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How to Get Rid of Creeping Charlie

Posted on October 26, 2023 by Lawn Doctor

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Creeping Charlie was brought to North America as a medicinal herb and ornamental plant. Since then, the plant has spread rapidly across the country in natural areas, distributed sites and, most commonly, lawns. It reproduces from any small fragment of its root, making it incredibly difficult to get rid of once it gets into your lawn. Fortunately, there are ways to remove this pesky weed from lawn areas and keep the grass greener.

Identifying Creeping Charlie

This common weed plagues lawns and other residential turf, particularly where there’s considerable shade. However, the aggressive weed can also thrive in sunlight and quickly spread to other parts of the yard, ruining its uniformity and appeal.

Creeping Charlie is a low-growing, evergreen weed species that spreads rapidly using runners. It has scalloped leaves with round or oval-shaped edges, and the leaves are a darker shade of green on the top and light green or purple on the underside. Its flowers range from pale lavender to dark purple and bloom in the spring.

What Does Creeping Charlie Look Like?

Creeping Charlie is relatively easy to notice in the yard. The grass may start looking unhealthy before seeing the weed itself. It can grow up to 30 centimeters high with glossy green, scalloped leaves 2-5 centimeters across and square edges.

Ground ivy produces clusters of blue to purple flowers in spring and early summer months with a bunch of two or three funnel-shaped flowers. It’s a very adaptable weed with shallow roots. It has a node at the base of each stem that can put down roots when in contact with soil. This feature makes creeping Charlie especially difficult to control. The weed will grow back even if you pull out all the vines but leave even a little piece behind.

Watch out for its kidney-shaped leaves and bright green, shiny appearance, especially in lawns with overly wet soil and poor fertilizing.

Creeping Charlie vs. Wild Violet: What’s the Difference?

Homeowners sometimes mistake creeping Charlie for wild violet because of their similar leaves and flower color. We advise lawn owners to look closely at the leaves to distinguish the two weed species.

Wild violet has heart-shaped leaves with sawtooth-like serrations at the edges, while creeping Charlie has more pronounced scalloped leaf edges. Creeping Charlie leaves also have a mint-like smell when crushed.

Are There Any Other Creeping Charlie Look-Alikes?

Creeping Charlie shares features with other plants, making it more difficult to control, especially when using the wrong control methods for other creeping Charlie look-alikes. The three major creeping Charlie ones are:

  • Common mallow: This flowering plant is native to Europe and grows on low-level ground. It has a long woody stem that branches from its base, which can sometimes grow upright.
  • Henbit: It shares common features with creeping Charlie, including the shape of its flowers and leaves. Its leaves are not as glossy as creeping Charlie’s and are pinkish purple, unlike ground ivy’s dark purple.
  • Purple dead nettle: This flowering plant can reproduce vegetatively from a single piece of leaf or stem, making it difficult to control. Mature plants don’t grow more than 10 inches high.

Controlling Creeping Charlie

Like most lawn weeds, ground ivy thrives best in unhealthy soil. Therefore, proper watering, mowing, and fertilizing practices are a great starting point to prevent weed spread.

Controlling aggressive weeds can be challenging for homeowners. That’s why, for the most effective control and preventative results, we recommend hiring a professional landscape expert. Landscape professionals have the knowledge and tools to assess the size of the infestation and preventive measures to keep the weed from regerminating once removed.

How to Remove Creeping Charlie

Here are other effective ways homeowners can control and prevent creeping Charlie from invading their lawns.

Remove Creeping Charlie by Hand

This control method is more effective for lawns with few ground ivy weeds. Homeowners should tackle the weed quickly before it spreads and becomes more challenging to control.

We recommend wearing a pair of gloves to prevent the weed from causing an allergic reaction. Lawn owners should also wet the ground near the weed before pulling to soften its roots, making the rhizomes easier to remove. Removing all parts of the plant above ground and under the soil is crucial for the most effective results.

While this method isn’t effective for removing moderate to large weed infestations, it can help stop small patches before they spread.

Smother Creeping Charlie

While creeping Charlie is an aggressive plant that thrives in shade or sun, homeowners can still excise larger patches from their lawns by completely blocking out sun exposure and smothering it.

Smothering creeping Charlie is most effective for moderate weed patches in one localized section of the lawn. However, it’s worth mentioning that other surrounding plants may suffocate as well.

Kill Creeping Charlie Using Chemicals

This control method is most effective for severe creeping Charlie infestations. While creeping Charlie is considered a broadleaf weed, most broadleaf spectrum herbicides don’t affect it. That’s why we recommend using herbicides that contain dicamba or triclopyr.

However, these weed killers may need to be applied several times at the right time for the most successful results. We recommend using dicamba-based weed killers on the affected soil in early fall when ground ivy is growing most actively.

Applying pre-emergent herbicides in fall leaves the weed weakened enough that it will have difficulty surviving through winter. Don’t mow the controlled area for at least 2 days to allow the herbicide to soak into the plant’s roots. This prevents the weed from regerminating in the spring.

Applying pre-emergent herbicides helps tackle weed infestations before they spread in the lawn. We recommend following the manufacturer’s application and treatment methods for the most effective results.

How Does Creeping Charlie Spread?

Creeping Charlie is a herbaceous perennial weed that spreads by seed. It also spreads by creeping stems that grow along the ground, which makes it challenging to control once it infests a significant portion of the land.

Preventing Creeping Charlie

As mentioned earlier, ground ivy tends to take root in ill-maintained soil or lawns suffering from disease or fungus infection. Maintaining a healthy lawn effectively prevents weeds, including creeping Charlie, from taking over your property while increasing your curb appeal. Follow these good lawn care practices to prevent creeping Charlie in your yard:

  • Mow the lawn regularly: Long grass makes it difficult for the grass to take the nutrients it needs from the soil. When grass is too long, the grass roots struggle to get oxygen and water from the atmosphere, causing them to weaken. This may leave room for weeds like creeping Charlie to move in and take over the areas left by the dying grass. Also, like most weeds, creeping Charlie doesn’t do well in regularly mown lawns.
  • Overseed patches in grass areas: Weeds are notorious for invading bare patches in lawns and competing with other plants and grass for nutrients and other resources. Creeping Charlie is highly resilient and can grow in areas where lawn grass has trouble thriving and competing with other grass species for nutrients and resources.
  • Irrigate and fertilize the lawn: A healthy lawn is the best weapon against many weeds. When grass roots are healthy, the grass grows thicker, leaving fewer spaces and opportunities for creeping Charlie to invade or thrive. Feed the soil and give grass seeds the nutrients and strength they need to outgrow invasive weeds.

Lawn Doctor provides homeowners with easier and more effective ways to maintain a healthy lawn year-round. Our professional landscape experts check the extent of weed spread and use effective control methods to eradicate the weeds from your lawn and prevent future attacks.

Will Preemergent Herbicides Help with Prevention?

Creeping Charlie is a perennial weed that spreads using seeds and roots. General-purpose herbicides only stop weeds from spreading by seeds, while pre-emergent herbicides stop weeds and roots in the ground from germinating.

Lawn owners with prior ground ivy infestations should use pre-emergent herbicides to prevent weeds from growing the following season. We advise lawn owners to consult their herbicide providers for the best pre-emergent product most effective for creeping Charlie.

Check the manufacturer’s manual when mixing the herbicide with water. Pour the solution into a hand pump sprayer or a granular spreader to cover the weed-infested ground evenly. Depending on the pre-emergent solution used, you may also need a second application. Again, consult the product label for the measurement and application details.

When Is the Best Time to Apply a Preemergent Herbicide?

The best time to use pre-emergent herbicides is before creeping Charlie begins to germinate. You can apply it in early spring, after the last frost of winter, or before the first frost of the fall, before the soil freezes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Ground Ivy the Same Thing as Creeping Charlie?

Yes, Creeping Charlie is a common ground cover plant known by other names, including ground ivy, gill-over-the-ground, creeping jenny and run-away robot.

Is There a Way to Kill Creeping Charlie Without Hurting Your Grass?

The most effective method of removing ground ivy without killing or harming other plants and grass is mechanical removal by hand. We advise homeowners to cut back creeping Charlie to the roots frequently or dig up the entire plant. Ensure to get as much of the plant’s root as possible and wear protective gloves to avoid contact with the leaves.

If you prefer to use a herbicide, don’t use one that contains glyphosate because this chemical also kills grass. Instead, use a herbicide with dicamba, which is harmless to most lawn grass species.

At Lawn Doctor, we offer a variety of lawn treatments, including getting rid of and preventing creeping Charlie from invading your lawn. Contact our landscaping experts for help with your creeping Charlie infestation.

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