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Ground elder


This vigorous, spreading perennial is rampant, growing over cultivated plants and making them compete for light, water and nutrients.

Find it on: established flowerbeds, freshly dug soil, cracks in paving, lawns
Time to act: spring, summer, autumn


Characterised by apple-green, lobed leaves and flat heads of cream-white flowers in summer, ground elder spreads rapidly. What makes it even more difficult to eradicate is it can creep between cultivated plants. It creates large clumps of foliage that obscure and smother smaller plants. Ground elder dies down below ground in winter, which means it's difficult to spot when cultivating the soil. However, it's capable of re-growing from only small fragments of root, making it a particularly virulent plant.


This vigorous, spreading perennial is rampant, growing over cultivated plants and making them compete for light, water and nutrients.


In existing flowerbeds, it's best tackled by digging up the cultivated plants and washing their roots to tease out the cream-white roots of ground elder. Regular cutting of the foliage, just below ground level with a hoe will gradually weaken the plant, but this needs to be done every 7-10 days, as soon as regrowth appears. Alternatively, fork through the soil every 10 to 14 days, removing every piece of ground elder root that's found.


Apply systemic weedkiller to the foliage as soon as it appears in spring. Re-apply throughout the growing season at four- to six-week intervals, or as soon as any re-growth appears.

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Talkback: Ground elder
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juniorbayleaf 24/11/2011 at 15:27

thank - you for the handy tip!

tarttartan 24/11/2011 at 15:27

Agree with the advice given. This has been my tactic for the last 8 years and I am still pulling out shoots of ground elder. I clear the soil when replanting and nip out any green shoots when they appear. I have been known to resort to systemic weedkiller. Try pushing a cardboard tube or small box over the offending shoot before spraying which will keep the spray off nearby plants.

kaycurtis 24/11/2011 at 15:28

I will never manage to rid my garden of ground elder as my nieghbours tend not to look after their gardens so the problem is ongoing,even the weed killer is useless, but we keep on trying.

casey.marcus 24/11/2011 at 15:28

The advice is sound. The only way to rid yourself of the horribly pernicious weed is patient hard work. I have an infestation that came with the mature garden and, in keeping at the problem, I have managed to isolate the weed into one patch. It has become significantly weaker over the last three years and I can see light at the end of the tunnel. Now... bindweed.

JamesPullan 24/11/2011 at 15:29

I have sprayed it with glyphos and it has some how managed to evade my aim with the spray. It is utterly relentless. Started digging it out again and hoeing it down, I just hope it begins to take the hint.....

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