Help us achieve our goals:
make a donation »
Join the RHS today and
support our charity
Free personalised gardening advice
RHS members get reduced ticket prices
RHS members get free access to RHS Gardens
Reduced prices on RHS Garden courses and workshops
020 3176 5800
Mon – Fri | 9am – 5pm
Make a donation
Join the RHS today and support our charity
I have forgotten my password
Keep me signed in
Register for free to receive our newsletters, add comments to blogs/articles and to save content.
Cleavers (Galium aparine), with its characteristic ‘sticky’ seeds, is easily introduced to gardens from uncultivated land and can become a sprawling nuisance in beds and borders.
Common name Cleavers, goosegrass, sticky willieBotanical name Galium aparineAreas affected Beds and borders, hedgerows and uncultivated ground Main causes Easily distributed seed produced in large quantitiesTiming Seen spring-autumn; treat during growing season
Cleavers is a common annual weed native to hedgerows, scrub and arable land, which can spread to gardens on the fur of animals and clothing of passers-by. Although seedlings usually appear singly, rather than en masse like many other common weeds, the numerous and easily distributed seeds mean the weed can quickly establish in gardens if not controlled promptly.
Weak, sprawling stems, up to 1m (39in) long bear whorls of 6-8 long, slender green leaves with a prominent central vein. Tiny greenish-white flowers are borne in branching clusters from May to August and develop into round, green or purple fruits 3-5mm in diameter. Stems, leaves and seed have stiff hooked hairs.
The small, hairy seeds of this weed are produced in large quantities, of between 300-400 seeds per plant, are easily distributed and can persist in the soil for 6 years. Although individual plants are easy to remove, the weed can establish quickly if allowed to mature and set seed.
In beds and bordersNon-selective contact herbicides containing acetic acid (Weedol Fast Acting Gun!), fatty acids (Bayer Garden Ultrafast) or pelargonic acid (Doff 24/7 Superfast Weedkiller) can be used in such situations to scorch off foliage. Take care if applying such herbicides between ornamental plants by covering them with plastic sheeting whilst spraying. The covers can be removed once the spray has dried onto the weed foliage. The systemic non-selective herbicide glyphosate can be used in the same way, but it is particularly important to avoid spray or spray drift coming into contact with garden plants. If treating weeds in the immediate vicinity of garden plants, apply carefully using a ready-to-use spray in cool, calm weather. Protect branches and shoots by tying them aside, or by using covers or screens. Make sure weed foliage has dried before releasing branches or removing coverings.
Around established trees and shrubsBayer Garden Path & Drive Weedkiller and Scotts Weedol Pathclear products containing glyphosate/diflufenican and can be applied once a season to natural surfaces where no plants are to be grown, and can also be applied under and around established woody trees and shrubs. This product kills off existing small green growth and prevents or checks developing growth. Check manufacturer’s recommendations before use to avoid damaging sensitive plants.
Inclusion of a weedkiller product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by the RHS. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener.
Weedkillers for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining weedkillers available to gardeners; see sections 3 and 5).
Chemicals: using spot and broad-scale weedkillersChemicals: using a sprayerChemicals: using safely and effectivelyWeeds: non-chemical control
Bluebells as weedsBryonyHerb robertHimalayan balsamLords-and-ladiesOxalis
the RHS today and get 12 months for the price of 9
RHS members can get exclusive individual advice from the RHS Gardening Advice team.
Register for the site or sign in to share your experiences on this topic and seek advice from our community of gardeners.
We're a UK charity established to share the best in gardening. We want to enrich everyone's life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.
Join the RHS today and get 12 months for the price of 9