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Creeping Charlie

Question: How do I get rid of creeping charlie in my lawn and flower garden?  G. Z., Pleasant Prairie

Answer: As you know, creeping charlie – aka ground ivy or creeping jenny – is one of the most difficult weeds to eliminate from your lawn.  It is a member of the mint family and can be identified by its square stem, small purple flowers and fan-shaped leaves.

Hand weeding is a long and tedious job with limited success.  If a tiny piece of stem or root remains, creeping charlie will reestablish quickly.  If hand weeding you must remove the leaves, as soon as they re-appear, eight to ten times before the plant will use all its stored energy and die.

Organic herbicides, which are “burn down” products, will kill the leaves and stems of whatever plants are sprayed (including lawn grass.) In a flower or vegetable garden, you can shield desirable plants. Repeat treatments will be needed to kill creeping Charlie. Examples of organic herbicides are pelargonic acid (Scythe) and herbicidal vinegar products. Carefully read and follow label directions.

Traditional synthetic herbicides kill roots as well as tops. I’ve had good luck with products containing triclopyr as the active ingredient. Lawn herbicides with triclopyr may be challenging to find, but worth the hunt. Carefully read herbicide labels to find triclopyr labeled for weed control in lawns.

A premixed combination herbicide of 2, 4-D, MCPP (mecoprop) and dicamba is also effective on creeping charlie. It is sold under numerous brand names.  Avoid using herbicides containing dicamba near trees and shrubs.  Dicamba moves easily through the soil with water and will damage tree and shrub roots.

The combination herbicide of 2, 4-D, and MCPP (without dicamba) gives intermediate control of creeping charlie.

Apply herbicides to creeping charlie when it is in bloom this spring and again in September. If you have an especially tough patch, another application may be needed during bloom next year to get rid of it completely.

Glyphosate, sold under the names of Round-up, Kleen-up and others, also kills creeping charlie. (A number of herbicide combinations are now sold with the brand name Round-up. Read the label to know what you are getting.) Glyphosate kills anything green and growing.  This means lawn grass and other plants intermixed with the weed. In your garden apply glyphosate directly to the weed while carefully avoiding or shielding your flower plants from herbicide.