Does Creeping Charlie Die in Winter?

Does Creeping Charlie Die In Winter

Creeping ground covers can be a great addition to a lawn and garden, but if left unchecked, most will escape their areas. Creeping Charlie, also known as ground Ivy is a common sight in landscapes across the US. Originally brought here by European settlers, this unencumbered plant has become an invasive weed in several States. 

If you have found Creeping Charlie on your lawn and need to eliminate this broadleaf weed, you are probably curious about when to use weed killer to eliminate this plant. Most broadleaf herbicides have a time of year when they are most effective for certain types of weeds, and for perennial plants, this is especially important. Will winter help kill Creeping Charlie on your lawn, read on to find out! 

Will Winter Conditions Kill Creeping Charlie?

While Creeping Charlie is an aggressive weed, it does lose green leaves and goes dormant when temperatures drop in the winter. Invasive plants like ground ivy need to be killed quickly, and winter conditions can help eliminate the need to pull up weeds if chemicals are applied at the right time. It is also much easier to hand-pull perennial weeds when they aren’t actively growing, making winter the best time to kill Charlie grass. 

Other conditions that I find greatly impact how quickly Creeping Charlie spreads are the amount of sunlight received and the soil fertility in a lawn. Charlie weed likes moist, fertile soil and thrives in the shade, so if these conditions are more common during the winter, you may have problems with this plant. If the winter sun hits and dries parts of the lawn that are usually shaded and moist, and fertilizer is withheld, Creeping Charlie might starve and be even easier to remove come late winter. 

What Kills Creeping Charlie or Ground Ivy?

Creeping Charlie

A hard-to-kill and fast-growing plant can be frustrating when it escapes its flower bed and invades your lawn. A perennial plant like Creeping Charlie can out-compete the native plants in your gardens and spread throughout your lawn anywhere lawn grasses are weak or neglected. Below are some sure ways to wipe out broadleaf plants in lawns and flower gardens. 

What Kills How Does It KillEcological Effects
Hand-PullRemoves stems and rootsLeaves bare earth and needs to be absolute, or regrowth is likely
Hot CompostDestroys Rhizomes and stops new shootsTurns weeds into garden soil and eliminates the risk of regrowth if temps of 140-160 are achieved and sustained
Selective HerbicideTargets broadleaf weeds and doesn’t harm most turf grass, and leaves grass intactWill kill other broadleaf weeds nearby and weaken turf grass if too much is applied
Non-Selective HerbicideWeed killer that damages any plant regardless of its species and causes systematic shutdownActive Ingredient like glyphosate is a known carcinogen and an ecological nightmare 
Increase Direct SunlightExposes shallow roots and leads to browning of leaves during active growth seasonsUsually, a natural occurrence based on light and season changes, so no negative ecological effect on the rest of the lawn
Dry SoilStunts ground ivy growth and improve conditions for grass in lawns Can stress turf that is dormant and has shallow roots but should be fine for cool-season grasses with deep roots
Improved Turf QualityBalances the soil and promotes healthy grass while creating a hostile environment for Charlie grassThe balance of soil can help your turf resist Creeping Charlie and other adaptable weed types  

Hand Pull

Charlie weed can be pulled by hand and removed completely from the lawn and garden as the most sustainable organic solution. If you have a relatively healthy yard and wait until winter temperatures and soil conditions are just right, yanking Creeping Charlie by the roots is the simplest control method. In small planting beds or an outdoor garden, it’s a good organic control for the removal of weeds, and you are rewarded with a pleasant minty odor. 

Hot Compost

Creeping Charlie is an edible plant, and the entire weed, rhizomes, and all can be tossed into the compost pile if hot composting will be accomplished. Hot composting involves a pile breaking down nitrogen and carbon at such a fast rate that the heat produced by the feasting and multiplying microorganisms rises above 140 degrees. If it reaches these temperatures and stays there for 3 or more days, then no weeds seeds, few pathogens, and only a couple of hardcore spores can survive to spread to your garden. 

Herbicide

Ortho Weed B Gon Chickweed, Clover & Oxalis Killer for Lawns Concentrate, 16 oz.
  • Kills Creeping Charlie (Ground Ivy) and Wild Violet
  • Kills weeds to the roots
  • Won’t harm the lawn – Guaranteed (When used as directed.)
  • Rainproof in 6 hours

Treating Creeping Charlie in lawns is not very difficult as there are many products that work on this weed. Pre-emergent herbicides can be laid down in fall and spring to prevent seeds dropped in the summer from germinating. Pre-emergents will not harm turf or plants already growing but will stop any new weeds from popping up during spring growth.

In the winter, Creeping Charlie is dormant and focuses on putting all of its energy into rhizomes. Post-emergent herbicides like triclopyr, dicamba herbicide,  2,4-D, and mecoprop can take out Creeping Charlie during the winter months. The active ingredient in these products will take the whole winter to work, but weeds should be dead by spring in time for the resowing of desirable plants. 

Climate Conditions

Changing the climate and growing conditions of Creeping Charlie can make the sneaky plant much easier to remove and give your turf grasses the best chance of springing back. Charlie weed likes shady conditions and moist, fertile soil, so it tends to thrive in areas where warm-season grasses do not. Letting shady areas dry out, reducing fertility, and planting alternative ground cover to smother Charlie grass can defeat this weed without industrial herbicides.

Why Creeping Charlie Is a Problem for Turf?

Creeping Charlie

Just because Creeping Charlie may be a weed in the wrong areas of your lawn, it is still a very useful plant that has many amazing qualities that foragers and homesteaders love. Recognizable by their scalloped leaves, square stems, and blue-violet flowers, the removal of weeds from your lawn could be just a relocation if this plant is beneficial to you. Creepy Charlie is hard to get rid of once it takes over, so make sure you know where you want it and how to keep it contained, or the cons will surely occur in your lawn. 

Pros 

Creeping Charlie is an edible plant that has a strong mint taste. It is easy to recognize and can be verified with most foraging guidebooks with little risk of misidentification. In some climates where few types of grass will grow in the shade, on slopes, and where semi-fertile moist soil is prevalent, Charlie grass might be your cheapest and best option. If the plants are contained by strong and healthy turf all around, there is little chance of lawn contamination and plenty of benefits in allowing Creeping Charlie to stick around.

Creeping Charlie has beautiful flowers that bloom early in the spring, giving pollen to newly awakened pollinators. Keeping this plant around can help bees and butterflies get an early snack before moving onto vast fields of summer flowers. The leaves and flowers of Creeping Charlie are medicinal and can be used in teas and tinctures for coughs and other ailments. 

Cons

The drawbacks of Creeping Charlie should be apparent by now, but the full extent of the issues with this plant are numerous. It is very hard to keep this weed from spreading, especially in areas with lots of plants that are vulnerable to chemical weed killers. To control weeds like Charlie grass, you need to stop the creeping stems from spreading, rhizomes from producing new shoots, and seeds from dropping and germinating. 

If you manage the complete removal of weeds like Creeping Charlie but do not fix the turf issues, birds, foot traffic, or the wind could bring new seeds and start the invasion all over again. A potent weed killer can remove Creeping Charlie once it is established, but it is an extremely low-lying plant that is hard to soak with selective contact-based herbicides.

Getting this plant out of flower gardens can be especially difficult if there are broadleaf ornamentals in the same growing area as the Charlie grass. 

How to Remove Creeping Charlie In Lawns?

Creeping Charlie

There are several ways to get Charlie grass out of your yard, but you will need to be as aggressive as this weed is. For the complete removal of weeds, you will want to stick to one method and see it all the way through. Combining methods can cause additional issues but feel free to use a different method if the first one didn’t work exactly as expected. Get rid of Creeping Charlie with these proven techniques. 

Manual Removal

  1. Trim Foilage – The fewer leaves a weed has to draw energy, the easier it will be to remove all the plant parts and destroy the roots to prevent spreading. Trim foliage back before attempting to pull the weeds out to maximize potential success and make it easy to find stubborn rhizomes.
  2. Soak the Soil –  Hard, dry soil is exhausting to weed in. Charlie weed likes wet soil, so an option is to let the soil dry out completely to weaken the roots and then wet the soil the day before you plan to weed. The softer soil will be easier to weed in, but the water will not have had time to completely restore the Charlie grass. 
  3. Break Up Soil – A hoe, trowel, or pronged rake can be used to break up the area around Charlie weed to help increase the odds of removing the entire root system without leaving chunks behind. Any rhizomes not removed will resprout so breaking up the soil, especially in highly-infested areas, can pay off with less effort while hand-pulling.
  4. Pull out the Plant – Using gardening gloves, you can pull charlie grass by hand and remove it completely from your lawn and outdoor garden. A dethatching rake can help pull large mats of Creeping Charlie up and make it easier to access the roots and rhizomes in the ground. It will take multiple attempts of pulling and raking to remove all of the Charlie weed completely. 
  5. Remove Plant Parts – Stems and roots will resprout on the lawn, so after weed removal from the ground, you will want to remove all the plant parts from outside of your garden. You can add them to greens bins or to your own compost pile if it will be hot enough to kill weed seeds. Once the plants are out of the garden and properly disposed of, you will have significantly fewer weeds popping up next spring. 
  6. Inspect for Remaining Rhizomes – Wait a few days and reinspect the area to see if the disturbed earth has yielded any additional rhizomes. Spray with a garden hose and look carefully, as the more you remove, the better chance new grass will have up sprouting up without competition. 
  7. Repeat the Process Until Completely Gone – If Creeping Charlie pops back up or spreads to other areas, you will need to keep repeating the hand-pulling process until only your turf and landscape plants remain. In most cases, you can get all of the actively growing Creeping Charlie plants in one or two pass-throughs, but in highly-neglected areas, it could take longer. 
  8. Resow/Sod – Once all threats or as much of the Charlie grass as possible has been removed, you can resow your lawn to give your grass a head start. If the area where Creeping Charlie was growing is shady and your sun-loving turf can’t grow there, consider mixing a complementary shade-tolerant variety to reinforce your lawn and kick out competing weeds. 

Chemical Herbicides

  1. Season to Spray – Chemicals can be sprayed when Creeping Charlie is actively growing or moving into dormancy and pumping energy to the roots quickly in preparation for the winter cold. In summer, Charlie weed is actively growing, and when it starts to bloom, it is especially susceptible to poison. Likewise, in winter, herbicides applied to Charlie weeds will be rapidly taken into the roots and rhizomes and systematically shut the weed down. 
  2. Weather Conditions – When the wind is calm and herbicides can be applied accurately and consistently, you will see the best results. Rain and snow immediately before and after most herbicide applications will dilute the chemicals and make the treatment less effective, so pay attention to precipitation warnings if you plan to treat weeds soon. Applying herbicides on a warm day will increase the intake speed and cause more poison to be absorbed by Charlie weed. 
  3. Apply Herbicide – Apply the herbicide at the right time in the right conditions and use the correct amount according to product instructions for the best results. Wear protective gear and avoid inhalation or skin contact when applying the herbicide. After fully covering the targeted plants, keep pets and children away during the drying period and avoid mowing for several days after application.       
  4. Re-apply and Cleanup – After several weeks to a few months, you should see that the sprayed Creeping Charlie plants have died or are nearly dead. If there is still growing going on, you can reapply the herbicides and wait again until they are all terminated. Once all the Charlie weed is dry, you can clean up the area and remove the chemical-soaked dead plant debris completely from your garden and yard. 
  5. Resow/Sod – It is important to resow seed as soon as the Charlie grass is removed to give your desired turf the best chance of popping up before weeds. Choose a type of grass that can thrive where the Creeping Charlie was, and you will avoid this and other invasive weeds from taking over your lawn. 

Biological Control

  1. Increase Iron Content – Broadleaf leaves intake iron much faster than turf grasses and can be weakened and killed by adding supplements to the soil. Chelated iron poured near Charlie weed can cause iron toxicity and help you remove these plants naturally. 
  2. Sun Suppression – Placing black plastic over large patches of Charlie grass for several months, especially during hot, dry times of the year, can quickly kill these weeds. Charlie weed can not survive without sun and air and will bake under a hot plastic sheet. Wait until you have the correct replacement grass seed, and it is the best time of year for sowing to remove the plastic, treat the ground, and plant. 
  3. Resow/Sod – When resowing the seeds, make sure the dead Charlie weed is completely removed, and the soil is bare. Rake other debris away and use a broad fork or core aerator to break up compaction and help with aeration and drainage. Moisten the soil before sowing the seeds and oversow to ensure a dense turf in the coming spring. Cover the seeds with straw until they germinate, and continue to water frequently until the grass is established.  

Last update on 2022-11-29 / Affiliate links / Somes Images and Data from Amazon Product Advertising API