Wild violets and ground ivy can be considered some of the most difficult-to-control weeds in a lawn. They can drive homeowners crazy with their efforts to rid their lawns of these weeds with little or no success. The key to getting rid of ground ivy and wild violets is knowing the best time to apply control products.
How Do Wild Violets Grow?
Even though they are a nuisance, wild violets can be very pretty. They have beautiful, short-lived flowers that can range in colors from white to blue to purple. When my sister and I were children, we would pick wild violets that grew in a forested area near our house and give them to our mother. Now, you can purchase these plants as a garden perennial. In a home lawn, they grow best in shady areas where the desired grasses have a more difficult time growing. This allows them to easily spread by both seed and through underground root systems called rhizomes. The leaves on violets are very tough, making it more difficult for weed control products to penetrate the surface. The extensive root structure spreads underground, allowing this weed to creep out of flower beds and into your lawn. Even when dug up, if any pieces of the root is left behind, the plant will regenerate and begin anew. This fact has really made the wild violet a difficult weed to remove from unwanted areas in your landscape.
How Does Ground Ivy Grow?
Ground ivy was an import from England, where it has acquired some colorful names such as creeping charlie. In England, it is also known as Gill-over-the-Ground, Cat’s Foot or Runaway Robin. Creeping charlie is probably the most descriptive name as it reproduces by seeds and also by long, above ground runners called stolons. The stolons wind their way through the grass, pushing down roots and sending more stolons creeping throughout your lawn. Ground Ivy prefers shady sites, but has been found growing in full sun. The plant has square stems and is a member of the mint family. A strange characteristic of ground ivy is that when mowed, it has a strange strong pungent smell. I guess it doesn’t carry the family trait of the pleasant smell of mint.
How Do I Get Rid of Them?
Late fall is the best time to apply weed control and get rid of wild violets and ground ivy. The reason for this is that plants are in the process of moving food into the root systems in the fall. Therefore, the weed control products will move down into the root system, providing better control. A follow-up application may also be needed in the spring when the plants are flowering.
It may take two or three years to get these weeds under control. Since both of these weeds prefer shady locations, overseeding with more shade-tolerant grasses may help. If it is too shady for grass to grow, you may need to switch from grass to ground covers or mulch. You will still need to control these weeds before switching and fall is still the better time to do so.