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Ground Ivy

Did You Know?

A few ground ivy facts:

  • Has medicinal properties
  • Used as flavoring in home brewing
  • Toxic to horses in large quantities

How to get rid of ground ivy:

  • Correct underlying soil issues
  • Remove by hand or mechanically
  • Treat with herbicides

Information by Rakesh Chandran, Ph.D., WVU Extension Service Weed Science Specialist

Don’t let ground ivy creep you out!

ground ivy leavesCreeping along, volunteering itself as a ground cover and finding its way into hedges, pavement crevices and flower beds, ground ivy is another ubiquitous weed found in lawns and gardens around the state. Some homeowners don’t mind it, and some even relish its faint minty aroma when mowed. But others consider this weed to be a hard-to-manage nuisance.

Native to Europe and the British Isles, ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) is considered to have been introduced to North America by early settlers. As an herb, it possesses several medicinal attributes for both the skin and certain internal ailments. It is also used as a flavoring principle in home brewing. In large quantities, it can be toxic to horses due to its volatile oils.

Identification and growth habits

ground ivy rootsGround ivy is a creeping perennial that is sometimes referred to as creeping Charlie, gill-on-the-ground and gill-on-the-hedge. As a member of the mint family, the stem has a square cross section and produces adventitious roots at each node. It produces flowers that are bluish-purple in color with two lips. The leaves are kidney-shaped with blunt serrations along the margin, forming a dense carpet-like mat if left uncontrolled. It can spread fast under ideal conditions such as shade, weak stand of turf grasses and low mowing height. Under shaded conditions, which it prefers, the leaves are green, but in full sunlight, they can assume a purplish-red appearance.

Control

shows how ground ivy roots creep or run along the groundA poor turf system riddled with bare spots provides an opportunity for ground ivy to emerge. Shade, low mowing height, poor fertility and improper pH are factors that predispose a lawn to ground ivy invasion. Cultural or management practices that correct these conditions are critical for sustained management of ground ivy. Using a shade-tolerant species or blend of turf grass, opening up tree-canopy to allow more sunlight to penetrate, raising the mowing height to about three inches, using amendments to bring the soil pH to the slightly acidic range (~6.5) and applying adequate amounts of fertilizers at the proper time are practices that help to maintain a lawn competitive against ground ivy and other weeds.

Application of a systemic herbicide during fall can help control ground ivy. In lawns, selective herbicides such as triclopyr (Turflon) or pre-mixtures that contain quinclorac, sulfentrazone, dicamba and 2,4-D (Q4) are somewhat effective to control this weed. Sequential applications over a period of two to three years may be necessary to control established stands. Using a hand-held weed wiper to carefully apply glyphosate (Roundup or other formulations) can be effective to manage ground ivy in flower beds or gardens. Hand weeding or mechanical removal can be tedious, but effective if all the stolons are removed from the ground. Correcting any underlying conditions will help prevent future infestations.


Author: Rakesh Chandran, WVU Extension Weed Science Specialist
Last Reviewed: August 2018

Recommendations for the use of agricultural chemicals are included as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services does not imply endorsement by West Virginia University Extension Service nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Individuals who use agricultural chemicals are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Be sure to obtain current information about usage regulations and examine a current product label before applying any chemical. For assistance, contact your county Cooperative Extension agent.