Creeping Charlie and Wild Violets

doucanoeAugust 21, 2011

What is the best/most effective way to get rid of these two nuisances that are taking over areas of my lawn?

I have pulled and pulled and pulled.....


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jennypat Zone 3b NW MN(Zone 3b NW MN)

I would like to know too!

    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 12:57PM
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Just read that 20 mule team borax mixed w/water gets rid of CC without harming grass. Anyone tried this?

(And can you still buy 20 mule team borax? LOL)

    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 1:09PM
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hostaholic2 z 4, MN

Goodbye Charlie!
This is from the U of MN extension website.

David C. Zlesak, Regional Extension Educator
Creeping through our lawns and gardens Glechoma hederacea (creeping charlie) is a pervasive weed that can be very difficult to get rid of. Growing best in semi-shaded locations with routine moisture, creeping charlie can easily find an amenable home in shaded, moist areas of lawns, under landscape shrubs, and among our herbaceous perennials.

Creeping charlie. David Zlesak
Stems grow primarily on top of the soil and will root at nodes (where leaves come in contact with stems). Well-anchored stems hugging the soil avoid damage from lawn mowers and can be challenging to pull out. Fortunately, the unique growth habit of this weed provides us with a window of opportunity in spring where it is easier to remove. Our long, cold winters weaken roots of creeping charlie. Before plants recover by generating new roots from stem tissue laying on top of the ground and repairing some of the old roots, there is a time that the stems are poorly anchored to the ground. This is typically in March/April after the ground thaws and the soil is moist, but before temperatures have risen enough to encourage active growth. At this time one can readily lift stems with a pitch fork, a rake, or even by hand and discard them.

Manually pulling creeping charlie early in the season when it is more amenable to removal is a very useful method to get it out from between established herbaceous perennials and shrubs. Within established herbaceous perennial and shrub plantings, often physical removal is the only realistic and safe option. Creeping charlie is relatively herbicide resistant and may require repeated applications, an added challenge to removal and one that can put adjacent, herbicide-sensitive landscape plants at risk.

Removing creeping charlie manually from lawns can be especially daunting due to intermingled grass and creeping charlie stems and roots. Combinations of herbicides including 2, 4-D, MCPP, and/or triclopyr can kill creeping charlie, however, repeated applications are often necessary and applications in the early fall or in spring when the plant is flowering are often more effective than other times during the growing season.

Variegated creeping charlie confined to a container. Nancy Rose
If a standard herbicide labeled for creeping charlie or manual removal of creeping charlie are not acceptable options for eradication in lawns, a very careful application of borax (sodium tetraborate) may work. Boron is essential for plant growth, but in excess can easily kill plants. Creeping charlie has a lower boron toxicity threshold than grasses and by carefully controlling the application rate one can kill creeping charlie, but keep turf alive. The pH of the soil, soil type, and weather all influence the effectiveness of borax on killing creeping charlie. Although it can be effective, the use of borax for creeping Charlie control in turf is generally not recommended due to variable results and the risk of toxic levels of boron which will be difficult to leach from the soil. Since most broadleaf plants are relatively sensitive to boron toxicity and little is known about the boron tolerance of most broadleaf woody and herbaceous plant materials, borax should definitely not be used on non-turf areas.

Be aware of what is sold as variegated glechoma in the garden centers (variegated creeping charlie). It is often sold in spring in small pots for use as a foliage accent in hanging baskets or window boxes or for use as a colorful groundcover. It does overwinter in Minnesota and frequently more aggressive solid green sections sport from variegated plants. Timely removal of green sections or seedlings and generally keeping variegated creeping charlie in bounds will help prevent it from becoming a weed problem.

Consider saying goodbye to creeping charlie from ornamental landscape plantings by manual removal during the upcoming window of opportunity. Allowing this unwelcome guest to get a foothold early in the season will only make it more difficult to remove later. As the season progresses creeping charlie stems only become more strongly rooted and actively growing landscape plants become more difficult to navigate between.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 11:37PM
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zenpotter(z4 MN)

Borax is really hard on most plants.

I once saw a garden that was all creeping charlie and it looked good. I do hate the smell though and have no intention to let it grow. I just keep pulling. It is good to know that spring is best.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 10:31AM
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I have found if I can do two applications of 2-4,d in October when we have some warm weather does a decent job. It will not look like it did not do much, but most of it will be dead in the spring.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 9:22PM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

The expensive Weed Free Zone by Fertilome does wonders for creeping charlie in the early spring, before a product like weed b gon will be effective. Apply just before or during first flowering. But in mid spring through the summer, it is no better (maybe even less effective) than anything else.

If you have the violets with the thick short rhizome/stem, and you're just pulling with your hands, than most of the time the whole plant is not being uprooted. I use a flat head screw driver to go under the "bulbous" stem and pry up, assuring that the entire plant is removed. I have never tried the Weed Free Zone on violets, but it might be worth a try.

The problem with borax is that no one really knows what other effects it has on non-target plants/insects/soil flora. The finding that CC is susceptible to boron is from one study only, and makes no claim as to the correct application rate, or non-damage/damage to other floras or faunas. Remember that just because something seems benign doesn't mean it is.


    Bookmark   August 24, 2011 at 2:20AM
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Thanks, I will look for Weed Free Zone.

There are too many violets to pull by hand. I may try it on them, too.

Ginkonut, what is "2-4"? Sorry, I am terribly ignorant when it comes to herbicieds, pesticides and even fertilizers for the most part! Always learning....


    Bookmark   August 24, 2011 at 8:42AM
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hostaholic2 z 4, MN

2-4D is a broadleaf herbicide.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2011 at 11:33PM
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dandy_line(3B (Brainerd, Mn))

I tried Borax a few years ago on a very large patch of Creeping Charlie. It did nothing at all. But 2-4-d did a good job.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 10:10AM
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zenpotter(z4 MN)

As far as the wild violets go they are a very nice ground cover in my garden.

I can't bring myself to using a herbicide, I pull the weeds.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 6:21PM
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Pauline, if there weren't so many and they weren't taking over...I mean REALLY taking over, I would pull.

I actually have been pulling, buit for every one I pull it seems like 6 more take it's place!

So is 2-4D the brand name?

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 1:27PM
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2-4D is a specific type of broadleaf plant killer. Several different companies make it (Different brand names). Almost all box stores, hardware stores, and nurseries carry it. It is probably the most frequently used herbicide for killing broadleaf weeds in lawns.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 8:13AM
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Just last weekend I decided I couldn't take it anymore and I removed every last trace of Creeping Charlie from my yard with a flat head steel rake. Of course, it may come right back, but I'm hoping not. My lawn was seriously infested with this stuff. The lawn looked a little thinner with some bald spots after removing the Charlie so I over-seeded with grass seed.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 10:08PM
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may8(Z4 MN)

Borax did not work for me either. Someone told me that Creeping Charlie takes out heavy metals. Maybe it is good for the garden then, right? Anyway, they are pretty bad this year. I keep pulling and they keep coming back. I hate to use chemicals too much. That's why I tried borax. Too bad it did not work.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 7:04PM
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This post suggested the cure for Wild Violets, good luck. I am pretty much on the other side of the fence though. I kind of like them. One person's weed is another person's garden beauty.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 12:17AM
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Thick healthy sod will choke out violets. I have an area of the lawn that is overrun by the common blue violet. Several years ago as an experiment I used glyphosate on a 6' x 6' square and then reseeded with tall fescue. The sod patch is still thick and healthy with not a single violet in it, while entire patches of violets are growing all around it. The square has since spread out into a blob shape, and continues to choke out violets as it spreads.

Note that the grass should be mowed on a higher setting to keep it lush, thick, and healthy so it can keep the violets at bay. Stress the grass and I think the violets will get a foothold again.

I would have continued with this successful experiment but I am not a big fan of glyphosate and prefer to limit its use on my land. To each his/her own.

While pretty, I consider Viola sororia common blue violet to be a rather evil native plant. Not so the yellow, white, and bi-color varieties - these spread from seed as well but not nearly as viciously as the common blue and are much easier to control. They don't seem to colonize via rhizomes nearly as badly either. These varieties are most welcome in my gardens, and have more attractive features anyway.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 11:14AM
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I like the wild violets, too! They come up all around my yard, and I'm not gonna lie, I wouldn't be sad if they took over and killed all of the grass. Our lawn is mostly wild and we take no pains with it, though, so I guess I would feel differently if I had a nicer lawn (which is exactly why I don't want a "nice" lawn!).

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 1:55AM
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beachgrub(4 northern michigan)

Trimec works!! I had thousands of the wild violets and a friend of mine who works on a golf course recommended it, it's what most courses use. I ordered it online for $20 for a gallon i believe. One application and they're GONE! It's been a year now and not a trace. Yaaaaay!!!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 2:50PM
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I used a selective weed killer spray on Creeping Charlie and where I sprayed it is gone.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 12:24AM
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julie_mn(z4 MN Henn)

My mom in law sprays Ortho weed be gone in the summer months at 2 week intervals for creeping charlie along the perimeters of her yard. She always uses 2 applications and some times one or 2 more times- and her yard stays charlie free!
Amazing I tell you- I would like to try it too- but I fear I would have to own the company to afford to do that!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 9:32AM
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zenpotter(z4 MN)

It is too late now, but I was reading that in the very early spring the new roots on creeping charlie are just on the surface and you can just pick it up. I hope I can remember this one for next spring.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 10:19AM
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I also have the headache of having Creeping Charlie and Henbit in my gardens. It came in with a load of composted topsoil that I used for everything. I was just about to give up because nothing I did for almost two years slowed it down. I'm an organic gardener so conventional chemicals were out. This year I came across a product called EcoBlend Organic Grass and Weed killer, and I can tell you it saved my gardens! It HATES Creeping Charlie and Henbit. I sprayed it on several areas 6 weeks ago and waited for the weed to come back... It's gone! Toast! I did a test with lettuce that re-seeded in my perennial border, and sprayed 6 inches from the lettuce and the EcoBland had no effect on the health of the lettuce. I sprayed directly up to some perennials that were completely covered with the weed and they survived but Charlie is gone. The other great thing; the spray is food based so it turns back into a nutrient for the soil. If you do try this don't start with areas directly around sensitive plants. Experiment with how far you can spray. As far as grass is concerned it will brown but not kill the grass (in my experience) in your yard. I would use it in small areas at a time until the weed is gone that way you won't have wilted grass everywhere. If you want to kill grass it takes 2-3 applications. EcoBlend is available online. Good luck I know how horrible this weed can be. To those who think it's pretty, I agree it is, but unfortunately it loves your gardens a lot more.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 4:00PM
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I still think there's a viable market for a garden-sized flame thrower! ;-D

    Bookmark   June 1, 2012 at 3:31PM
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