What’s Creeping Charlie? And What Kills It?

What’s Creeping Charlie
And What Kills It?

how to get rid of creeping charlie

Creeping Charlie. Sounds creepy for a name, doesn’t it? But we know that it’s a weed, this is not just a simple weed because it’s basically a creeping, invasive weed. It can cover your lawn quickly and choke out your grass and even creep into your garden beds and cover your plants in a most fascinating way. That’s why we have to kill it. But Creeping Charlie is very tough to kill? And how can we control it in different ways? 

How Creepy is Creeping Charlie? 

how to get rid of creeping charlie Creeping Charlie came from Europe and was introduced by the North Americans during the 1800s thinking that it can serve as a good ground cover around their farms for soil erosion control. But bringing this weed into the region was a big mistake. Today, it is being called by many names in different regions like “ground ivy”, “catfoot”, “creeping jenny” and “alehoof”. It also has two scientific names – Glechoma hederacea and Pilea nummulariifolia because it has two varieties. This weed is a close member of the mint plant family and it’s an aromatic evergreen plant. 

As a perennial plant which means it can live for more than a year unlike annual plants that thrive only for a year until new seedlings sprout, the Creeping Charlie can thrive better in shady and a bit cool soil but can also tolerate heat. Unlike with the common lawn weeds like the Purple deadnettle and the Henbit weed that belong to the mint family and can die during summer, Creeping Charlie can tolerate the heat because  it can develop roots (rhizomes) right on its stems once it touches the soil. 

Creeping Charlie becoming notorious for its invasive tendencies is because it grows fast, roots quickly and it’s kind of a hardy plant you cannot just kill it by simply cutting its hard stem even from the base if you try to eradicate it by mechanical means. So needless to say, if we can find the right selective herbicides that are systemic, we won’t have problems stopping this grass from creeping in among our grass.

What Does Creeping Charlie Look Like

how to get rid of creeping charlie

People are confused because there are a lot of weeds today that are not expected to grow on lawns and most of them are the creeping types. So some people ask us “what does Creeping Charlie look like?”. 

what's creeping charlieCreeping Charlie actually doesn’t look bad. It can put up a lush, bright green cover on the ground and can be easily identified by its kidney-shaped leaves with round-tooth edges.  Its leaves grow from the stem opposite each other or in four-side form (square). They are also usually mistaken with the Henbit weed which is a winter annual plant because of its aggressive covering it can do on grass.

During spring, it produces small, purple-bluish flowers that are funnel-shaped and if you crush its leaves with your hand, it will release that minty aroma you can only smell on mint plants.  The stems of the Creeping Charlie can go long. A single plant can grow stems that elongate close to the ground and when these stems get in contact with the soil, they form rhizomes or balls of roots thus supporting the main plant with nutrients while the newly rooted stems develop new growths of their own.    

If this weed grows near the roads or under the hedges, they can make a good ground cover and the ground can look more alive with green and have some colors with their flowers. Some people even plant them on hanging pots and they can be trimmed to create balls of natural green ornamental. But once this plant invades the lawns and turf, this can become an unwanted plant. 

How to Get Rid of Creeping Charlie Naturally

Creeping Charlie becoming one of the most wanted weeds on lawns is its tendency to invade grass in a very short time given the favorable environment. Yes, we can kill it with herbicides but regardless of organic or chemical herbicides, these can disturb the natural balance on our lawns. So let us tell you how to get rid of Creeping Charlie naturally. 

Hand pulling.

Because this weed spreads fast by sending its stems all over the place and making them root, one of the best ways on how to get rid of Creeping Charlie the natural way is by pulling its main stem then all of the stems that are attached to it and make sure the roots are also pulled out. This method can be conveniently done if the area it covers is just a small area. But if this weed already occupies a wide area, that’s another story and we have to switch to more aggressive control. 

Trimming the stems and leaves.

Trimming the leaves and stems of this weed won’t kill them but you get to expose and see the base of the stems for easy pulling. However, don’t trim too low but leave about 3-4 inches of stubs from the ground. Keep all the waste in a lawn waste bag so as not to spread its seeds.

Soaking the area for easy uprooting.

What’s Creeping Charlie to stay put on the ground and hard to pull is because of its rhizomes that ball under the soil. To loosen these up, soak the area with a garden hose for about an hour then proceed hand-pulling or use a pitchfork to lift the soil and expose their roots for quick pulling.

Always monitor your lawn.

how to get rid of creeping charlie naturallyWhat will kill Creeping Charlie for good is by eliminating its room system. So considering that you have pulled out all of them including their roots, don’t get too comfy. Because in just a couple of days, you may see new sprouts coming out which can come from the seeds or the rhizomes that were left under the soil during hand-pulling. So monitor your lawn and have a trowel with you. Whenever you see new sprouts, lift the soil around it with your trowel and pull to make sure that no rhizome will be left out.  

If hand pulling seems too daunting for you to do especially if this weed has taken up a lot of space already, then we don’t have a choice but to switch to the use of selective herbicides. First, we try the organic herbicides then if it won’t successfully work or will work but will not totally eliminate the weeds, we could follow it up with chemical treatment. However, you will have a choice which can go first but we suggest the organic herbicides first because these are safer to the environment and to you who will apply it. 

 What Will Kill Creeping Charlie 

how to get rid of creeping charlie

To kill Creeping Charlie effectively, timing is very essential. For example, when using herbicides, it is either you apply it during spring or fall because spring is the season that sprouts grow fast and early fall is the season these bear flowers. You must also spray where there’s very little wind or no wind at all to avoid affecting the nearby plants. 

Hand pulling is also best done during these seasons. In the fall (autumn) their seeds will germinate and sprout from the ground so if you have the energy to pull each sprout, that can be the most environmentally-friendly thing you can do to save yourself and your pets from getting in contact with chemicals. 

But if manual pulling sounds too hectic for you, better have your herbicides ready. You have two options for the herbicides – selective organic and selective chemical herbicides. Using the organic types, you may control their growth and reproduction but organic herbicides are not always 100% effective. And if you’re dealing with a tough, aggressively invasive weed like Creeping Charlie, you may need to apply organic herbicides a number of times before it can  completely disappear.

 Creeping Charlie Is  Resilient? 

how to get rid of creeping charlie So what’s Creeping Charlie tough against the organic herbicides? It’s their rhizomes that will keep supporting the plant. That’s why some of the selective organic herbicides today do get to be supported by the chemical herbicides because these are made to be systemic, have stronger chemical components and can dry up weeds fast. But then, these are chemically produced so we do not recommend that fast especially if you only have a small lawn to tend to which could be managed by natural control or with organic selective herbicides. 

But our point here is we still want to minimize your use of systemic herbicides because basically, these are toxic not only to the soil’s beneficial microorganisms but also to insects that pollinate flowers as well as to the person who sprays it on the lawn.    

One more thing, since timing is an essential aspect when using herbicides, make sure that once you spray herbicides, no rain will come within 24 hours to avoid washing out the chemicals off the leaves and stem of the weeds. So what will kill Creeping Charlie more efficiently is also by applying it on time.  

How to Get Rid of Creeping Charlie with Herbicides  

how to get rid of creeping charlie

Herbicides come in three forms – wettable powder, liquid and granules. As a reminder, always read the label of the product before using it, understand the dosages, and the frequency of application.  Don’t ignore the precautions and wear protective equipment as necessary. 

How to get rid of Creeping Charlie using wettable powder or liquid form is by using a sprayer. Place or pour the liquid herbicide into the pump sprayer and follow the amount of water-based on the recommendation indicated on the label. Wear protective clothes, eyewear, and rubber gloves when spraying. 

When spraying the herbicide, focus your spray on the stems and leaves and let the solution soak these parts until it reaches the roots. If you’re spraying near ornamental plants with broad leaves, aim the nozzle of the sprayer away from these plants but slightly slanted and about 3-4 inches from your target. If Creeping Charlie crawls very near the flower beds, you can use a wide piece of cardboard to shield out the mist. 

After spraying, observe the weed and you can see the effect in 2-3 days and the leaves begin to droop and will turn yellow. Don’t spray herbicides again while it’s winter and in the spring you can gather up the dead weeds with a rake. If your grass was quite shaken by the effect of the chemical, apply nitrogen fertilizer and irrigate but don’t flood the area. Spray herbicides can best be applied both during the pre-emergent and the active phase of the weed. 

About the systemic pellet form, this is usually applied if the weed has already occupied most of the lawn space. You can use a mechanical spreader to spread out the pellet evenly on the grass. This will drop to the soil, get dissolved and will be absorbed by the grass. Pellet herbicides are safer for the person applying them but it takes longer to take effect while the spray herbicides get to be absorbed in just a few hours on a fine day.    

What Herbicides are Best to Kill Creeping Charlie

 To get rid of Creeping Charlie is by killing it completely from its leaves down to its roots and one of the traditional organic herbicides that some people use are herbicides that contain Borax. Borax contains Boron which can kill plants in large amounts so you have to apply it accordingly. Since Creeping Charlie grows fast and absorbs more nutrients than the grass from the soil, it can take in more Boron which kills it. Borax herbicides are usually available in wettable powder but should only be used once a year. 

Herbicides that contain Dicamba are also known to kill a wide range of broadleaf weeds and these kinds of selective herbicides are suggested by lawn experts in the placement of the Round Up that contains glyphosate. 

On the other hand, Roundup herbicides for lawns are what most commercial lawn management companies use on their lawns and accordingly, it has a very low toxicity level compared to other synthetic herbicides.