Master gardeners: Creeping Charlie difficult to get rid of

“How can I get rid of the creeping Charlie in my yard?” is a question frequently asked of University of Illinois Extension master gardener volunteers. Attempts at eliminating this commonly found weed, also known as ground ivy, can prove frustrating as it establishes easily and spreads quickly.

Creeping Charlie often makes its first appearance in a yard on an open patch of shady, moist and fertile soil. It also easily can creep in from a neighbor’s lawn. The plant has long stems and sends out roots at each leaf node making attempts at removal extra challenging. Raking, mowing or hand-pulling the weed can backfire on a homeowner, as all of these methods can actually create new plants where only one had existed. Any small section left behind is a complete plant.

This perennial weed has round to kidney bean-shaped leaves and scalloped leaf edges. Like all members of the mint family, creeping Charlie has a square stem and a minty scent when crushed. Tiny blue to purple flowers appear in late spring.

Steps can be taken to make the yard a less favorable growing site for creeping Charlie. Thin out the overhead canopy if possible to allow more sunlight on the site. If you have found grass to be just about impossible to grow in an area where the creeping Charlie is thriving, consider growing a ground cover once the weed has been removed. Killing off patches of any weed can be successfully done by using black plastic sheets held down with rocks on the edges and dirt on top. The area will heat up and all plant material and seeds beneath it will die after several very warm days.

Should you want to use a post-emergent broadleaf weed spray for control, the best times of year are late spring and early fall when plants are actively growing. Fall is often cited as the best time to spray creeping Charlie, as the plants are preparing for the end of the season and sending all of its energy down into its roots. This makes the broadleaf spray much more effective. Contact the Master Gardener Helpline listed below to obtain appropriate chemical information. Always follow label directions and never use chemical sprays on windy days or when temperatures are above 85 degrees.

Email your home garden and lawn questions to uiemg-dupage@illinois.edu or call the Master Gardener Helpline at 630-955-1123. Visit our website at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/.

Julie Moore has been a master gardener volunteer with the University of Illinois Extension in DuPage County for 10 years and has a degree in ornamental horticulture from the University of Illinois.

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