Creeping Charlie is an herbaceous perennial plant in the mint family. This plant is native to Europe, where it has been cultivated since at least time of the Ancient Greeks, and it has historically been used in a variety of ways. Outside of Europe, some people regard creeping Charlie as an invasive plant, and in fact some gardeners go to great length to control or eradicate it. That aside, many garden stores sell creeping Charlie, sometimes offering several cultivars.
This plant has rounded to heart-shaped leaves which can vary in color from green to purple, and purple to blue flowers. Like other mints, creeping Charlie has square stems, and it is also very aromatic, releasing a minty smell when crushed. As the “creeping” in the name would suggest, creeping Charlie has a sprawling growth habit, putting out runners which will develop adventitious shoots and root if given a chance to do so.
A number of alternate names are used to refer to creeping Charlie, including alehoof, gill-over-the-ground, creeping Jenny, and ground ivy. Formally, creeping Charlie is known as Glechoma hederacea, leading some gardeners to call it “Glechoma.” Historically, this plant was prescribed medicinally to make eyewashes and tisanes for indigestion, although creeping Charlie can in fact be toxic, and it is very dangerous for cats and dogs. The Saxons also used creeping Charlie in beer production, adding it as a clarifying agent to pull impurities out of their beer.
Gardeners grow creeping Charlie as an ornamental because it spreads quickly and it can be quite attractive. It thrives in damp, dark environments as well, which can be an advantage in a garden which does not get a lot of sun. Creeping Charlie can be used to create a block of greenery under a shade tree or on the shaded side of a hill, and it requires little maintenance. Europeans brought the plant with them when they settled in new places out of a desire to grow familiar plants in their gardens.
Some people regard creeping Charlie as a pest, especially in lawns. The hardiness of this plant can make it difficult to eradicate, as the runners can take root anywhere and the plant also distributes itself with seeds, making it almost impossible to control. Allowing lawns to grow high, trimming bushes and trees for more light exposure, and watering infrequently can help discourage creeping Charlie, for people who find this plant undesirable.