The most effective way to kill ground ivy is by applying a selective weed killer containing dicamba. Non-selective weed killers such as Roundup are also effective weed killers. Weed killers are most effective on ground ivy in spring, when the plant grows new, tender leaves. Mature ground ivy leaves have a waxy cuticle that may resist weed killers and necessitate repeat weed killer treatments.
Because ground ivy has extensive root systems, it is very difficult to remove by hand weeding, flame weeding, or applying weed killers that do not kill the plant down to the root (such as vinegar). To kill ground ivy the natural way, smother the plant with a black plastic tarp.
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What Does Ground Ivy Look Like?
Ground ivy (also known as Creeping Charlie) can be identified by the following features:
- Rounded, fanlike leaves with scalloped edges.
- Purple or light blue flowers that resemble orchid flowers or snapdragons.
- Four-sided stems that feel “square” when rolled between the fingers.
- Long runners that spread across the ground or climb structures (walls, trees, fences, etc.)
- A sharp or spicy smell when mowed or cut.
Ground ivy often prefers shady areas (such as at the base of trees) but can be found in sunny yards and gardens as well. Once established, it is a very tenacious plant that grows quickly. New leaves are lighter green than mature leaves.
How to Kill Ground Ivy: 5 Effective Tips
Ground Ivy is a fast-growing plant that is difficult to kill once it takes hold in your yard or garden. It can climb structures, strangle other plants, and even invade grass. The following methods are the best way to kill ground ivy and ensure it does not come back.
Attack Ground Ivy at the Right Time
The best time to kill ground ivy is in the spring. During this season, ground ivy sends out new runners and leaves, which can be identified by their brighter light green color.
These young leaves and stems allow for weed killers to more easily infiltrate ground ivy plant systems and travel to the root, killing the entire plant. Mature ground ivy leaves are darker green and have a waxy cuticle that resists many weed killers.
Another reason to attack ground ivy early in the year is to prevent the plant from flowering and seeding. In addition to spreading aggressively through roots (rhizomes) and runners (stolons), flowering ground ivy also spreads seeds that lay the groundwork for future ground ivy plants.
Use Selective Weed Killer
Selective weed killers that include dicamba have been shown to be the most effective in killing ground ivy. Choose a broadleaf weed killer that lists dicamba as an ingredient. It may be combined with 2,4-D Amine and/or triclopyr. These other herbicides have some effectiveness against ground ivy, but dicamba is your best bet.
Selective weed killers are safe for use on most grasses. A dicamba-based weed killer is the number one option when ground ivy has invaded your lawn. You can spray the ivy and kill it without harming any surrounding grass. Selective weed killers will kill garden plants, however, so care should be used when spraying in or around gardens.
Use Non-Selective Weed Killer
Ground ivy can be eradicated with a non-selective weed killer, such as Roundup. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, will invade the ivy through the leaves and travel to the roots, killing the plant completely within 7–14 days.
Non-selective weed killers, like the name implies, are not picky about what they kill. They will destroy any plant or grass they are applied to. Take precautions during application to make sure no desirable garden plants or turf grasses are exposed to the herbicide.
Kill Ground Ivy Naturally by Smothering
Ground ivy loves shady regions, often first gaining a foothold in areas of your yard where the grass is thin due to shady conditions. This means you’ll often find ground ivy at the base of trees or on the shady side of your house.
To kill ground ivy in these areas, cover the ivy with a black plastic tarp and weigh down the edges to block all sunlight and water from reaching the plant. This should kill the ground ivy entirely within 4 weeks. In areas with little or no grass, this is an ideal natural strategy for ground ivy eradication.
Apply Borax to Kill Ground Ivy
Ground ivy can be eliminated by adding borax to the soil. Borax contains boron, which is an essential plant nutrient. However, ground ivy is more sensitive to boron overdose than most other plants, meaning it can be killed by raising boron levels in the soil to a point that will harm ground ivy without killing grass or other plants.
To mix and use a boron weed killer, follow these steps:
- Dissolve 5 teaspoons of borax in 4 cups of boiling water.
- Allow the solution to cool to room temperature.
- Apply the solution to 25 square feet of ground ivy infested ground.
It’s very important to follow the borax-to-water ratio and area of application guidelines. If you apply too much borax in one area, it can kill garden plants and lawn grasses as well as ground ivy. Also, keep in mind that boron lingers in the soil longer than most weed killers. A single application is usually enough to kill ground ivy and keep it from returning for months, if not years.
Using Herbicides on Ground Ivy
Several herbicides are effective on ground ivy. Selective weed killers, which will not harm most lawn grasses, are often a useful tool in killing ground ivy. Dicamba is the best selective weed killer for ground ivy, while 2,4-D and triclopyr also have some effectiveness.
Before using a selective herbicide on your lawn, check product packaging to make sure it is safe to use with your turfgrass.
Will Roundup Kill Ground Ivy?
Roundup is effective against ground ivy. The glyphosate in roundup can kill ivy down to the root. However, ivies and vines are very resilient plants. If standard Roundup isn’t getting the job done, or you see ground ivy returning from the roots, consider using Roundup Poison Ivy Plus Tough Brush Killer to kill it once and for all.
Get Rid of Ground Ivy Naturally
Because ground ivy has very extensive roots and can spring back to life after intense digging and hand pulling, it is one of the most difficult plants to kill by natural means. Flame weeding, boiling water, and homemade weed killers have very low effectiveness against ground ivy.
The best natural methods for killing ground ivy are by smothering the plant under black plastic, or by solarization. Solarization is a method of using a clear plastic to cover the ground in sunny areas and “bake” weeds beneath the plastic to kill them. Because ground ivy often grows in shady areas, solarization is used less often than smothering.
Will Vinegar Kill Ground Ivy?
Vinegar is not a reliable ground ivy killer. Vinegar contains acetic acid, a compound that burns plant leaves on contact but is neutralized by soil, meaning it will not kill plant roots. Ground ivy has very strong, widespread root systems. If even a small portion of ground ivy root is left alive, the plant will resprout.
Using a vinegar spray will only kill the aboveground growth of ground ivy. By the next growing season, the ground ivy will resprout from the roots.
Does Bleach Kill Ground Ivy?
Although it will damage ground ivy leaves and stems, bleach will not kill ground ivy permanently. Much like vinegar, bleach burns what it contacts but does not kill ground ivy roots. Using bleach will at best yield a temporary solution to your ground ivy problems.
Best Way to Kill Ground Ivy
Ground ivy is a pernicious plant that invades lawns and gardens, choking out plants and grass. It’s also notoriously hard to kill. For best results killing ground ivy, follow these tips:
- Attack ground ivy in spring, when new leaves are vulnerable to systemic weed killers.
- Use a selective weed killer with dicamba to kill ground ivy growing among lawn grass.
- Use a non-selective weed killer, such as Roundup where ground ivy is not mixed with grass.
- For natural weed control, smother ground ivy with black plastic for 4 weeks.
- Mix a solution of borax and water to make the soil toxic to ground ivy, but still habitable for other plants and grasses.
By employing one or more of these methods, you can kill ground ivy permanently, preventing recurring battles with this pest plant.