Ground Ivy in Lawns
Common Name: Ground ivy
Botanical Name: Glechoma hederacea L.
Other Names: Creeping Charlie, Gill-over-the-ground, Cat’s-foot
Origin and Distribution
Ground ivy was introduced from Eurasia. It is widespread throughout the eastern half of the United States (except in parts of some Southeast and South Central States) and north into Canada from Newfoundland to Ontario.
Ground ivy is a shallow-rooted perennial broadleaf that reproduces by seeds and creeping stems. It flowers from April to June.
Ground ivy is very common in Massachusetts lawns. It spreads rapidly by creeping stems. It is abundant in damp, rich soil. Ground ivy is shade tolerant and grows well under trees, shrubs, and hedges. It is very aggressive and out-competes grass species by shading.
Ground ivy has shallow roots originating from nodes on creeping stems. Stems are square or four-sided, and creeping. Leaves are round and scalloped along the edge. Leaves and stems have a strong mint-like odor. Leaves appear opposite each other on long trailing stems. Where these junctions touch the ground, ground ivy produces new roots and new branches or runners. Flowers are in axillary clusters. They are small and purplish-blue. Flowers are characterized by the typical trumpet shape of plants in the mint family. Each flower has 4 seeds or nutlets. Each nutlet is 3-sided, flat on 2 sides and rounded on the third side. Seeds are small, dark brown, and rough with a small white scar on the base.
It is very difficult to control ground ivy because of its perennial growth habit and reproductive capacity. However, maintaining a dense and healthy lawn is the best method of controlling many turf weeds. The use of adapted desirable grass species, adequate fertilization, proper mowing and irrigation practices are the best ways to maintain a dense healthy lawn. Because it is shallow rooted, ground ivy can be effectively removed by hand in small areas. Bare areas left from hand removal should be seeded with desirable turfgrass species.
Management with Herbicides
Several herbicides are recommended for ground ivy control. Herbicides may be applied to ground ivy in in spring or fall, providing that the plants are actively growing. Early fall may be the best time to treat ground ivy. The lawn should not be mowed for two to three days before and after herbicide application. The treatment application should be done at a time when there is no rainfall expected for at least 24 hours. Repeat applications may be necessary as a follow up treatment for long-term control.
For a details on current herbicides registered for control of ground ivy, refer to the latest edition of the Professional Guide for IPM in Turf for Massachusetts.