Creeping Charlie, also commonly referred to as ground ivy, is a member of the mint family. It is aromatic. It is an evergreen plant that thrives in wet, shaded areas, but it can do well in sun, as well. Creeping Charlie is a plant native to Europe that has become naturalized in North America. And it is a weed, killing lawns across the United States. Here are a few tips on how to eliminate Creeping Charlie from your lawn before it spreads.
The first step is to identify all areas where manual removal is necessary. Manual removal is best when you have only a small area affected or covered by the plant. People want to remove the plant because it is a common skin allergen, causing itchy rashes upon contact. For this reason, you will want to wear gloves when trying to rip it out.
Start by removing leaves and vine growth. Pull it up manually, and apply steady pressure to pull up the roots. Put all the pieces in a bag, since any piece could reseed the plant. Avoid doing the manual removal on a windy day when pieces could be blown elsewhere. Don’t use a hoe to break up the plant or the soil, since this could bury pieces that will grow back later.
After you’ve removed the plant, apply mulch or some other covering to help prevent regrowth.
Depriving the Weed of Sunlight
Creeping Charlie needs light to grow. But unlike many plants, it can tolerate strong shade. For this reason, if you want to kill it, you have to completely deprive it of light to kill it.
You could use anything from tarps to heavy drop cloths to cardboard or a thick layer of newspaper. For example, you could cut a hole in a tarp or otherwise leave uncovered a plant you want to save while covering up everything else around it. Cover at least six inches beyond any protruding stems of the Creeping Charlie so that you prevent nodes from getting enough light to sprout. Note that any other plants covered up will die, too.
It will take at least a week for the Creeping Charlie to start dying. Periodically check the plant to make sure it is dead before you remove the cover. A dead plant will lose its green color and whither. At this point, you can manually remove it and throw it away or burn it. It could still reseed or cause skin irritation at this point, so be careful.
Killing It with Chemicals
A classic method for killing Creeping Charlie involves using a solution of sodium borate. This method has fallen out of favor because it can leave you with boron toxicity in the soil. Horticultural vinegar is a natural method to try to control it.
There are industrial herbicides you could use. Herbicides that kill creeping Charlie will probably kill other plants around it, but not all herbicides will kill creeping Charlie. The best way to kill creeping Charlie this way is to apply the herbicides in the fall, since the plant stores nutrients in its stem and roots. You could then retreat in the spring if necessary.
Adding lime, calcium and magnesium to the soil will raise the pH levels to the point it is inhospitable for the plant.
Creeping Charlie is a weed that forms a thick mat-like ground cover if allowed to do so. There are a number of ways to kill it, a few of which could allow you to save other plants from this scourge.