How To Kill Creeping Charlie – And Keep It From Returning

How To Kill Creeping Charlie (And Keep It From Returning)

Any well-established gardener understands the peril of trying to eradicate Creeping Charlie. Creeping Charlie is a sure-fire way to ensure that your neat and tidy garden is overrun with troublesome and pesky weeds. 

And once it’s there, it can be a real pain to try and get rid of, if you don’t kill the stuff just right then it’s just going to keep creeping on back in and overwhelm everything else.

It grows super quick and it spreads like wildfire, so killing Creeping Charlie correctly and ensuring that it doesn’t return is an absolute must if you want to keep your garden pristine. 

In this article, I’m going to cover absolutely everything Creeping-Charlie-related. You’ll have an ultimate guide to the irritating weed, and you’ll be ready to face the resilient irritant with absolute ease. 

What Is Creeping Charlie? 

So first things first, what actually is Creeping Charlie? Well, it’s in the same family as Variegata which is a very popular planter filler. Creeping Charlie can also be known by the name of ground ivy. 

Creeping Charlie also shares some genetics with mint which makes it more identifiable by its leaf shape, square stem, and purple flower.

But don’t be fooled by its pretty-looking flower, this is not something that you will want to leave unattended. 

While it may look rather appealing, this resilient and adaptive vine can overtake your garden in an instant. It can completely suffocate your grass and it can kill off turf that you’ve tended to for some considerable time. 

The lawn weed is perennial which means that it will just keep reappearing and can be a nuisance in pretty much any environment.

And while the weed may be classed as a broadleaf weed, it’s important to note that not all herbicides for the broadleaf classification will actually kill the stuff. 

Unfortunately, Creeping Charlie isn’t easy to defeat, but luckily not impossible. 

Mild Infestations

If you notice Creeping Charlie in its mildest form, you need to strike and strike quickly before it can progress to something that’s going to become pretty unmanageable.

Leaving it for even a day or two is enough for it to start taking over your entire lawn so time is definitely of the essence. If you spot a small amount of Creeping Charlie, you should try to eradicate it immediately. 

Hand Pulling Creeping Charlie

When it comes to very small amounts of the bothersome broadleaf, hand-pulling the stuff might be one of the best and natural elimination options.

If you’re going to try this method make sure that you wear gloves. You’ll want the extra protection, especially if you have sensitive skin since the weed can be prone to causing allergic reactions or itching/irritation. 

For the best results when hand-pulling the weed, you’ll need to soften the ground a little by making it moist. The best time to get weed-whacking with your hands is the day after you’ve watered your garden or you’ve had light showers.

This will make pulling the vines a lot easier and you won’t have to deal with the vines snapping off above the ground before the roots. 

If you’re happy to spend a little bit of cash, you could also purchase a fork or specific weed pulling tool to help you dig around the rhizomes and get them out of the dirt much easier. 

It’s really important to make sure that each and every last bit of the weed is collected into a bin or bag and not left on the ground when your pulling them, This is because the vines all have nodes that live at the base of each leaf stem.

These nodes can then create new roots as soon as they touch any soil and then you’ll just be overrun with the weed again. 

Because of its resilience, it’s likely that you’ll need to hand pull your garden more than once. Every two weeks you’ll need to reinspect your garden and pull any more remnants of the offender. 

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When Creeping Charlie Is Taking Over Your Lawn: Using Herbicides

If you’ve got a Creeping Charlie infestation then hand pulling won’t be a viable option for you. Where possible, I really try to keep all my products in the garden organic, but alas, there are times when this just isn’t possible. 

Creeping Charlie garden takeovers are one of those times. 

As I mentioned earlier though, not any mere herbicide will be up for the job. You’ll need to ensure that you’ve got something that has even more strength than the almost-eternal weed.

Triclopyr and Dicamba are pretty good options to ensure the weed’s death. 

How To Kill Creeping Charlie With Herbicides

This video does a pretty good job of highlighting the best ways to kill Creeping Charlie with herbicides. 

The products used in this video are: 

  • T-Zone Turf Herbicide (1.2 ounces per gallon of water)
  • Backpack Sprayer

But just as is mentioned in the video, it is essential to remember that these chemicals can be dangerous. If you get these chemicals on your skin they can be very harmful, so ensure that you have all the correct eye and body protection.

I would also advise not letting small children or pets on the lawn for a considerable amount of time to keep them safe and unharmed. 

Spraying Tips

Sometimes it can be quite frustrating to purchase herbicides and spend the time trying to correct your garden for all that time and money to go to waste.

If this has happened to you, it’s probably because you’ve made a few easy mistakes along the way. And trust me, Creeping Charlie will do everything it can to stay in your nice pretty garden. 

For example, if you spray while it’s windy, then you’ll likely not spread the herbicides evenly, and in the places where you’ve missed, the weed will put up a real good fight to stay where it’s comfortable. 

Another example is spraying herbicides the day before or after it’s rained. The extra moisture will make the herbicides much less effective. 

How you spray the herbicides will massively affect the outcome, so below you’ll find some of the best top tips for the spraying application: 

  • Practice Makes Perfect – Before you start spraying with costly herbicides, try practicing your spraying techniques with water. Spraying your garden may seem easy, but perfecting that full and even coverage that is so necessary for Creeping Charlie can be quite challenging. 
  • Tan-Tip Nozzles – You’ll definitely fare best with a fan-tip nozzle as it helps to provide that even distribution of the herbicide. 
  • Consistent Speed – Make sure that you are moving the sprayer tip at a consistent speed. It needs to be around 2 feet from the ground. Because you need to spray each and every inch of the weed, you’ll want to hold it at a consistent distance from the floor and ensure full coverage. Waving the sprayer will not achieve the desired results. 
  • Don’t Overdo It – While not enough coverage won’t kill the weed, too much coverage and you’ll also kill off your turf. You may want to consider purchasing a temporart die that you can mix with the herbicide to keep track of the coating. 
How To Kill Creeping Charlie (And Keep It From Returning)

When Do I Spray To Kill Creeping Charlie? 

The perfect time to get spraying that fatal herbicide is just before the first frost.

This is because the chemicals will kill the exisiting weeds and will store in other nutrients throughout the winter which will keep those perennials from returning in the spring. 

You can definitely still spray and kill Creeping Charlie throughout Spring and Summer, but the issue you’ll have is that it will probably make a reappearance and won’t permanently fix the situation. 

If you spray your garden during the fall, be sure to keep a keen eye out in the Spring, just in case you missed any. If it’s in its early stages it’ll be much more easy to manage. 

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Make Sure The Leaves Are Exposed Before Spraying

You’ll want to ensure that you’ve mowed your lawn a couple days before you begin spraying your herbicide. You need the leaves of this pesky weed to be exposed.

The bigger those leaves are the more surface area there is for the chemical to cover. Once you’ve applied the spray, you should not mow your lawn for several days to give it plenty of time to soak in and kill the weeds. 

Luckily, these sprays tend to work quite efficently. You should start being able to see improvements within just 3 or 4 days of your spray. 

Eco-Friendly Methods To Eliminate Creeping Charlie

Herbicides are the best way to eliminate overgrown Creeping Charlie, especially since at that level you’d leave your fingers blistered and bloody from all that hand-pulling.

But if you’re really against using chemicals, then there is another method you can try. 

Creeping Charlie can be combatted through lack on sunlight to the vines. You’ll need a few supplies: 

  • Newspaper
  • Cardboard
  • Tarp
  • Bricks
  • Rocks
  • Stakes

You’ll need to use the newspaper, cardboard, or tarp to completely cover the affected areas and then keep them down with the bricks, rock, or stakes.

You’ll need to check, double-check, and then triple-check that the weed is in complete and utter darkness or the method will not work. 

To really ensure that everything goes smoothly, you’ll also need to extend your cover to at least 6 feet past the visibility of the affected area. This is because the weed can extend further than the leaves that you may be able to see. 

Once everything is completely covered, you’ll need to leave the dark cover for around 7 days.

After this time period, you can check the leaves to see if they have turned brown (and died) and if they have you can then pull up the dead weed. This should be much easier than pulling up the weed while it is still living. 

Do not pull up the weeds unless the leaves are completely brown, if there are still traces of yellow or green then you should cover them back up and leave in darkness for an extra couple of days. 

The main reason why I would opt for herbicides over this method is that, for one, if you do not correctly cover the plants it will not work, and secondly, it will also kill anything else in the darkness, including your grass. 

Why You Shouldn’t Use Borax

You may have heard the old wives tale that borax will rid you of your Creeping Charlie, but this isn’t true. It may stunt the growth of the vine, but Borax alone will got get rid of your problem.

Plus any other plants that come into contact with Borax will die. 

Prevention: How To Keep Creeping Charlie From Growing In Your Lawn

If you are lucky enough to have never experienced the plight of Creeping Charlie you may be wondering if there’s anything you can do to prevent it from ever happening.

And if you are one of the many that has fallen victim to Creeping Charlie and had to rid your garden of the stuff, you may be wondering how to stop it from happening again. 

Well, there are a few things you can do to try and keep the unwelcome visitor out. 

To start off, its important to know that Creeping Charlie loves nothing more than an unhealthy lawn. This is where it thrives. So keeping your garden healthy is a great place to start. 

Mow your garden regularly, keep it watered, and ensure you have a great ferilization schedule that will produce a thick and luscious growth of turfgrass. 

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Well-fed and thick grass is the best thing to keep that weed from creeping on in. When your grass is nice and thick, there’ss no room for the weeds to grow.

Thick grass also stops sunlight from being able to hit the soil. And its sunlight on soil which can start the germination of our least-favorite unwelcome visitor. 

So ensure you are feeding that grass like its ravenous, and you should be able to keep the superweed at bay. 

How To Kill Creeping Charlie (And Keep It From Returning) (1)


Right, so, I’ve probably exploded your brain with quite a lot of Creeping Charlie information all in one go, so let’s have a quick recap of all that we’ve learnt today: 

  • Creeping Charlie is a very resilient weed that will adapt to its surrounding to try and survive. 
  • As the weed continues to grow, it spreads quickly and kills the grass around it. 
  • The weed can spread both above and under ground. 
  • Creeping Charlie is classed as a broadleaf but won’t die from most broadleaf herbicides.
  • You’ll need to use either Triclopyr or Dicamba pro-level herbicides to kill the pesky persistant weed. 
  • You can kill the affected areas by restricting sunlight but it will also kill any other plants/grass blocked from the sun. 
  • The weed thrives in unhealthy lawns
  • The weed is not vulnerable to diseases or pests 

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Does Creeping Charlie Come From? 

Creeping Charlie orginated from the British Isles, but has since spread to North America, where the persistent weed has been present in our landscapes for nearly as long as 200 years. 

Is Ground Ivy And Creeping Charlie The Same Thing? 

Yes. The nuisance perennial weed can be referred to as both Ground Ivy or Creeping Charlie. 

 Is Creeping Charlie Toxic To Humans? 

A very small amount of Creeping Charlie is unlikely to kill you, but when consumed in large amounts it can be harmful to humans.

Creeping Charlie can be quite the irritant to touch though and can cause both itching and allergic reactions in some people. 

Is Creeping Charlie Toxic To Dogs? 

The ASPCA posion control website states that the plant is non-toxic to cats, dogs, and horses.

However if you choose to kill the weed with herbicide, I would reccommend keeping your pets out of the garden for a day or two as it could cause them harm. 

Does Creeping Charlie Come Back Every Year? 

Creeping Charlie is a perennial weed, which means that, yes, it will come back round year after year without intervention. 

Will Horses Eat Creeping Charlie? 

Creeping Charlie tends to have a bitter taste that your horses won’t like the taste of, and so they tend to avoid the weed.

Sometimes the weed can get rolled into bales of hay and it may be injested this way, but they would need to consume high amounts of the weed to have any noticable symptoms. 

Final Thoughts

There’s no denying that when you catch a glimpse of Creeping Charlie in your garden that you know you’ve got a long and hard battle ahead.

Eradicating your garden of this weed will not be easy and it can definitely leave you pulling at your hair. 

However, incredibly difficult does not mean impossible. As you will have seen throughout this article, there are ways to go about getting rid of this weed and keeping your garden clean and fresh. 

Prevention is definitely much easier than the cure, though, so ensure that you try and keep your garden as healthy as possible and keep that grass nice and well-fed and thick.

If you do notice Creeping Charlie, be sure to try and combat it in its earliest stages before it overwhelms the garden.

I wish you the best of luck with your garden, and hopefully, using these tips you’ll be back to a beautiful garden in no time at all!