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How to get rid of creeping charlie

Creeping Charlie, scientifically known as Glechoma hederacea, is a winter annual creeper plant of the mint and henbit family Lamiaceae.

Is it the same as ground ivy? The short answer is yes.

The plant is commonly known by names like ground-ivy, gill-over-the-ground, creeping Charlie, alehoof, tunhoof, catsfoot, field balm, and run-away-robin.

As you can probably tell from the name, it spreads by creeping above the ground and has extensive fibrous roots.

It was introduced to the rest of the world in the 1800s by the Europeans, who used the plant in the household as a salad and tea. Creeping Charlie was cooked as greens in the early spring and was even used to curdle milk in cheese-making.

Many people often use it as a decorative garden potted plant or even a cover-up for the ground.

Aside from that, the plant served as a medicine for indigestion, ear problems, problems of the gastrointestinal tract, inflamed eyes, urinary tract problems, kidney diseases, fever, cold, and flu as a decongestant and to provide cough relief, as well as in the treatment of bronchitis.

How to identify creeping Charlie

Creeping Charlie
Image by: Flickr/Tiredyda

Creeping Charlie is often mistaken for creeping Jenny because of their similarities in looks. However, it is easy to tell the two apart through closer inspection.

Creeping Charlie has serrated leaves and purple flowers, while creeping Jenny has yellow flowers and leaves with smooth edges.

This perennial broad-leafed weed is particularly difficult to control and is often found invading turf grass, especially in shaded areas.

The plant has a square stem from a few inches to two feet long, with dark green leaves and purple funnel-shaped flowers.

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Why do you need to get rid of creeping Charlie?

Many farmers and garden owners might wonder whether creeping Charlie is harmful and if they need to get rid of it. And if so, what is the best way to kill creeping Charlie?

As much as this plant has been used for years and years as food and medicine, like all other things, it does have its downsides.

The oil in the leaves, known as pulegone, is toxic to cats, horses, and cattle. Luckily for them and their owners, the animals don’t like creeping Charlie’s bitter taste and avoid it anyway.

However, if consumed, the plant’s oil irritates and is toxic to the liver.

This resilient lawn weed also damages turf grass, lawns, and other plants. To make matters worse, it isn’t easy to get rid of.

So if you don’t intend to utilize the land in other ways, it is probably best to ignore the plant.

Because of how hard it is to entirely and permanently get rid of it, you would need a lot of time and dedication.

It could even make a good ground cover in shady areas where the grass cannot grow.

You could, at best, try a few different ways of controlling creeping Charlie to maintain it and keep it from overrunning other surrounding plants.

If you plan to temporarily get rid of creeping Charlie by using a lawn mower, then you should only do it if your mower has a bag attached to capture the cuttings. Otherwise, its seeds might spread around, worsening your problem.

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If you are still determined to get the job done and want to know how to kill creeping Charlie, it is first important to note that because it is an annual winter plant, it sprouts in the spring.

Creeping Charlie
Image by: Flickr/Tim

Different ways to get rid of creeping Charlie

You can eliminate creeping Charlie through these methods:

1. Hand-pulling

As much as this is one of the most common methods of creeping Charlie removal, it is a process that you would have to repeat a couple of times to fully complete the job.

For this five-step method, you will need a few tools:

  • A pair of gardening shears
  • A watering can or hose, depending on the size of your lawn.
  • Gardening gloves. This is optional but advisable because you will manually grasp and pull the plants.
  • A pitchfork

Once your tools are in place, follow these simple steps to kill creeping Charlie:

  • Identify the weed: Use the information we’ve provided above to correctly identify the weed from other beneficial plants.
  • Moisten the area: Use a watering hose or can to water the ground where the weed has grown.
  • Lift up soil around the area: Using your pitchfork, lift up the soil surrounding the weeds. Be careful not to cover the weeds with soil otherwise, you might leave some behind while pulling.
  • Grab and pull: Wear your gloves and hold creeping Charlie by the base before pulling. Do this repeatedly until you clear the entire area.

Finally, use a rake or your pitchfork to turn over the soil and check for any weeds that you’ve not pulled out. Note that you will need to pull severally before the area is free from creeping Charlie.

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2. Using  herbicides

Herbicides are only good for large areas where hand-pulling isn’t possible.

When using herbicides, there are various factors that you should consider:

  • Type of herbicide – selective or non-selective.
  • Surrounding plants – You do not want to spray toxic herbicides around your food crops.

You will need the following:

  • A herbicide that contains either  2,4-D or dicamba
  • A garden sprayer. You can use a hand pump sprayer for small areas and a battery-powered sprayer for large spaces.
  • Water
  • Protective gear for your hands, skin, and eyes.

Follow these steps to eliminate creeping Charlie using a herbicide:

  • Wear protective clothing: Use the right gear to protect your skin, nose, and eyes.
  • Mix the herbicide with water: Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when mixing the herbicide with water in a pump sprayer.
  • Spray: Concentrate on the stems and leaves, allowing them to soak downwards. You can use a piece of cardboard as a shield for other plants or cover them in a tarp.
  • Wait: Leave the area alone until spring, when you will rake up any debris. Afterwards, you can replant your lawn.

You’ve finally managed to kill creeping Charlie. Note that the wait times for fully eliminating the plant depend on your chosen method. Besides, make sure to use the right protective gear to avoid injuries.