This perennial weed can easily take over lawns and garden beds. If you’d prefer that didn’t happen, here are the best ways to control it.

By Leah Chester-Davis
Updated May 04, 2021

Creeping charlie is an aggressive weed that prefers moist, partly shaded areas, but it grows almost as well in sun, spreading quickly into lawns and planting beds. Also called ground ivy, the plant is actually in the mint family, which is known for its tendency to spread. This shallow-rooted weed also has a minty odor when cut or crushed, square stems, and small, tubular flowers like other mint relatives. Kidney-shape or rounded leaves with scalloped edges grow low to the ground along vining stems or runners. If you try to pull up this weed, you'll notice that these stems can root at each node where the leaves attach, making it seem like the plant is hanging on for dear life.

Creeping Charlie on stump
Credit: Marty Baldwin

How to Control Creeping Charlie

If you've spotted creeping charlie early, repeated hand-weeding is an option, but you must remove and destroy every bit of the roots. Don't add this plant to the compost bin because it could very well take root there. It's better to bag it for a yard waste pick up.

If creeping charlie has spread throughout a large area, it can be difficult to control through hand weeding alone. If it's taking over a space where you don't want to grow anything else for at least 6 months, you can try smothering it under layers of cardboard or sheets of black plastic. If it is in your lawn, a broadleaf herbicide can be very effective, but it should be applied in early fall so that the plant takes the product down to its roots, weakening it as it goes dormant for winter. The most effective broadleaf herbicide for creeping charlie contains triclopyr, generally in combination with 2, 4-D, and Dicamba. Standard herbicides without these components won't work as well.

Test Garden Tip: Always read and follow label directions whenever you use herbicides to avoid harming yourself and the environment.

Some years ago, the application of borax was suggested as a herbicide, but it's not effective. In addition, applying borax to the soil, even in small amounts, can make the soil less able to support lawn grasses and other desirable plants.

How to Keep Creeping Charlie from Creeping Back

The presence of creeping charlie signals that the growing conditions for your lawn may need to be addressed. Too much shade, wet soils, or poor fertility could be issues. A healthy stand of turf makes it harder for creeping charlie to invade your yard, or you may choose to plant a groundcover that performs better than lawn grasses can. Any open areas in your landscape, such as planting beds, can be areas that creeping charlie pops up. Keep the areas well-mulched to reduce problems with it and other weeds.

Comments (3)

May 9, 2021
I am always surprised that your articles don't mention nematodes. Applying nematodes to a lawn or garden that is weed ridden will improve the growing conditions for your desired plants. But this has to be done after a good rain or soaking. Educate yourself about other details regarding the living health of your soil and how to maintain it.
May 5, 2021
Or let it grow because it's quite pretty, and it's only a weed if you think it's a weed (or the pesticide companies have convinced you that it's a weed).
February 13, 2019
This is great info, thanks