At first glance, ground ivy appears to be a gorgeous ornamental plant with bright purple flowers and fragrant green leaves. But don’t be fooled by this plant’s beauty.
Ground ivy is one tough weed you definitely don’t want in your yard.
In this post, you’ll learn all about this invasive plant, including its physical characteristics, fascinating history, and how to remove it from your yard once and for all.
You’ll even learn about some hidden advantages of this low-growing weed, so read the full post before deciding whether or not to eradicate this plant from your garden.
So, without further ado, let’s learn about ground ivy!
How to Identify Ground Ivy
Before we dive into the potential damages and history of ground ivy, learn how to identify this sneaky weed.
Ground ivy is classified by the scientific name Glechoma hederacea and is a member of the mint family. It also goes by the more playful nicknames “Creeping Charlie,” “Creeping Jenny,” or “Gill-over-the-ground.”
No matter the semantics, this weed means serious business and can quickly take over your garden. Luckily, you can help stop the spread if you identify it in time.
This invasive plant is characterized by its abundant, creeping stems, which can grow up to 18 inches long. Each stalk produces small, round leaves with scalloped edges and a velvety texture. They’re typically a bright green color but can sometimes have a slight purple tint in sunny areas.
Since ground ivy is a member of the mint family, the foliage emits a musky aroma halfway between mint and sage.
The weed also produces small, purplish-blue flowers that bloom in the spring. These radiant purple blooms grow in clusters of two or three and emit a pleasant floral scent.
Why is Ground Ivy Considered a Weed?
While some may find its bright, purple blooms and minty scent attractive, most gardeners consider ground ivy a nuisance. Its aggressive growth can quickly take over a garden, choking out other plants.
Once ground ivy has made a home in your garden, it’s challenging to eradicate. Once settled, it forms dense mats of foliage, making this weed one tough cookie to remove.
How Does it Spread?
Ground ivy spreads by sending out runners that sprout just above the ground’s surface. These runners can grow up to seven feet long and produce leaf nodes that root the plant to the ground.
This weed keeps a low profile, which is why it’s accurately given the title “Creeping Charlie.” The low-growing height and sneaky runners can easily evade lawn mowers and weed whackers.
Most gardeners would welcome the addition of stunning purple flowers and fragrant foliage to their garden, but if you spot a patch of ground ivy lurking in your bed, be wary.
This invasive plant can easily take over your garden and deprive other plants of nutrients and sunlight. It may also attract unwanted pollinators like ants and spiders to your yard.
And once ground ivy finds a place to settle down, it takes a lot of work to get this unwanted guest to leave. The roots penetrate deep into the soil, making it stick like velcro.
That’s why it’s so important to identify and tackle this weed as soon as possible to prevent any potential damage to your garden.
How to Get Rid Of Ground Ivy
If you find this unwelcome visitor lurking around your garden bed, don’t stress! There are many ways to remove this pesky plant from your backyard.
The simplest way to remove ground ivy naturally is to manually pull up the weed and remove as much of the root system as possible. This method works best if the ground ivy is still in its early stages and hasn’t taken over a huge plot of land.
Another option is to use a natural herbicide, such as vinegar or lemon juice, which can be sprayed directly onto the plant’s leaves.
If you’re tackling a small patch of ground ivy, you can also try to smother it with a plastic tarp or layer of mulch. This method deprives it of light, air, and water but only works if the ground ivy is separate from other plants.
If you’re comfortable going the chemical route, look for an herbicide formulated with Triclopyr for the most effective way to kill ground ivy.
This compound mimics a plant growth hormone rapidly ingested through the plant’s leaves and roots. Once absorbed, it should die within a matter of weeks.
Triclopyr may also harm surrounding plants, so use it sparingly. Never mix with other chemicals. Always follow the instructions when using chemical spray killers to protect yourself.
History of Ground Ivy
Ground ivy has a rich and interesting history that dates back thousands of years.
In Europe, this weed was used to treat every ailment imaginable, including inflammation, indigestion, bronchitis, lung infection, and more.
It was also used as a flavoring agent in beer before hops became the preferred choice in the 16th century.
The Europeans brought this weed to North America, where it became classified as a non-native invasive species.
These days, it’s less known for having medicinal properties and better known as a nuisance to gardeners.
Are There Any Good Uses?
Despite having an annoying reputation, this pesky weed can be quite beneficial in certain situations.
The weed can be used as a natural ground cover to prevent soil erosion and maintain moisture levels.
You can also use the leaves’ pungent, mint flavor to flavor salads, soups, and other dishes. For the best flavor, use younger leaves since they’re milder and less tangy.
You can also dry ground ivy leaves and use them in tea to make a comforting beverage that tastes like mint tea. Some say that ground ivy tea can help with digestion and respiratory issues.
So, if you find yourself with a patch of ground ivy that won’t go away, consider making the most of a bad situation and take advantage of this plant’s herbal benefits.
Wrapping Up Ground Ivy
With aromatic foliage, ornamental blooms, and potential medicinal uses, ground ivy might not be that bad if it shows up. Just try not to let it swarm your backyard.
Want to learn about other kinds of weeds? Check out our Common Weeds page to keep up to date on pesky plant varieties.