What is ground elder?
Ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria) is a perennial weed that forms clumps of green leaves, with white flowers in summer. It spreads by underground stems (rhizomes) and can be very invasive, forming dense networks of rhizomes and roots underground.
How to identify ground elder
New shoots with dark green leaves appear above ground in early spring. Ground elder leaves look similar to elder, hence the weed’s name, although the two plants are not related. Digging around the plants reveals fleshy white rhizomes below the surface of the soil. Ground elder flowers in spring and summer, producing tall stems with flat white heads of tiny flowers, similar to cow parsley.
Ground elder damage
Ground elder forms dense clumps of leaves that out-compete other plants for water and nutrients. The rhizomes can grow in amongst the roots of other plants, making it hard to remove them.
Ground elder control and treatment
Ground elder can re-grow from any small segments of rhizome left in the ground, making it difficult to control. Weedkiller is the most effective solution for large infestations. However, with patience and persistence it can also be controlled without the use of chemicals.
How to get rid of ground elder without chemicals
- Dig up all plants in the bed and wash their roots to remove all ground elder rhizomes. Pot up these plants temporarily or plant them in clear ground.
- Next, dig up the ground elder with a garden fork, taking care to remove all segments of root. Alternatively, cover the bed with black polythene to block out light and starve the ground elder. It can take several seasons to kill ground elder completely in this way.
- If it is not practical to clear all plants from the bed, cut back all new ground elder growth to below ground level as soon as it appears. If done repeatedly, this will eventually weaken the plants.
- Regular mowing will eventually kill ground elder in lawns.
Using weedkiller to get rid of ground elder
- Spray established ground elder with a systemic weedkiller containing glyphosate, such as Roundup Ultra. Spray in summer when the weeds are in full growth, and re-apply in late summer if needed.
- Glyphosate is a non-selective systemic weedkiller that will kill any plant it touches, so protect nearby plants by covering with plastic sheeting.
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using weedkiller.
How to prevent ground elder
Check beds regularly for signs of weeds, and remove any ground elder seedlings promptly before they spread.