Creeping cinquefoil

Creeping cinquefoil (Potentilla reptans) with its bright sunny flowers is an attractive sight on roadsides and hedgebanks, but its invasive habit means it can quickly become a nuisance in beds, borders and lawns.

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Creeping cinquefoil (Potentilla reptans)

Quick facts

Common name Creeping cinquefoil
Botanical name Potentilla reptans
Areas affected Hedgebanks, roadsides, grassland, beds and borders and occasionally troublesome in lawns
Main causes Numerous quick-rooting runners
Timing Seen spring-autumn; treat midsummer during flowering

What is creeping cinquefoil?

Creeping cinquefoil is a herbaceous perennial native to UK grassland and hedgebanks. Although its flowers close on dull days and at night, they are visited by bees and flies when open. In gardens it can be a cheerful addition to a flower-rich lawn and a welcome source of pollen to many insects. Learn more about making the most of lawns as a wildlife habitat and ways to help our bees;

Bees in your garden

Bees in your garden

Lawn and mini-meadow habitats

Lawn and mini-meadow habitats

The invasive habit of creeping cinquifoil, spreading via quick rooting runners, means it can easily smother cultivated beds and borders in the right conditions as well as become a nuisance in lawns. This page looks at options for the gardener when creeping cinquifoil becomes a problem.

Appearance

Creeping stems up to 1m (3¼ft) long bear 5-lobed strawberry-like green leaves and bright yellow Potentilla flowers from June-September. Plants grow from a main taproot, 30cm (1ft) long and are blackish in colour. Radiating runners are produced throughout the growing season and root at leaf nodes.

The problem

Creeping cinquefoil has an invasive habit; up to 15 runners are produced per plant, each having up to 20 rooting nodes capable of quickly growing a deep taproot. In this way the weed can potentially colonise 10 sq m (107 sq ft) in a single season, smothering plants in beds and borders. 

Control

First, consider whether this can be done using non-chemical means such as digging out but where this method is not feasible, chemical controls may need to be used. 

The RHS believes that avoiding pests, diseases and weeds by good practice in cultivation methods, cultivar selection, garden hygiene and encouraging or introducing natural enemies, should be the first line of control. If chemical controls are used, they should be used only in a minimal and highly targeted manner.

Cultural control

Tackling this weed using non-chemical approaches can be difficult and time-consuming as all runners and the main taproot need removing to eradicate it completely. Sturdy dandelion weeding forks can prove more effective at removing the deep taproots than hand-pulling. Stems and runners of this weed should not be added to home compost bins.

Moist, fertile soil is less favourable to this weed, especially in lawns, so regular feeding and watering may help to discourage it.

Weedkiller control

In lawns

Although fairly resistant to lawn weedkillers, two or three applications of those containing mecoprop-P (eg. Crowne Green Lawn Weedkiller, Doff Lawn Weedkiller or Westland Resolva Lawn Weedkiller Extra) applied at 4-6 week intervals during the spring and early summer will usually provide control. It may be necessary to spray again the following spring.

In borders

Non-selective, systemic weedkillers containing glyphosate can be used where this weed grows amongst cultivated beds and borders. They are most effective if used during midsummer, when weed growth is most vigorous.
 
As glyphosate is non-selective in its mode of action, it is essential to avoid spray or spray drift coming into contact with garden plants. If treating weeds in the vicinity of garden plants, apply carefully using a ready-to-use spray formulation 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.

In paths and drives

SBM Job done Path Weedkiller (ready-to-use only) and Weedol Pathclear products containing glyphosate/diflufenican 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 1b, 4 and 5).

Links

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

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