Mention Creeping Charlie to anyone who works tirelessly for a well-manicured lawn, and you will likely receive an agonizing groan as a reply. Yes, it’s that bad. In this article I’ll explain how this troublesome weed grows and spreads, and explain how to kill Creeping Charlie and keep it from returning you your lawn.
So first thing’s first … what is Creeping Charlie, and how can you get rid of it once it’s established a hold in your lawn?
Let’s get into it.
What is Creeping Charlie?
Creeping Charlie, also known as ground ivy, is in the same family as Variegata — a popular ground cover or planter filler that landscapers and others actually want in their yards and patio pots.
Both Creeping Charlie and Variegata are from the mint family, and between the shape of its leaves, square stems, and purple flowers it is pretty easy to identify this weed in lawns.
At first glance, Creeping Charlie’s delicately scalloped leaves and blue-violet spring flowers appear to be quite tolerable.
But don’t be fooled.
Creeping Charlie is a resilient and adaptive vine that can quickly overtake a lawn, smothering your grass, and killing the turf you’ve nurtured for years.
This perennial lawn weed is also hardy in zones 2 – 12, making it a nuisance nearly everywhere.
Creeping Charlie is considered a broadleaf weed; however, it is not affected by all broadleaf herbicides, which can be frustrating to most homeowners.
There’s nothing worse than making a run to your local box store, buying what the staff recommends, and getting zero results.
Most methods of dealing with creeping charlie in lawns are somewhat ineffective because what’s seen on the surface is only part of the problem.
This variety of weed has vining rhizomes underground that make Creeping Charlie difficult to kill.
If you have noticed a few instances of Creeping Charlie in your lawn, attack! Do not wait until this invasive weed spreads in your lawn.
Even a small amount of Creep Charlie can get out of hand quickly, so it helps to address mild infestations right away, and with vigor.
Hand Pulling Creeping Charlie
Depending on how much space the weed covers, one natural weed elimination option is pulling Creeping Charlie by hand.
I recommend that you wear gloves since the mint properties of this weed lend themselves to itching and allergic reactions if you have sensitive skin.
My advice if you’ll be hand-pulling Creeping Charlie is to moisten the ground a little (water your lawn the day before, or weed your lawn the day after a light rain).
This allos the vines pull easily and helps them to not snap off above the ground.
A fork or specialized weed pulling tool (I love this one from Amazon) can help to dig around the rhizomes and lift them out of the dirt.
When pulling Creeping Charlie from the ground, it is crucial to pull all parts of the plant — not just the rhizomes — into a bag and not leave them lying on the ground.
Creeping Charlie vines have nodes at the base of each leaf stem. These nodes are capable of creating roots if they come into contact with the soil … so pull it, and remove it.
Pulling Creeping Charlie by hand is a challenging task that leaves a lot of room for error. Unfortunately, you will need to follow up with more rounds of pulling every two weeks, but if you’re dilligent it can be an effective and natural way to do it.
I think it makes a fantastic punishment for kids who have misbehaved.
Creeping Charlie Taking Over Lawn: Using Herbicides
Larger patches of Creeping Charlie or total lawn infestations require more drastic measures.
If you’ve read my blog regularly, you know that I prefer taking an organic approach to lawn care, but there are times when herbicides are the only way to go.
Many people look to herbicides to eradicate the undesirables from their lawns. Two pro-level, recommended herbicides that have remarkable success killing Creeping Charie are triclopyr and dicamba.
Herbicides are generally mixed with water in a sprayer following all directions provided. Ryan Knorr has an excellent how-to video on this subject on his YouTube channel which you can watch right here:
How to Kill Creeping Charlie with Herbicides
Here are the products Ryan uses in the video above. Links will take you to these products on Amazon:
- T-Zone Turf Herbicide (1.2 ounces per gallon of water)
- Backpack Sprayer
And to reiterate Ryan’s warning … these chemicals can be harmful if they come in contact with the skin or eyes, so wearing eye protection, gloves, and clothing that covers all of your skin is a must.
I also recommend keeping kids and pets off your lawn for a while after spraying.
Your herbicide will be more effective if you pay attention to a few details.
For instance, do not spray when there is a noticeable wind. Likewise, do not spray within 24 hours of a significant rain or right before a predicted rain.
The effectiveness of these chemicals will be much greater without wind drift and moisture.
Your spraying technique is a fundamental part of the process when applying herbicides, and there are a few tips that I can offer to help you have a successful application.
- The first (if you’re new to using a sprayer), is to practice with water before you begin spraying chemicals. It sounds easy, but taking a few practice trips with your new sprayer will help you get good even coverage without applying too much to any one area.
- A fan-tip nozzle on your sprayer is a must because it will allow you to achieve even distribution.
- Move at a consistent speed with the sprayer tip about two feet off the ground and cover the entire area affected. Do not wave the sprayer wand but rather hold it at a consistent distance from the ground and move your body in a pattern that completely covers the Creeping Charlie patches.
- Too heavy of an application can damage the turf, so don’t overdo it, especially with a professional-grade herbicide like T-Zone. If you fear you’ll struggle with this, consider getting a temporary die like this one on Amazon, to mix with your herbicide. This will help you identify which areas of your lawn have been sprayed by slightly altering the color of the grass there (temporarily).
When Do I Spray to Kill Creeping Charlie Weeds?
Spraying will be most effective in the fall right before the first frost.
The chemicals will kill the weed and be stored with other nutrients over the winter, preventing Creeping Charlie regrowth in the spring.
Spring and early summer spraying will probably knock-back the Creeping Charlie in your lawn, but will not be as effective in eliminating the problem once and for all.
I recommend an application in the fall a few weeks before you do your annual core aeration, dethatching, and overseeding routine.
The following spring, watch your lawn carefully, and spray again if you see any Creeping Charlie returning to your lawn.
Make Sure the Leaves are Exposed Before Spraying
Make sure to apply dicamba or triclopyr several days after mowing your lawn when the Creeping Charlie leaves are exposed.
The larger the leaves, the more chemical coverage there is to kill the weed.
Additionally, do not mow for at least three days after applying the herbicide to give it ample time to work.
Professional grade herbicides work quickly. Most people notice a significant improvement within 3 – 4 days.
Eco-friendly methods to eliminate Creeping Charlie
Herbicides are not for everyone, but what if you have too much Creeping Charlie in your lawn to pull by hand?
An alternative and natural way to kill ground ivy is to smother Creeping Charlie by blocking all sunlight from reaching the vines.
This method requires newspapers, cardboard, or a tarp that can be placed directly on top of the affected areas and held in place with bricks, rocks, or stakes.
The main goal is to create total darkness under the covering.
To be effective, you must extend your tarp or covering at least 6 feet beyond the edge of the visible plants since the vines and rhizomes extend beyond the ground ivy leaves you can see in your lawn.
Leave the covers in place for one week and then check the leaves. If they are brown and dead, you can remove the coverings and pull all dead leaves and vines.
If the leaves are yellow and still have traces of green, leave the tarp in place for a few more days.
The downside of this method of removing Creeping Charlie from your lawn is that other plants under the covering will die or suffer from the lack of sunlight as well, including your grass.
With that said, it’s pretty easy to re-seed that section of lawn, and you can solve your problem without using harmful chemicals if you take this approach.
Popular Misconception About Borax and Ground Ivy
Some people falsely believe Borax will kill Creeping Charlie.
In reality, Borax will stunt the nasty vine but Borax alone will not kill it.
Worse yet, the Borax will destroy other plants it touches.
Most lawn care experts in the field will tell you that applying a pro-level herbicide is the best way to kill Creeping Charlie once and for all.
Prevention: How to Keep Creeping Charlie from Growing in Your Lawn
So, let’s say you’ve never experienced Creeping Charlie in your yard.
How do you prevent it from making an appearance?
Or maybe you finally got rid of it and want to know how to keep Creepin Charlie from coming back?
Maintain a Healthy Lawn
Creeping Charlie thrives in unhealthy lawns.
Regular mowing, watering, and getting on a good fertilization schedule that produces a thick, lush carpet of turfgrass is one of the best ways to prevent Creep Charlie from … creeping in.
Well-fed grass grows extra thick, leaving no room for weeds. A thick, lush stand of grass blocks sunlight from hitting the soil, which triggers the germination of undesirables such as Creep Charlie and countless grass-like weeds that are waiting to invade your lawn.
Feeding your lawn for a thick stand of healthy grass is the best way to prevent Creeping Charlie and other pesky weeds from infiltrating your yard.
Here’s a quick recap of everything we’ve covered about how Creeping Charlie grows, spreads, and how to kill Ground Ivy.
- This weed is extremely resilient and adaptive.
- As Creeping Charlie grows and spreads, it kills the grass around it.
- Rhizomes spread underground, making this weed challenging to eliminate.
- Creeping Charlie is a broadleaf weed, but not all broadleaf herbicides affect it. Most people have the best luck with pro-level herbicides such as triclopyr and dicamba. T-Zone diluted at 1.2 ounces per gallon of water is especially effective.
- This weed thrives in unhealthy lawns.
- Creeping Charlie is hardy in zones 2 – 12.
- This weed is not vulnerable to pests and diseases.
Ending on a Positive Note
Yes, Creeping Charlie is a nasty weed that can overtake your yard, but it does have some redeeming qualities.
This plant’s vining nature makes it a suitable ground cover for preventing erosion. It can also grow as a ground cover in shady places that cannot sustain grass.
Additionally, the delicate blue-violet blooms in the spring attract and support pollinators such as butterflies and bees.
Some homeowners looking for ground-cover landscapes and hoping to do their part to support pollinators may enjoy Creeping Charlie in rock gardens or shade gardens.
Yet even as I acknowledge some of the positive qualities of this vigorous vining perennial, most people who are particular about their lawn will not tolerate Creeping Charlie.
Use the tips in this article to remove Creeping Charlie or Ground Ivy from your lawn, and keep it from coming back by maintaining a thick, healthy blanket of turfgrass in your yard.
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