Though it can be soft on the eyes like a natural ornament, Creeping Charlie’s habits are undoubtedly weed-like. Also known as ground ivy, gill on the ground, Creeping Jenny, or by its scientific name Glechoma Hederacea, this quick-spreading weed can cause some real headaches.
Read on to learn all about Creeping Charlie–including its growth habits, how it spreads, how to contain it, and whether it has positive uses as well.
Where Creeping Charlie Comes From
Originally, Creeping Charlie was introduced to North America by early European settlers. They thought this delicate, ivy-like weed would make for good ground cover and shading.
It was also used extensively for herbal medicine.
How to Identify Creeping Charlie
Creeping Charlie is most clearly identified by its leaves. They can be quite lovely, round or kidney-shaped, with a scalloped edge. These leaves appear oppositely on a four-sided, creeping stem, each of which roots at the plant’s nodes.
While the leaves are bright green, the small, funnel-shaped flowers on Creeping Charlie weeds are bluish-purple. Occasionally it is mistaken for henbit, a winter annual, due to their similar appearance.
Why Is Creeping Charlie Considered A Weed?
The Problem with Creeping Charlie
As revealed by the poignant odor it sheds when crushed, Creeping Charlie is actually a member of the mint family. These plants are notorious rapid spreaders, and Creeping Charlie is no exception. The problem with this weed–and the cause for its classification as such–is how voraciously and ruthlessly it overtakes anywhere it is introduced.
Creeping Charlie will saturate your lawn, garden, or landscaping if left unchecked. And once established, it can be pesky to remove. Not only that, but its vining habit can choke the life from ornamentals and other plants you do want to cultivate.
How Creeping Charlie Spreads
Like many weeds, Creeping Charlie largely spreads by laying down seeds. But more prevalently, Creeping Charlie also spreads precisely how its name suggests–by reaching out with its vining stems. Each stem roots at the nodes, creating a thick, matted ground cover in a short amount of time.
These stems will continue to vine and spread, creating a veritable carpet of Creeping Charlie wherever it is left unchecked.
How to Get Rid Of Creeping Charlie
Sprays and Weed Killers
One of the most popular methods of containment and control for Creeping Charlie is a postemergence broadleaf herbicide. While the use of triclopyr in weed killer is the simplest way to stop Creeping Charlie in its tracks, this compound can be harmful to vegetables and flower gardens. Its properties may also pose a risk to pets, children, and those with health issues.
If you plan to use an herbicide to treat and prevent Creeping Charlie from overtaking your landscaping, your best bet is to apply it in the middle to late fall, after the season’s first frost. This will allow the herbicides to travel as deep as the weed’s roots, more effectively eliminating its growth.
You may also want to treat with herbicide in the spring, between April and June, when Creeping Charlie is most vulnerable in its growth. Whether you lay down weed killer in the fall or spring, a second application may be necessary to eliminate the weeds fully.
Like many types of ivy with which you may be familiar, you will often find Creeping Charlie growing on the north sides of buildings and in shady and moist places. Think under trees, bushes, or in other dense underbrush.
When deprived of these sorts of conditions, you can often curb the inherent growth of Creeping Charlie naturally. Ensuring that soil is well draining, rather than stagnant and overwet, and watering less frequently can help reduce their spread.
Regularly pruning trees, shrubs, and plants will also help discourage the growth of Creeping Charlie. By contrast, keeping lawn grass dense will also discourage this weed from spreading among the thin stems of grass. Regular mowing, watering the grass, and overseeding your lawn in the autumn months can help control the spread of Creeping Charlie.
Another great natural option for reducing the spread of Creeping Charlie in your lawn or landscaping is to plant other shady plants, such as hosta, pachysandra, or English ivy. These naturally compete with weeds, giving you a better chance of keeping Creeping Charlie at bay.
If you have found that this weed is already established in your lawn, garden, or landscaping, you can remove it naturally by pulling it up by hand. Just be sure to weed when Creeping Charlie is not in seed. Make certain you get all of the stems and roots, and discard the plants in a plastic bag or other container so they don’t have any opportunity to lay their roots back down.
Are There Benefits to Creeping Charlie?
Despite its often unfavorable growth habits, many people still intentionally grow Creeping Charlie for its health benefits. Rich in Vitamin C, this dynamic weed can be used to cure coughs and headaches as well as to boost the immune system.
Its many medicinal uses have also included treatment for everything from pain in the hip bone to tuberculosis. There are countless ways that folk medicine and native remedies have used Creeping Charlie, dating back to ancient Greece!
Medicinal purposes aside, the strong, minty flavor of Creeping Charlie also makes it great for edible use. It can be added to a spice rub, infused into a salad dressing, steeped in tea or blended in vinegar, and more.
The dainty flowers on Creeping Charlie are pretty to more than just the human eye. They also attract pollinators. Bees in particular love to visit Creeping Charlie, so if you have a controlled patch in your landscaping, you’re likely to have some happy bees visiting it regularly.
Wrapping Up Creeping Charlie
Feeling confident about addressing Creeping Charlie wherever you may find it on your property?
If you feel like you need to learn more about these pesky garden tenants, check out our weeds page to learn all about different weed varieties, treatment options, and surprising information.
- About the Author
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Renee Dugan is a lifelong writer, professional editor, and lover of all things nature, gardening and the big outdoors.
A Midwest girl who’s been in the garden since she could first hold a hand trowel, Renee’s love of growing things has bloomed into a passion for healthy living, holistic lifestyle, and knowing where our food comes from.
Now a mother and maturing gardener herself, Renee is passionate about channeling everything she knows and continues to learn about gardening into lessons for her son and others. Her excitement for sharing this knowledge is only superseded by her excitement about being able to finally grow her own citrus plants in pots.
Renee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org