01 Mar How To Kill Creeping Charlie
Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea) is a perennial ground cover that has been a thorn in the side of homeowners and professional lawn care companies alike for many years. In Minnesota, you can find it growing in full shade, partial shade, and even in the full sun areas of your lawn. Creeping Charlie, which is also commonly referred to as ground ivy, can be easily distinguished by its square shaped stems, purple flows in April-May, and its refusal to die even when sprayed with standard herbicides that will kill almost all other broadleaf weeds growing in your lawn. Creeping Charlie, along with wild ivy, are the only two types of broadleaf weeds that are not well controlled by the typical 3-way herbicide application, which is what is always used in a standard commercial lawn treatment packages. So even if you’re using a St. Paul MN lawn care company to treat your lawn for weeds, creeping Charlie will not be eliminated unless specifically addressed through the treatment of a specialty herbicide. These specialty herbicides are typically not used by Minneapolis lawn care companies unless needed. This is because the next generation of herbicides that are most effective at killing creeping charlie are more expensive than the widely used standard 3-way herbicides.
Why is Creeping Charlie So Hard to Kill?
Creeping Charlie it very difficult to kill, because its leaves are protected by an abnormally thick and waxy cuticle layer. The waxy cuticle layer covers the outside of the leaf and makes it difficult for herbicides to be absorbed into the plants vascular system. Creeping charlie’s waxy cuticle can also work to prevent herbicides from properly covering the leaf surface. Think of how water beads off a waxed car vs. one that hasn’t been waxed, in this way creeping charlie makes it difficult to cover the entire leaf surface with herbicide.
Creeping charlie has two very effective ways of propagating, making it a prolific spreader. Creeping charlie spreads through rhizomes, which are a form of stem that grows perpendicular to the soil level, either at the soil surface or underground from which many new shoots will begin growing.
Creeping charlie is also very effective at spreader via seed production. Through these two methods of propagation, creeping charlie can ‘creep’ in from your neighbor’s yard into yours in a relatively short period of time.
How to Get Rid of Creeping Charlie
The 3 most important factors when it comes to killing Charlie are: using the right chemical, treating at the right time of year and making repeat applications. Keep in mind the chemicals and methods I’m recommending will not kill the grass. Borax and Round-up will kill creeping Charlie if times properly, but will also kill the grass so I’m not spending any time discussing those options as our goal is to kill the creeping Charlie and leave the lawn intact. The only time where round-up makes sense for us to use is when killing creeping along with undesirable grasses and weeds before starting a new lawn over from scratch via seeding or sodding.
The Best Chemical to Kill Creeping Charlie
Diacamba and Triclopyr are the active ingredients that seem to provide the best control of creeping charlie, although 4-D also providing some level of control. At KG Landscape, we use a specialty herbicide that contains more of the active Diacamba and Triclopy ingredients than what you’d find in a standard commercially applied herbicide or a retail product. If you’re trying to kill creeping charlie on your own, look at the label of any product that claims to be effective and make sure the amount of Diacamba and Triclopy is greater than 3% and 4% respectively. We also use surfactant (spreader sticker) that reduces the surface tension of water preventing it from beading or rolling off the leaves when applied. The chemical must stick to the leaf for at least 12 hours to be effective, with 24 hours being preferred. We then suggest watering thoroughly after 24 hours to help jumpstart the translocation process and rinse the herbicide off the leaves of desirable grasses. Our treatment does not kill lawn grasses, but can sometimes stress it, so watering helps prevent any noticeable damage to your lawn.
Best Time of the Year to Kill Creeping Charlie
Correctly timing creeping charlie applications is just as important as using the right chemical. Applications should be made during periods of active growth when the plant is most likely to absorb the herbicide effectively. During the period of nutrient flowing in April-May and in the fall, preferable after the first frost, are the most effective times to treat creeping Charlie. These periods of active growth provide the best chance for the chemicals to become systemically absorbed by the entire plant. To be effective, herbicides must be translocated from the leaf of the plant throughout the entire vascular system killing the plant completely, roots and all. If just the leaves die, than the rhizomes and roots are free to send up new shoots shortly after recovering from a treatment. Plants are most actively translocating the sugars that act as a carrier for herbicides during periods of active growth. Metabolic activity will decrease significantly during periods of heat and drought stresses (summer, late June to mid-August). So summer is an ineffective time to kill creeping Charlie since the plant is less metabolically active. Treating in the summer will also likely kill the adjacent lawn grasses, since our cool season lawn grasses can be damaged when treated with herbicide during periods where temperatures are above 80 degree Fahrenheit. For these reasons, we will not treat it during the summer.
Fall may be the best time to treat creeping charlie for two reasons. During the fall, creeping charlie is actively drawing nutrients from its leaves and storing those nutrients in its root system, which offers an active highway for herbicides to follow. Secondly, after the first frost in the fall, tiny cracks or fractures in the waxy leaf cuticle caused by freezing damage open direct pathways in the leaf surface where herbicides can enter and be absorbed. This helps bypass one of the main reasons that creeping Charlie is so hard to kill, which is its thick and waxy protective cuticle. The median freeze date in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area is between October 1st and October 15th, making mid to late October an ideal time to treat for creeping charlie. However, mid-late fall can be a gamble, if you wait too long the plant will have stopped actively growing making treatments ineffective.
Spring is also a good time to treat creeping charlie because of the translocation taking place during active growth as mentioned above. Chemicals are not effectively absorbed by the actual flowers themselves; rather the period of flowing coincides with a period of active growth and herbicides are still most effectively absorbed through the leaves. During the spring, new leaves are emerging that have not full developed their waxy cuticles (not as tough as they will be), which may also attribute to the improved success of herbicide translocation in the spring. Spring applications also are a little less risky than the late fall applications since the window for best timing is a little longer, giving more time for consecutive applications during ideal conditions.
Repeat Applications Work Best
Even when using the best chemicals and proper timing, creeping charlie can still be difficult to control. In general, when people say control instead of kill they are leaving open the possibility that you may not completely kill off all of the creeping Charlie in your lawn. The best way to kill ground ivy, is to make repeated applications during periods of active growth. Ten to fourteen day intervals are recommended between repeat applications. Two treatments applied two weeks apart in the spring during flowering or in the fall after the first freeze, will give you the best chance of getting rid of creeping charlie once and for all. At best, we’ve seen creeping charlie die completely with one application and at worst we’ve run into lawns where heavy infestation requires two treatments per season for 2-3 consecutive years to completely remove creeping charlie. To give our treatments the best chance to succeed we recommend going with two treatments, two weeks apart for the first year then waiting until the following spring to determine the need to additional applications.
Say Goodbye to Creeping Charlie!
Give KG Landscape a call at 763-568-7251 or fill out a quick request form on our website. We’ll give you the specific treatments and answers you need for your weed infested lawn. Our tried and true fertilizer/weed control packages have kept lawns looking beautiful for over 10 years. The turf science education that our executives have give you the value and expertise that you need.