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.
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. This page looks at options for gardeners when enchanter's nightshade is becoming a problem.
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.
This plant is a perennial with overwintering rhizomes. Spread is by means of stolons to form large colonies under suitable conditions.
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.
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 certain situations where soil and light levels suit this weed, control may only be achieved by a campaign of several years of removing as much root as possible while dealing promptly with any regrowth.
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.
Where the weed is established clear of garden plants, a glyphosate-based weedkiller (e.g. Roundup Fast Action, SBM Job Done General Purpose Weedkiller or Doff Advanced Concentrated 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. 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.
Occasionally, enchanter’s nightshade may be encountered amongst established shrubs or under hedgerows in moist soils. In these situations SBM Job Done Tough Weedkiller (ready-to-use only), 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.
Weedkillers for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining weedkillers available to gardeners; see sections 4 and 5)
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.