Enchanter's nightshade

Enchanter’s nightshade has tiny delicate white flowers and unassuming foliage that belies its creeping and persistent habit. It is occasionally found in gardens, but is seldom a serious weed problem unless it has been allowed to spread over a wide area.

Enchanter's nightshade

Quick facts

Common name Enchanter’s nightshade
Latin name Circaea lutetiana
Areas affected Woodland beds and borders in shade
Main causes Weed with spreading stolons
Timing Flowering in summer; treat in flower or just after

What is enchanter's nightshade?

Enchanter’s nightshade, Circaea lutetiana, is a native plant common in woods or the borders of woodland, in shade or semi-shade. It thrives in moist, rich soils and can be a nuisance in gardens.

Appearance

At full height, enchanter’s nightshade can reach 60cm (2ft). Leaves are held opposite along the stems and basal leaves are usually heart-shaped.

Flowering occurs from June to August. Small (4-8mm) white flowers appear from pink buds on slender upright spikes.

The problem

This plant is a perennial with overwintering rhizomes. Spread is by means of stolons to form large colonies under suitable conditions.

Control

Non-chemical controls

Enchanter’s nightshade usually favours loose soils rich in leaf litter, conditions in which it can be forked out with little difficulty, although it may be hard to remove all traces of the weed at a single attempt.

In areas where it is not so easy to fork out by hand, a heavy mulch of leaf litter will encourage the weed to root into the loose layer from which it can be more easily removed.

Chemical controls

Glyphosate
Where the weed is established clear of garden plants, a glyphosate-based weedkiller (e.g. Scotts Roundup, Bayer Garden Rootkill Weedkiller or Doff Knockdown Super Strength Glyphosate Weedkiller) can be applied as an overall spray. This is best done from mid-summer onwards, when the weed is coming into flower, or later, but before the foliage begins to die down in autumn.

If garden plants such as primulas, ferns and other woodland plants are nearby it is safer to spot treat with a ready-to-use spray or gel application (Scotts Roundup Gel). The full effects of glyphosate on weeds can take three or four weeks to develop. As it is inactivated on contact with the soil, it can be used in areas where there are underlying tree or shrub roots nearby.

Residual weedkiller
Occasionally, enchanter’s nightshade may be encountered amongst established shrubs or under hedgerows in moist soils. In these situations Bayer 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. 

Download

Weedkillers for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining weedkillers available to gardeners; see sections 4 and 5)

Links

Chemicals: using a sprayer
Chemicals: using safely and effectively
Chemicals: using spot and broad-scale weedkillers
Weeds: non-chemical control

Advertise here

Gardeners' calendar

Advice from the RHS

Find out what to do this month with our gardeners' calendar

Advice from the RHS

Did you find the advice you needed?

RHS members can get exclusive individual advice from the RHS Gardening Advice team.

Join the RHS now

Discuss this

for the site or to share your experiences on this topic and seek advice from our community of gardeners.

  • anonymous

    By anonymous on 21/06/2014

    My suburban garden is full of this plant this summer. I was quite pleased to read that it likes rich soil. I have a lot of clover in the winter, which I leave to enrich the soil and although the surface is heavy clay, underneath the soil is quite good. I hope to lift some of this and transfer it to pots so that we can still enjoy the little flowers, but without so much trouble for the cat. If you have cats or dogs, or even rabbits let loose in the garden for that matter, do be very careful. When the flowers die off, you get these tiny balls covered with sticky little hairs. Cats and dogs in particular can get them in their ears and it costs quite a lot for the vet to get them out if they go too deep. Other than that, I think enchanted is exactly the right word for them.


    0 replies

    Report

Get involved

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.