Unless you live in a Rocky Mountain State, you probably have seen a certain evergreen ground perennial running in all directions through your grass this summer. Best known as Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea), but sometimes called Ground Ivy, it is an aromatic member of the mint family. It thrives in cool, moist, shady soil and the Commonwealth has provided perfect conditions for Creeping Charlie to take hold this summer. And once it does take hold, watch out. It spreads quickly by sending out runners and putting down new roots every few inches. It also reproduces by seed and by rhizomes.
I left a pair of clippers at the edge of a new border where Charlie was prolific. They disappeared in Kudzu-like fashion in no time. It took me two weeks to find those clippers and only with a weed trimmer did they reappear.
Recently I walked with a friend through her yard while she pointed to the bane of her existence. Crowding out almost half of her shady yard of new grass was Creeping Charlie. As we walked, she shared her tales of struggle against it. Her story is not unique. I have seen folks fight for years to control Charlie. Often gardeners give up the war and manage to just keep it somewhat tamed. Of course, if you happen to rid your property of it, that doesn’t mean the neighbors won’t share their healthy Creeping Charlie.
Landscapers consider the invasive plant a weed and as a last resort will use a glyphosate-based herbicide like Roundup to kill everything, then begin again with grass seed or sod. Homeowners often use a post-emergent broadleaf herbicide twice in the fall and twice again in the spring for several years to have any success. Others, like me, simply weed it by hand knowing that the fix is temporary.
According to Peterson’s Field Guide, Edible Wild Plants, the plant has culinary uses. It makes a robust tea, and herbalists around the world hail the perennial for its medicinal benefits. However, common sense tells us to educate ourselves before ingesting the plant or using it for medical purposes.
Whether you like Creeping Charlie or not, swift success in controlling it is highly unlikely. Either prepare your battle plan or think of Charlie as a lovely evergreen ground cover.
Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester