears near ornamental plants or in flower beds, use a piece of cardboard to shield your plants.
Creeping Charlie is persistent and not quickly detained by natural solutions such as spraying with natural vinegar weed killer. But if you don’t want to use harsh chemicals, borax is sometimes recommended as an organic control method and natural treatment.
However, research from Iowa State University and the University of Wisconsin shows that borax may be less effective than a broadleaf herbicide. Although it’s a natural alternative, it can potentially harm nearby shrubs and plants.
Power Rake or Vertical Mower
These dethatching tools are used to treat larger areas of grass infested by creeping Charlie.
Power rakes and vertical mowers act as a comb to sever roots so the creeping Charlie can easily be raked out.
Just know that in some instances, this method can cause nodes to spread, thereby infecting shrubs or even creating new plants.
Prevent Creeping Charlie from Growing Back
Creeping Charlie are shade-loving plants that like to grow in wet nutrient-poor soil and shady spots.
Help your lawn out-compete Creeping Charlie and other broadleaf weeds by giving it the conditions it needs: well-draining, fertile soil, and sunlight.
You can keep Creeping Charlie out of your garden bed by maintaining it with mulch.
Altering the moist environment Creeping Charlie enjoys can discourage its growth habit. To better control Creeping Charlie, improve soil drainage or water less frequently, increase light levels, and prune trees to open the canopy.
If this weed is invading a thin lawn, you can try to improve turf health to get weeds under control.
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Melissa Askari is a biologist and master gardener who is known for her contributions to the field of sustainable living. She is a regular contributor to Planet Natural, a website that provides information and resources for gardening, composting and pest control. Melissa's work focuses on promoting environmentally-friendly practices and helping people create beautiful, healthy gardens using natural methods. With her expertise in both biology and gardening, Melissa is able to provide valuable insights and advice to gardeners of all levels. Her passion for the natural world is evident in her writing and her dedication to promoting sustainable practices that benefit both people and the planet.