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Ask Extension: Can I get rid of Creeping Charlie without using chemicals?

Creeping Charlie

Q: What's the best way to kill Creeping Charlie in large yards without using harmful chemicals? My concern is the health of my children, and my well and septic system. We have this over a large portion of our lawn.

A: First, a few facts about Creeping Charlie: 
  • Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea) is a perennial lawn and garden weed that spreads via stolons ("runners") forming a mat, and will regrow from pieces of the plant left in the soil after digging or pulling it.
  • Creeping Charlie is highly adaptable, and grows in full sun to full shade, in compacted soil and well-drained soil, and therefore difficult to eradicate once established. 

Ways to manage Creeping Charlie

Small areas of Creeping Charlie can be dug up, but large areas require sod cutting, solarization, broadleaf herbicide treatment or a combination of two or more of these. 

Longer-term management strategies:

  • Choose grass seed that is high quality and a blend of species that will grow well in your site conditions. Or, if it's a shady area, plant shade tolerant plants like hostas or ferns where the Creeping Charlie is growing.
  • Improve growing conditions to encourage a dense healthy lawn after removing Creeping Charlie by aerating, increasing sunlight to the area if possible, letting grass grow to 4.5 inches before mowing to 3 inches. (These are all explained in the webpages below.)
Even after removing, it is likely that you will need to continue digging / spot treating Creeping Charlie.  And by the way, according to research, Creeping Charlie is not a very good pollinator plant and provides very minimal nectar for bees.


We have three very good articles about managing Creeping Charlie. 

Become a Smarter Gardener: How to manage Creeping Charlie
Essential Tips for a Healthy Lawn, Part II  (See Tip #7)
Creeping Charlie: Management and Value to Pollinators

Other articles/fact sheets from outside Minnesota: 
University of Wisconsin Horticulture, Division of Extension: Creeping Charlie
Iowa State Extension and Outreach: "Creeping Charlie" (Glechoma hederacea) control

Author:  Julie Weisenhorn, Extension Educator - Horticulture

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Unknown said…
I don't understand why everyone says creeping charlie likes shade and moisture. 90% of the creeping charlie in my yard grows in full sun and in many places little water.
Margie Blare Dakota County
It certainly is an adaptable plant! It is found in shade and moist sites--because these are typically tougher sites for turf/grass to grow. This is a competitive weed that takes its opportunities to move in! Be sure to read our blog article on Creeping Charlie--you will find the link in the answer above.
Adams said…
I've had fairly good luck using Iron-X, which doesn't eradicate it of course, but it IS suppressed for awhile. It weakens it to the point that it is easier to pull it up too, especially after a rain. I apply it when the conditions are just right, with a and mix it stronger than the usual concentration because creeping charlie is so hard to kill). The iron from the Iron-X is translocated from the plants leaves to it's roots and won't harm people, pets, or the grass. I get it from Gardens Alive website but you can buy it elsewhere under different brand names. I use a surfactant also, so the solution doesn't just roll off the leaves.

If I have super dense area of creeping charlie, I spray it with vinegar (regular 5% or horticultural strength 20% watered down a bit) and this also suppresses it a lot, but also kills the grass if any is there.

I try to over-seed the lawn too, to give it some competition in areas that have become thin (usually from trampling by kids and pets!).

My lawn doesn't look as good as my neighbors who heap on lots of pesticides, but I love that it is safe for our kids and pets. And bees like it too.
Adams said…
already did it
Jen said…
Another option: landscape fabric over it during the summer. It will kill everything, but, you can address soil issues and reseed the grass the following spring.