Ground Ivy

Weeds

creeping Charlie, gill-over-the-ground, string-of-nickels, chain-of-coins, field balm, cat's foot, run-away-Robin

Glechoma hederacea


Perhaps only second to wild violet as the difficult-to-control weed that most often frustrates professional lawncare operators and homeowners. Ground ivy, also known as creeping Charlie, is an aggressive perennial that is ideally suited to many landscape situations. It prefers moist, well-fertilized, shades sites maintained at a low mowing height.

Ground ivy spreads by above-ground runners (stolons) and can quickly overtake large areas of real estate. Hand removal of ground ivy may be therapeutic but is usually not effective.

Ground ivy is characterized by its coin-shaped leaves with scalloped (crenate) edges and square petioles and stems. All plant parts have a strong mint odor when crushed or cut. Ground ivy's orchid-like purple flowers appear for a short time in mid-May. The flowers can easily be overlooked as they are often exhibited below the turf canopy.

  • Crops Affected: Turfgrass

    Management

    Ground ivy thrives under conditions that present on most backyards. It prefers shaded sites but can survive in part- and full-sun conditions as well. Cultural practices are typically not enough to remove ground ivy from the landscape. However, improved drainage, higher mowing height and increased sunlight can be effective as slowing the rate of re-infestation after ground ivy has been removed. See MSU extension bulletin E06TURF 'Ground Ivy in Lawns' for specific management and herbicide recommendations.

    Similar Species

    Ground ivy can easily confused with henbit, common mallow and creeping speedwell. Common mallow can be distinguished from ground ivy by its round stems that don't root at the node and alternate leaf arrangement. The leaves of mallow are often pink tinged in the center and the lobes typically do not overlap at the petiole.

    Henbit is in the same family as ground ivy and therefore has square stems and a strong mint odor. The leaves on henbit are sessile (no petioles) and smaller than ground ivy.

    Creeping speedwell leaves are much smaller than ground ivy and are covered with short hairs, whereas the ground ivy leaves are hairless (glabrous). speedwell/ground ivy Creeping speedwell has round stems.