Using Borax To Control Creeping Charlie

“Dear Horticulture Talk,

My lawn and garden have suffered a lot this year with the hot, dry weather we have had.  However, I have never had a better year for Creeping Charlie to grow and that is not a good thing.  It has taken over EVERYTHING!  Is there anything I can do that will not kill other plants around it.  It is in the grass, it is in my perennials, it is in the strawberries, it’s everywhere.  Is there anything I can do other than pull it out or kill everything?

Thank you,



Hi Gloria,

Thank you for contacting me through Twitter.  Yes, Creeping Charlie is a beast!

Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea, also known as ground ivy, creeping jenny and gill-over-the-ground) is an evergreen creeping weed that is found in the mint family. It is also a nuisance for homeowners that are looking to keep their Kentucky Blue grass lawns looking weed free. If left alone, Creeping Charlie can take over a lawn. If you are trying to identify Creeping Charlie it will have a square stem, paddle shaped leaves, and blue to purple colored flowers.

It was originally brought to North America for its medicinal qualities. It isn’t technically a weed but it is viewed and treated as a one. In some instances this ground covering ivy can look quite beautiful.

If you have issues with creeping Charlie in your lawn and you want it killed off you can do it yourself. Lawn treatment companies (ie. tru-green) would like you to believe that Creeping Charlie is a menace that is going to destroy your lawn and that they have the only known cure. As a matter of fact I had 3 salesmen at my door arguing with me about how they were the only company that could treat my Creeping Charlie invasion that was occurring on my lawn.

Many recommend using products like Weed Be Gone, but this would only work in your grassy areas as the product kills all broadleaf plants.  If used in your perennials or strawberries, it will kill the Creeping Charlie AND all your other plants too.

Borax (sodium tetraborate, a white, crystalline mineral salt) has been found to be an effective herbicide for creeping charlie. Borax contains boron which is an essential micronutrient that aids in sugar transportation in plants. However, in minute excess amounts, boron has a toxic effect on creeping charlie.

Borax must be applied with great caution because boron remains immobile in the soil and can accumulate to form a “hot spot” in the lawn. Boron toxicity results in yellow and brown spots around edges of leaves. Stems wilt and eventually the weed dies. Established grass appears to withstand the minute excess of boron needed to kill creeping charlie, though it may show brown discoloration temporarily. If the borax solution is applied in too high a concentration, or repeatedly, it will then be toxic to grass and many other plants.

This treatment can be applied only once each year for two years. If you still have creeping charlie problems, then switch to a standard herbicide.

Before applying borax as a herbicide be sure to test your spraying technique and the rate at which liquid sprays from the nozzle. Fill the sprayer with water and walk at a constant pace, passing back and forth over an area the same size as the one to be sprayed with borax. Your goal is to walk fast enough to empty the sprayer tank, spreading its contents evenly over the entire area.


Borax Solution for Creeping Charlie Control:

Dissolve 10 oz. Twenty Mule Team Borax in 4 oz. (½ cup) warm water. 
Dilute in 2.5 gallons of water.

This will cover 1,000 square feet. If you have a smaller area to treat, cut the “recipe” accordingly.


Apply borax when creeping charlie is actively growing in the spring, when no rain is expected for 48 hours. The borax treatment appears to be most effective during warm summers when soil moisture is ample.

Remember: The borax recipe has been tested only on creeping charlie and is not to be used on other broadleaf weeds. Be sure to use the borax spray only in the lawn because research shows established grass is tolerant of the spray. It should not be used in gardens.

If creeping charlie is growing in a very shady location, think about what you can replace it with before spraying this borax treatment. Unless you can establish other plants you’ll find the creeping charlie sprouting again in the same location.

A healthy lawn is the strongest defense against weeds. Maintaining a regime of proper mowing practices, watering and fertilization will enable any gardener to combat weeds in a lawn. Contact your local County Extension Office or contact me for information on lawn maintenance and fertilization.



© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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