Creeping Charlie – How to Get Rid Of or Manage | Is It Bad or Good?

Fall is the time to get rid of creeping charlie. This insidious weed is often referred to as ground ivy. It’s a fast-growing, invasive vining ivy. It thrives and spreads in moist and shady areas. If you have plants nearby, removing it early is key, as it will choke out other plants.

A creeping charlie plant will kill everything around it. It will block sunlight, overtake roots, and block water and nutrients to plants in the vicinity.

Knowing its benefits and disadvantages can help you decide whether to get rid of creeping charlie plants. We explain what it’s good for, how to manage it, and how to kill creeping charlie. 

Creeping charlie

Glechoma hederacea, the creeping charlie plant, is hardy, resilient and adaptable. It grows fast. This makes it very difficult to manage and eliminate. It thrives in shady conditions and can grow in full shade when moist. Creeping charlie grows in USDA growing zones 5 – 9. 

Creeping charlie is an evergreen perennial weed in the mint family. It can be invasive in lawns so removing it thoroughly is essential. It vines, and the stems also grow roots. When pulling by hand, you have to dig up all of the roots. If roots remain, it will continue to grow and spread. Therefore, the larger it is, the more difficult it is to remove completely. 

Their leaves are green and kidney-shaped or round with scalloped edges. In the spring, small violet flowers bloom. Creeping charlie is different from creeping jenny.

Is creeping charlie bad?

If you’re wondering, is creeping charlie bad, you must consider your property and where it’s growing. You’ll also need to consider animals you are raising as there are a few critical concerns with this type of ivy, especially regarding horses and livestock. Here’s what’s bad about creeping charlie plants:

Toxicity

The most detrimental aspect of ground ivy is that it’s toxic to swine, cattle, and horses. When eaten raw, it can lead to digestive issues as well as poisoning and death.

If you’re the owner of a homestead or farm, it’s highly recommended you keep it away at all costs.

Another critical point towards its toxicity and consumption has to do with humans. Creeping charlie contains a by-product known as pulegone, which is harmful to infant development. With that said, if you are pregnant or nursing, you should not consume this ivy.

Invasive

If you’ve dealt with different ground cover types in the past, its growth rate is particularly notable. It grows very quickly forming a dense carpet. Within months, a creeping charlie can overtake the majority of your lawn and open space. 

It can also smother plants, especially those that have yet to blossom. It will overtake plants by blocking their ability to access sunlight, water, and nutrients. Creeping charlie can take over lawns, destroying grass.

Residents who don’t mind the look of the ivy won’t have much to worry about, especially if it’s in an area of the property that nothing else is growing. However, when it comes to removal, it can take a lot of time and effort.

Also note, as the creeping charlie plant grows, spreads and becomes denser, it can attract rats who may burrow underneath.

Extensive root systems

Another concern with a creeping charlie plant is that it has an extensive root system. They’re very aggressive. The stems also form roots which continue to spread. This vining ground ivy will negatively affect other plants in the area.

If you were to plant anything directly near creeping charlie, it won’t thrive as well as the ivy.

How to kill creeping charlie

Learning how to kill creeping charlie takes a lot of time and effort. However, if done correctly, you can eliminate this invasive plant from your property. 

As you get rid of a creeping charlie plant, continue to monitor and pull out new growth. From manually digging the ivy out of the ground to herbicide, there are plenty of options to get rid of creeping charlie entirely or to manage it.

Pull it out

If you want to tackle creeping charlie without herbicide, you can pull it out. The advantage to this method is it all natural and won’t be an issue for children and pets. You can pick by hand or use a shovel to remove it.

Hand picking works best if you have a small amount of it on your property. Then you might be able to hand weed it. During this process, you must ensure that you get rid of the above-ground portion and the roots. Otherwise, it’s going to re-emerge, putting you back to square one.

Use gardening gloves to protect your skin. If you have longer gloves, that’s even better. Wear long sleeves. This way, you can remove it without irritating your skin.

Cut away at the ivy until you get close to the main stem. From there, you can pull it out by the roots. This will be easier when the ground is moist. Dig up and pull out creeping charlie after rain. Or you can water the area to loosen the soil if it’s to difficult to break through with a gardening fork or shovel. Water and wait for it to soak in and loosen everything up.

Use a shovel to dig out the entire root system. If you don’t eliminate all of the roots, it will continue to grow. 

Remember, you must remove all parts of creeping charlie plants. This includes the flowers and seeds, the ground cover, the nodes, and the parts in the soil. Be sure to remove the rhizomes and roots. There will be an aggressive root system underground.

Dispose of it

Bag up all of the weeds as you pick them. You don’t want them to blow and spread to other areas in your yard and on your property.

If you leave them in a pile, they will take over that area. It’s best to bag them and dispose of them. You don’t want to put creeping charlie cuttings into a compost pile. Nor do you want to feed livestock with it. 

Homes with turfgrass might be a little luckier, as some evidence suggests it creates a hostile environment. As the ivy will be competing for sunlight and soil nutrients, turfgrass can help prevent overgrowth.

creeping charlie plant
creeping charlie plant

Selective herbicides

Another method to get rid of creeping charlie is to use an herbicide. Selective herbicides are sprayable formulas that are designed to target specific weeds. Using this method will help stop it from spreading as well as kill it off. If you’re dealing with an ivy invasion in your lawn, using a selective herbicide is how to kill creeping charlie.

Choose a postemergence broadleaf herbicide. This is a weed killer.  When dealing with invasive ivy, you’ll want herbicides that contain dicamba or triclopyr, which are designed to kill broadleaf weeds. You may find these in hardware stores as broadleaf herbicides.

The reason to use a broadleaf herbicide is that you will be able to get rid of creeping charlie without destroying your grass.

Step 1: Do a fall treatment

You can get rid of creeping charlie at any time of the year, but when using an herbicide, apply it in the fall. It’s most effective during fall, right before it’s dormant. 

The ideal time to apply broadleaf herbicide to get rid of creeping charlie is in mid-to-late autumn. Applying it after the first frost is ideal because this is when the ivy draws nutrients from their leaves and stores them in their roots for winter. When you apply herbicide during this time, it will make it’s way into the weeds’ roots as well. 

Applying selective herbicide on the ivy in the fall means it won’t have a chance to seed and spread. 

Step 2: Watch the weather

It’s best to apply the herbicide when temperatures are in the mid 60s to low 80s F. Check the weather forecast to be sure there won’t be rain for the 24 hours following application. Also, you’ll want to apply on a day with no wind. 

Step 3: Concentrate the spray

One of the best ways to ensure the plants absorb the herbicide with its nutrients is concentrated spray. You must focus on its leaves and be sure not to target any surrounding plants that the spray could damage.

Step 4: Leave it alone

If you want to remove this weed from the lawn, do not mow for up to three days before applying the herbicide. This is important when learning how to kill creeping charlie. You want to apply the herbicide when it’s actively growing. 

In addition, do not mow the grass three days after applying the herbicide. It’s important to wait to ensure the herbicide is absorbed.

If you treat creeping charlie with herbicide in other areas (not in the lawn), wait for three days after application before disturbing the area. 

Step 5: Remove weeds

On the fourth day after application, put on gloves and remove the creeping charlie. You can remove it by hand or with a rake. Bag it up as you gather it. Even though the weeds should be dead, you want to ensure it doesn’t spread and blow to other areas.

Step 6: Apply second treatment

Depending on the invasiveness of the spread, you may do a second herbicide application later in the fall. If you don’t do another application then, you can wait until spring. The best time to apply it is while creeping charlie flowers are blooming. 

Don’t apply herbicides with dicamba more than twice a year, according to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin Horticulture Division of Extension.

Sod cutting

Using a sod cutter is a sure-fire way to get rid of a creeping charlie invasion. These are designed to remove chunks of sod, so you can begin transplanting a new lawn.

With that said, going over a patch of ivy is sure to remove the roots and above-ground covering. As with hand picking, you must remove all parts of the weed; otherwise, it’s just going to come back.

Solarization

Another option is to solarize them. This method is highly recommended if you want to remove large portions of the ivy on your property. Its purpose is to capture sunlight and heat to cause the temperature of the soil to rise significantly. The soil will become so warm that any plant life will die.

You’ll find solarization is most effective on properties with a lot of sunlight for up to six months each year such as USDA hardiness zone 9. You will need to place a plastic tarp over the area that needs to be treated and allow the sun to warm the ground.

After 10 days, you should begin to see a significant reduction in the weed. Clear out the dead plants and repeat until they are all eradicated.

Smothering

Another popular method for getting rid of creeping charlie is to smother it. This process is safer for pets and children as it doesn’t require the use of chemicals. 

The central premise of this job is to deprive the plant of sunlight for extended periods. However, creeping charlie thrives in limited sunlight, so all traces of light must be removed. You can use newspaper, cardboard, a tarp, as well as bricks or rocks.

Step 1: Cover the area

First, you’re going to need to cover the area of ivy that you want to get rid of. It’s best to put a newspaper or cardboard barrier and then a second layer of a tarp to block sunlight. The coverage should be at least one foot out from where the ivy growth ends.

Step 2: Weigh down the tarp

Using your bricks or rocks, you’ll now want to ensure the tarp is weighed down correctly. There cannot be any sources of sunlight reaching the underside of the covering. This step should also ensure the tarp stays in place even if it rains.

Step 3: Wait two weeks

Depending on the condition of your soil, waiting for the ground ivy to die can be lengthy. On average, it can take up to two weeks, but sometimes longer.

At around two weeks, take a peek under the tarp to see any green left on the leaves. When creeping charlie is dead, it will look shriveled and brown. If you see leaves are still yellow or green, keep it covered longer. Don’t begin pulling it out until the leaves are brown and the vines are dried up.

Step 4: Remove the dead ivy

Once you have guaranteed the plants are dead, you can remove them by hand. Follow the same steps as you would while weeding, ensuring the roots are entirely removed.

Pull out and remove all of the vines, leaves, stems and roots. The good news is once it’s dead, creeping charlie is much easier to get out of the ground.

Step 5: Bag and remove

It’s important to remember to bag and dispose of the weeds. Even though they are dead, there can still be seeds, roots, etc. that can spread. To permanently get rid of creeping charlie, you must dispose of it.

How to prevent creeping charlie

Once you have removed creeping charlie, do things to prevent it from coming back. The most important things you can do are to continue to check the areas you removed it from and to maintain lawn health.

Monitor the areas

Wherever you got rid of creeping ivy on your property, you must continue to monitor the area. Watch for any signs of regrowth. Remove vines immediately. This invasive vining weed grows quickly. Take action as soon as possible to remove it.

Maintain lawn health

If creeping charlie was growing in the lawn, there’s no better way to prevent a re-emergence of ground ivy than to maintain your lawn’s health. As long as your grass is soaking up all nutrients and water, invasive species won’t grow back. It’s important to note that it grows in unhealthy lawns. Learn about natural lawn care tips to keep grass healthy.

If you begin to notice any regrowth, target the areas a second time with the selective herbicide. Take action immediately to curtail it.

Work on upkeeping your lawn by using a lawn mower regularly. Keep up with a lawn aerator and lawn edger. Use fertilizer if necessary. All of this will help stop creeping charlie from invading.

Grass that is well-tended and cared for won’t leave room for weeds. Eliminate them as soon as possible with the best weed killer or use natural means to remove them by digging them out by hand. 

Creeping charlie uses

You may wonder: What is creeping charlie good for? Although there are a few crucial concerns to have with the plant’s invasive nature, there are also benefits to these weeds. Here are uses for creeping charlie:

House plant

Growing a creeping charlie as a house plant in a hanging basket is ideal if you live in planting zones 5 – 9. You can also keep it in a barrel or planter. As long as you water it, it will grow. It’s tolerant to various temperatures and shade.

This plant works particularly well in a contained space and will thrive in a hanging pot as a house plant. You can enjoy it without it being able to spread to other areas.

Edible purposes

As part of the mint family, creeping charlie, can be used as an herb or garnish. Pick the leaves when they are young and not fully grown for more flavor and a less pungent taste. 

It’s also rich in Vitamin C. Chefs will love using this plant as an addition to soups, stews, and in salads. You can also blend it and make salad dressing. It will add a minty flavor to foods. 

For generations, people have used creeping charlie for plenty of edible purposes, especially in hops and ale, due to its bitter taste. People also use this plant in tea. Add it to tea with a little bit of honey or sugar to minimize its bitter aftertaste.

Ground cover

If you have areas on your property that can’t grow grass and that you don’t want to have to manage regularly, creeping charlie works as a ground cover. It will provide foliage in areas that are shady. It’s an ideal shade-loving ground cover in growing zones 5 – 9.

Creeping charlie might be a fantastic addition to your property if you have areas to cover that aren’t curbside.

It has a beautiful flowering pattern that can add a little bit of color to your yard. It’s also a phenomenal addition to areas where grass cannot grow due to poor soil or too much shade.

Considering it’s a highly invasive plant, it grows quite well under poor conditions, which is excellent for less maintenance. Also, it has a spectacular invigorating scent that can contribute to the beauty of your property.

Medicinal benefits

As with most plants, creeping charlie has a diverse medicinal history. It was once used as an anti-inflammatory agent and has helped with treating ulcers.

A variety of cultures also use the plant to help flush the kidneys, removing trace elements of contaminants. When ground into a paste, some enjoy using it to treat arthritis, sores, and blisters. As long as it hasn’t been treated with pesticides or herbicides, it can be useful for many ailments.

Useful pollinator

To help protect bees, it’s helpful to have at least one type of pollinator on your property. When creeping charlie flowers, each of the flowers can provide up to 0.3 microliters of nectar for bees.

You’ll find that bumblebees, sweat bees, and honey bees love to visit the flowers while foraging.

If you want to keep some on your property to enjoy the many uses, you have to learn to control and manage creeping charlie weeds. 

Difference between creeping charlie and creeping jenny

Creeping charlie and creeping jenny appear similar. This is because they are both vining ivies and ground cover plants. However, these plants are different.

Creeping charlie, Glechoma hederacea, is considered to be an invasive weed.

Creeping jenny, Lysimachia nummularia, is often welcome in gardens and yards. It’s not as invasive.

FAQs about creeping charlie plant

Is creeping charlie an invasive plant?

Yes, it’s invasive and can overtake gardens, garden beds, and lawns. It’s fast-growing with aggressive roots. The stems grow roots as well.

Not only is creeping charlie an invasive plant, but horticulturists often state this ivy is one of the most invasive plant species in the world. It falls right behind dandelions concerning how challenging it is to get rid of it.

With its substantial root systems, it can overtake an entire garden by the end of the season and stifle your other plants. In addition, what makes this plant so invasive is the way that it grows, even apart from its root system.

When the stems come into contact with soil, the stems produce nodes. Each of these nodes begins to create their roots, which burrow deep into the ground. It’s an evergreen creeper.

However, you can maintain the ivy to prevent your other plants from being affected. Many people enjoy having it on their property, as it’s a beautiful flowering ivy. As it grows, more and more nodes find a home in the soil, causing it to spread significantly.

What kills creeping charlie but not grass?

In the fall, apply broadleaf herbicide to creeping charlie in lawns. It should contain dicamba or triclopyr to effectively kill creeping charlie but not the grass. Do not cut the grass three days before and three days after applying the selective herbicide. Also be sure to apply when there won’t be rain or wind. 

Is creeping charlie good ground cover?

It can be a good ground cover in areas you don’t want anything else to grow. Creeping charlie plants will destroy plants nearby so be sure to encourage it in barren areas. 

Why is it hard to get rid of creeping charlie?

This invasive ivy is difficult to get rid of because of the aggressive rhizomes that spread quickly underground. The stems also grow roots which multiplies the spread. It’s hardy and thrives in poor soil and in areas with low sunlight. As long as it’s moist, it can grow in growing zones 5 – 9. 

It’s important to note that if you choose a broadleaf herbicide, it must contain dicamba or triclopyr. Not all broadleaf herbicides will kill creeping charlie. 

Will Borax kill creeping charlie?

While many believe a natural and organic way to get rid of creeping charlie is to use Borax, it’s only a temporary solution. It will not control it long-term.

If you apply Borax to creeping charlie, be sure to not affect grass or other nearby plants because it will damage them. It will work better on a small amount; therefore, dig or pull out the vining ivy first, and use Borax for remaining growth. Still, there are other ways to learn how to get rid of creeping charlie that are more effective than Borax.

How to manage creeping charlie

Due to its many uses, managing creeping charlie can be more beneficial than getting rid of it entirely. It all depends on where it’s growing. It can contribute plenty of benefits to your property, as long as it grows to your liking and isn’t around livestock.

You can dig some out from your yard, and grow it as a houseplant in a hanging basket or in a large planter. If you want it as ground cover for areas on your property, still work to thin it out so it doesn’t grow and spread farther than you want it to. It will continue to vine if left alone. You can use any of the easy steps above to help contain the spread of a creeping charlie plant so it doesn’t become a nuisance.

How to prevent the creeping charlie plant

You’ll find it growing in moist conditions, often in areas where other plants or grass won’t grow. They can grow in shade in growing zones 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. You may see it as ground covering under the canopy of trees. 

Learning how to get rid of creeping charlie is important. Even if you want some of it growing on your property as ground cover, you should still take steps to manage it.

Creeping charlie kills everything around it by blocking sunlight and overtaking roots. Prevention is equally as crucial as eradication when it comes to invasive plant species. It thrives under moist and shady conditions.

With creeping charlie, you must look out for any regrowth and address it immediately. Otherwise, you could be dealing with a full-scale invasion once again.

For a natural way to get rid of it or manage it, dig it up or pull it out by hand. Otherwise, you can use a broadleaf herbicide in the fall. Be sure it contains dicamba or triclopyr. Spraying well right after the first frost will transfer and store the herbicide in its roots. Choosing the correct selective herbicide will eliminate the creeping charlie and not hurt the grass.  

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