Creeping Charlie is an invasive perennial weed best removed with hand pulling. It can be resistant to herbicides.
Photo: Dayle Davis
A: When the rounded edge leaves of this plant are crushed or torn, they give off a distinctive aroma, as do most plant members belonging to the Lamiaceae, or mint, family.
Glechoma hederacea, ordinarily known as ground ivy or creeping Charlie, is commonly considered an invasive, perennial evergreen creeper. It originated in Europe and was spread worldwide by migrating settlers who considered it a valuable source for culinary and medicinal uses.
Most folks these days view creeping Charlie as a pesky weed, but herbalists still find it useful for traditional medicinal properties. Some cultures serve creeping Charlie as a tasty salad green, and others steep the leaves in hot water to make herbal tea.
I have a long-standing love/hate relationship with creeping Charlie. I love the jewel tones of the tiny dark blue flowers because they remind me of microsized orchid blossoms, but I don’t love ground ivy’s sneaky habit of engulfing significant patches of soil in my flower garden with lightning fast speed.
True story: In the especially ignorant years of my early gardening experience, I had lofty goals to establish a gorgeous flower garden on a minuscule budget. So, to help fill in the many bare spots of my sparsely planted flower bed, I spent hours transplanting into it every piece of this pretty little flowering creeper that I could find growing in the lawn — thereby validating a botanical expression about the folly of youthful gardeners, and also providing my faithful readers with their hearty laugh of the day, albeit years later.
Older and wiser now, I try to stay on top of creeping Charlie whenever it makes an appearance in the garden. I recommend that you do, too. Hand weeding is best because this ground ivy can develop resistance to repeated applications of herbicides.
Know also that creeping Charlie is stoloniferous, which means it will root and spread from any bit of stem or root left behind. It takes repeated weedings to keep it gone.
Q: Will it hurt my viburnum shrubs, which are in full bloom, if I prune them now and do not wait until flowering is finished? What about transplanting them while they are in bloom? I have a large garden project that needs to get going and some of the viburnums have to be moved.
A: Viburnums are tough birds, in general. Since the best time to prune spring-flowering shrubs is right after they finish blooming, your shrubs should be fine with haircuts that take place a week or so before their normal time.
However, shrubs in the midst of blooming concentrate a huge amount of energy away from roots to produce flowers and their resultant fruits and seeds. To dig and transplant them while in bloom creates a tremendous stress referred to as transplant shock. If at all possible, don’t transplant viburnums until fall, or at least until they are completely finished blooming.
If you must move the shrubs while in bloom, cut off all flowers and then transplant. This won’t guarantee success, but at least the shrub will focus away from flower production to establishing new roots. (Evenly moist soil helps this process along.)
In general, it’s always a good idea to first prune back a shrub before transplanting. It’s also a good idea to get the shrub back into the ground as quickly as possible to help minimize transplant shock. Dig carefully around the shrub to form and keep intact a good-sized root ball. When physically moving the shrub, do not drop the root ball or knock it roughly against the ground.
Prepare a new hole that is at least twice as wide as the transplant root ball size. Cultivating a wide hole allows for easier root penetration. Be careful to dig the hole no deeper than the root ball originally sat in the soil.
Take a four-pronged long handled hoe and thoroughly mix together the topsoil and subsoil that you removed from the hole. Add some fertilizer or bone meal according to package directions to help get the transplanted shrub off to a good start.
Carefully place the root ball in the center of the hole. Water thoroughly, and allow the water to soak in before backfilling halfway with the amended soil. Water again, allowing the water to soak in completely to help settle the soil and eliminate air pockets.
Finish the backfill, and use leftover soil to form a shallow ridge around the root ball to help direct water toward the root ball.
Water again, slowly filling the shallow saucer formed by the ridge of soil. After the water soaks in, apply a layer of mulch 3-4 inches deep, but at least 3 inches way from the base of the trunk.
Keep a close eye on the shrub and make sure it is completely saturated each time you water, but the plant should never be standing in water.
For more horticultural information, call The Ohio State University Summit County Extension Hotline Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon at 330-928-4769, ext. 3, and request Special Circular 165-99, which discusses “Weed Problems in Ohio Turf, Landscapes and Nurseries.”
Dayle Davis is a freelance writer and avid perennial gardener, with a B.A. in communications and coursework in botany, geology and wildflowers. Davis is certified as a Master Gardener under The Ohio State University’s Horticultural Extension. Readers can send in questions regarding lawn and garden issues, which could be featured in a future edition, as well as about the OSU Master Gardener program. Questions can be emailed to email@example.com, faxed to 330-665-9590 or sent to Leader Publications, 3075 Smith Road, Suite 204, Akron, OH 44333. Please do not send any leaves, seeds or other organic material. Inquiries about area garden clubs or groups should be sent directly to the particular organization in question.
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