How to Get Rid of Creeping Charlie

By PropertyClub Team
Sep 1st 2022
Considered to be one of the most resilient and difficult to control weeds, creeping charlie can easily take over a lawn in a matter of weeks. Here's what you need to know about killing creeping charlie, either with a herbicide or by pulling it out by hand.

hash-markWhat Is Creeping Charlie?

Also known as Glechoma Hederacea, creeping charlie sounds like a brand new horror movie villain, but it’s actually just a common weed. It’s just a villain for your garden. What’s more surprising, too, is that it’s not an ugly plant. It’s a fresh-smelling member of the mint family known for its small stature and purple flowers. It can grow anywhere from two inches to two feet tall. 

Unlike many other weeds, creeping charlie is a medicinal plant originally brought over by British settlers. It’s a perennial, so it can last up to two years on its own. It now is more famous for being able to “creep” all over flower beds, butting everything else out of the way. 

hash-markKilling Creeping Charlie By Hand

The most popular way to get rid of creeping charlie is to do it by hand, and admittedly, it can be pretty brutal to do so. However, this is the only way to make sure you don’t have to deal with chemicals that could potentially harm your pets or kids. Here’s how to do it:

1. Get your supplies in order

To kill creeping charlie by hand you'll need to have the right tools, including gardening gloves, gardening shears, a pitchfork, and a trowel to get started. You will also need a waste bag and access to a water hose.

2. Trim the Creeping Charlie

The next step is to trim the creeping charlie down to a pullable length. You'll want to trim it to two to six inches in length. If you trim it too short it will be harder to remove. You should use your garden shears for this. 

3. Soak the Soil

After trimming the creeping charlie, you should use your garden hose to soak the soil. You will want to saturate the soil and let it sit for half an hour to an hour. 

4. Loosen Up the Roots

Then, grab a pitchfork and loosen up the roots around your creeping charlie. You want to loosen the soil until you see tiny white roots. (They’re called rhizomes!)

5. Pull the Creeping Charlie

Grab the plants up by the base, and remove the entire plant. Place any creeping charlie you’re able to pick up in the waste bag. If you have a very stubborn plant, use a trowel or a pitchfork to loosen the roots. After pulling the creeping charlie out, use a trowel to look for any leftover rhizomes. You'll need to collect them and toss them.

6. Repeat the Process 

To prevent creeping charlie from coming back, you'll need to repeat the process after a couple of weeks. The hand-picking process will usually need several repeats before it’s fully successful and the creeping charlie is permanently eliminated. 

hash-markWhen Is The Best Time To Hand Pull Creeping Charlie?

If you want to go for the manual option, then spring is the best time to start. Spring is usually when the roots are at their weakest. You also will be able to nip the problem in the bud, simply because the plants haven’t fully matured yet. 

Since you often need multiple passes for this to be totally successful, starting early also gives you time to enjoy a weed-free garden. 

hash-markKilling Creeping Charlie By Herbicide

If you are more of a convenience-oriented person and don’t have much to worry about in terms of pets, then you can usually invest in some quality herbicide or weed killer to get the job done. Here’s how you can kill creeping charlie with a chemical aid:

1. Choose a Herbicide

To start, you'll need to pick the herbicide you want to use to kill the creeping charlie. Much of your ability to succeed when buying a weed killer for this particular plant, it’s often best to seek out an herbicide that has been rated for killing creeping charlie. You can find out whether or not the herbicide you picked is good for this by looking on the package. Choose a home use spray, if possible. 

2. Mix Your Herbicide

Most herbicides will need to be diluted to be safely sprayed in a garden. Check your herbicide’s box to see how much water you need to mix before you can spray it in. Make sure your herbicide is mixed thoroughly. 

3. Protect Your Pets and Kids

Most herbicides are not meant to be ingested so you should get your pets and children indoors. You do not want your dogs or kids to make contact with the herbicide after you've sprayed it. Do not allow your pets outside for at least 24 hours. To stay on the safe side, you should refer to the instructions on the back of your insecticide’s package to see how long it’ll take before it’s safe to hit your yard again. 

4. Spray the Area Affected by Creeping Charlie.

It’s generally best to spray a moderate amount of herbicide. You want to make sure that the weeds are fully wet but don't your entire lawn. After all, herbicides can potentially harm grass and other flowers around the area. So, don’t use more than you have to. 

5. Remove the Dead Creeping Charlie Weeds 

You should be able to see the creeping charlie die out fairly quickly. When you notice the plants wilting up, pull them up by their roots and dispose of them. To be extra thorough, grab a trowel and inspect the soil. Pull out any rhizomes that you see, and dispose of them in a waste bag. You need to make sure that the entire plant is dead; roots included!

6. Respray Herbicide as Needed

Check to see if you need to reapply your herbicide. Though it’s somewhat rare, it’s possible to have your herbicide kill off all the creeping charlie in one shot. However, in most cases, you'll need to reapply the herbicide to get rid of all the creeping charlie.

hash-markIs Using Chemicals To Kill Creeping Charlie Safe?

Yes and no. All chemical weed killers will involve some level of risk to the well-being of people and animals that call your yard home. Some, such as natural vinegar herbicides, can kill creeping charlie but may cause mild irritation if it gets into your eyes. 

Others, such as corporate-made cocktails like RoundUp, have been linked to increased risk of cancer in both people and animals. If you are concerned about your sensitivity to chemicals, then you should opt for a natural herbicide or just pull up the creeping charlie by the roots. 

hash-markWhen Is The Best Time To Use Herbicide On Creeping Charlie?

Unlike hand-pulling, which has its optimal time in the spring, using herbicide is the best option in the fall. This is the best option for getting fully matured creeping charlie under control, right before the plants start sending out seeds.

A typical herbicide is a great go-to for people who have to have a last-minute fix. It’s fast-acting, so you won’t have to worry about having it be too late to be effective.

hash-markAlways Pick Those Rhizomes!

Remember when we mentioned rhizomes, those petite white roots that are deep in the ground? They are far more important in eradicating this weed than you’d think. The reason why creeping charlie is so hard to get rid of is that even tiny rhizomes can sprout into full-blown plants again. 

Even if you’ve trimmed the creeping charlie down to the nibs, if you have roots and rhizomes underneath your soil, you can guarantee it’ll come back. Since the roots of this plant are so resilient, it’s easy to see why it’s known as the “weed that keeps coming back.”

hash-markCan Creeping Charlie Be Used As A Ground Cover?

If there’s one thing that creeping plants are good at, it’s getting good ground coverage. In theory, you could use creeping charlie as a ground cover, but in practice, most people would agree that it’s an eyesore, and your HOA will probably write you up for weed growth. It’s best not to chance it.

hash-markGetting Rid of Creeping Charlie Bottom Line

When it comes to weeds, few are as difficult to fully remove as creeping charlie. While it may have been prized as a medicinal plant with a punch of minty flavor in the past, today, it’s a major eyesore. Once it creeps into your garden, you need to go on the offense. 

Like with most other weeds, you can choose to use your hands to get rid of the weeds if they’re still youthful. However, tougher, more mature creeping charlie is best killed off by the use of commercial herbicides. No matter what you choose to use, make sure to get to the root of the problem. Otherwise, charlie will come creepin’ back!