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How to Get Rid of Creeping Charlie Ground Ivy

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Learn how to eradicate unwanted ground ivy from your yard.

Learn how to eradicate unwanted ground ivy from your yard.

How to Control Creeping Charlie

Creeping charlie is a type of ground ivy that blooms clusters of small purple flowers in the spring. Although the flowers are beautiful when fully bloomed, the plant can totally ruin your lawn in a matter of months if neglected. The roots of the plant spread very quickly and choke the grass until it can no longer grow. The end result is bare spots in your lawn.

Ridding Your Yard of the Weed With Purple Flowers

I had a bad creeping charlie infestation in my lawn once, but I was able to get rid of the plant, using a couple of different methods. The key is to control the weed in early spring before it has a chance to spread and drop seeds for new growth. I suggest using a combination of the methods described below.

  1. Pull ground ivy out by hand.
  2. Plant grass seed and fertilize it.
  3. Use herbicide.
Creeping Charlie weeds.

Creeping Charlie weeds.

1. Pull Ground Ivy Out By Hand

Pulling weeds out by hand isn't fun, but if you have kids and pets and you're concerned about spraying chemicals all over your lawn it's an effective way to get rid of the weed for good, or reduce it significantly. The plant has a mild odor when the leaves are crushed, so I highly recommend wearing gardening gloves before touching it. Use a wheel barrow to haul away the weeds you've pulled up.

Pulling the weed out by hand, in combination with herbicide, is also a good plan of attack because one or two applications of chemicals usually won't completely remove it from your grass. Small fragments of the plant will remain, but can be removed by hand before it bounces back and starts growing again.

After using chemicals, a de-thatching rake works well for removing dead, dried-up pieces of the ground ivy. Make sure you rake out the entire plant, including the roots, or it could grow back. Pulling ground ivy out by hand is time consuming but actually quite easy compared to other plants. Unlike dandelions, which have a deep root, creeping charlie roots grow right below the surface and can be pulled out easily without a spade.

2. Plant Grass Seed and Fertilize

Unhealthy, thin grass is what allows creeping charlie to spread more easily over a lawn. Improving the quality of your grass will help prevent the weed from worsening or returning after removal.

After eradicating creeping charlie weeds from my lawn, there were bare spots all over where the weed had choked the grass and prevented it from growing. My grass was thin to begin with, which had allowed the weed to flourish and takeover, but after planting grass seed and applying fertilizer, new grass filled in the bare spots. The thicker your grass is, the more difficult it is for the weed to grow.

Aerating your lawn and cutting the grass high, especially in the summer, allows grass to grow thicker to prevent the weed from growing. Be consistent with a fertilizing schedule. One of the best times to fertilize your grass is in the fall. I also recommend watering your lawn in the summer if it gets really hot where you live. Lawn care combined with herbicide and pulling the weed out by hand goes a long way.

3. Use Herbicide

Re-applying a broadleaf herbicide killed most of the creeping charlie invading my grass. I used the spray bottles that fasten to the garden hose. Not all herbicides kill this plant though. I tried at least four different products, but the two that worked best for my lawn are Spectracide Weed Stop and Trimec. Both of these products contain higher concentrations of the chemical dicamba, which kills the invasive weed.

One application is not enough to kill this plant. Creeping charlie herbicide should be sprayed on the weed in early spring when its purple flowers bloom. I spray the herbicide on heavily, and within a few days the flowers, leaves and stems turn brown and the plant shrivels. The chemical should be applied again in the summer and late fall to prevent the plant from bouncing back when spring comes. This is really important.

The grass should not be cut for at least three days after applying herbicide. I wait about a week before I mow the grass. After each mowing, the shriveled weeds become smaller and eventually crumble into the ground. If creeping charlie has already taken over your lawn, you will likely have to apply herbicide for more than one season to completely remove it, but the chemicals I recommended worked for me. The key is to stay on top of your lawn maintenance so the weed doesn't have a chance to become a bigger problem.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: It is nearly July & I discovered that creeping Charlie has invaded my flower garden. What can I do?

Answer: To remove Creeping Charlie from a flower garden, the best method is to remove the weed by hand. Pulling weeds isn't fun, but spraying herbicide will harm your flowers. The roots grow in long strands near the surface and pull out very easily.

© 2012 Matt G.


Seth Burris on October 13, 2018:

Should use 5 oz of Borax per 1 gallon of water cut with lawn mower so the tops of ground ivy or creeping Charlie have open cuts. Then buy a hand held bottle adjust it to the fine mist passion and spray the effected area of your lawn with the ivy . Ivy will start to brown and leaves curl up and die . give this about a week then revisit the area in case you missed some and repeat the application . Safe around flowers and gardens BUT DO NOT USE MORE THAN 5 OZ PER GALLON OF WATER OR YOU WILL KILL YOUR GRASS AND OTHER PLANTS .

Matt G. (author) from United States on October 04, 2018:

Both products I link to in the article will stop creeping charlie without killing your grass. I apply them in early spring when the plant starts flowering and again in late fall. Sometimes I'll spray it again over the summer. You do need to reapply the herbicide every year. If you're over applying the chemicals you're using that might be the reason it's harming your grass, or it's not the right product for creeping charlie.

Ken on October 04, 2018:

I have "Charlie" BIG TIME in my lawn and every thing I have used on it has killer my lawn