Ground elder

Ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria) is a fast-growing, perennial plant that can spread quickly to form a carpet of foliage that can crowd out less-vigorous plants in beds and borders.

young growth of ground elder.
young growth of ground elder.

Quick facts

Common name Ground elder, gout weed, bishop weed, jump-about
Botanical name Aegopodium podagraria
Areas affected Beds, borders, new lawns, all soil types
Main causes May establish from seed, but usually arrives via rhizomes from neighbouring gardens, or stem fragments in composts or manures
Timing Leaves appear in spring and summer, but rhizomes and roots persist year-round

What is ground elder?

Ground elder is a herbaceous, perennial plant. It spreads via

rhizomes (underground stems), which can regenerate from just a tiny fragment left in the ground. This page looks at options for gardeners when ground elder is becoming a problem. 


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. 

The problem

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.


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. 

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.

Cultural control

Tackling large infestations of ground elder in a well-planted bed requires time and patience. Try the following non-chemical approaches:

  1. Lift cultivated plants and carefully remove and destroy any pieces of ground elder rhizome from around their roots.
  2. After you are sure it has all been removed, replant your garden plants in clean soil or pots.
  3. The ground elder can now be evicted by digging, or by covering the ground with cardboard topped with a 10cm (4in) layer of organic matter to starve the weed of light. It may take several seasons until the ground elder is completely destroyed.

In new lawns, ground elder will usually be starved by repeated mowing, and should not persist for long.

Weedkiller control

The RHS does not support the use of weedkillers and recommends that alternative control methods are used. However, when invasive plants are a threat to biodiversity and gardeners struggle to control them with cultural methods, targeted use of regulated weedkillers may be an option. Garden centres and large retailers selling weedkillers have trained staff who can advise on suitable products for your needs. 

Weeds: non-chemical control

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