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Ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria) is a fast-growing, invasive, perennial weed that can spread quickly to form a carpet of foliage that will crowd out less-vigorous plants in beds and borders.
young growth on ground elder.
Ground elder is an herbaceous, invasive, perennial weed. It spreads via rhizomes (underground stems), which can regenerate from a just a tiny fragment left in the ground.
Early in the year, shoots with dark green leaves burst from the soil. These are followed in late spring and early summer by tall stalks that support several flat heads of white flowers. There is also a form with variegated leaves. The flowers bear a resemblance to those of the elder tree (which is completely unrelated), and this gives the weed its common name.
Spreading by rhizomes, ground elder can easily creep in from a neighbouring garden or nearby wasteland. It can also be unknowingly introduced with new plants if pieces of its fleshy, white rhizome are hidden within the compost of the rootball or are tucked away among the roots of the plant.
As its rhizomes are close to the surface of the soil, it is possible to reduce infestations of ground elder by removing it carefully with a garden fork. However, eradicating it completely needs vigilance as the smallest portion of root left in the soil will result in a new plant growing.
Tackling large infestations of ground elder in a well-planted bed can be difficult. To get rid of it completely requires time and patience. Try the following non-chemical approaches:
In new lawns, ground elder will usually be starved by repeated mowing, and should not persist for long.
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 4 and 5)
Chemicals: using spot and broad-scale weedkillers
Chemicals: using a sprayer
Chemicals: using safely and effectively
Weeds: non-chemical control
Brambles and other woody weeds
Garden thugs: potential nuisance plants
Ivy on trees and a ground cover weed
RHS video: weed control
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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.