How to Get Rid of Ground Elder: Proven Methods for Removal

Last Updated on 09/10/2023 by Barney

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Are you tired of battling an army of relentless weeds that just refuse to quit? Look no further than the notorious ground elder or gout weed as it is otherwise known as! This pesky weed can quickly take over your garden, smoother other plants, leaving you with a feeling of frustration and defeat.

Smothering foliage of ground elder

Fear not, in this article I explore a variety of natural and chemical methods to kill ground elder from your garden for good.

So roll up your sleeves, put on your gardening gloves, and get ready to say goodbye to ground elder once and for all!

The big problem with ground elder!

There are few weeds that spread as ferociously as this nuisance. One season you could be looking at a small patch and the next it has entirely taken over the flower bed. Its foliage will smother garden plants and underground roots stealing moisture and nutrients from the soil of your prized garden plants .

Ground elder spreading rhizomes

Ground elder spreads via horizontal root systems. These spread just like the other gardeners nightmare, bindweed. Leave them untouched for too long and these will seek out the roots of cultivated plants ensuring and ensure their timely demise.

Early intervention and continued control is your best method to kill ground elder and banish it forever!

Continue reading to find out what what kills ground elder……….

How to kill ground elder with organic methods

Non chemical control methods include

  • Manual weeding & root removal
  • Natural weedkillers
  • Applying a deep mulch
  • Using a weed membrane
  • Manual weeding & Digging Out

If ground elder has engulfed the entire flower bed (which it can do within a season) it will be necessary to temporarily remove all perennial plants. This will allow any devious elder roots to be removed that have worked their way into the plants roots.

#1. Using garden fork or hand fork lift out all exiting perennial plants & temporarily pot them up. If you don’t have enough pots use carrier bags or any sort of container. This is especially important if they are not being replanted on the same day to avoid the roots drying out.

#2. Using the fork gently start turning the soil. The roots tend to grow horizontally in the first 4″ of soil. The rhizomes are fairly easy to spot. White and a few mm in diameter.

#3. Remove the horizontal root system. Even the tiniest fragment of root can generate into a new plant.

#4. Dispose of the roots in your green waste bin or burn once assured there are no ground elder rhizome left. Compost bins rarely get hot enough to kill ground elder roots.

#5. Before replanting inspect the roots for any rhizomes that have entwined themselves amongst your prized perennials & replant.

Natural Weed Killers

rhs natural weed killer for ground elder

I will hold my hands up now and admit I have not used any of the glyphosate free, natural weed killers available to buy.

The key ingredient to all of them appears to be acetic acid (vinegar) so in my opinion, if one was to try a natural based weed killer then go for straight vinegar. It’s 1/10th of the price.

However, in all my years trying different natural based concoctions I find that they are all great at killing off the top growth whilst not being absorbed into the root systems.


A thick layer of mulch such as bark chippings or well rotted manure will help to control these weeds and should eliminate the problem over several seasons.

Whilst it may not get rid of the problem completely gout weed has a hard time growing through bark chippings, this will help to weaken the roots over time.

weed membranes

image of woven weed membrane

Black polythene or heavy-duty weed membranes are very successful when looking to kill ground elder.

Covering with a membrane will starve the weeds of energy and after a few seasons will eventually kill them off.

Combination of the above

Most gardeners will use a combination of methods if the manifestation is severe . Maybe hand weed, removing as many of the horizontal roots as possible then apply a thick mulch.

The Chemical (In-organic) approach

Killing Ground Elder with Weedkiller

Ground elder is a persistent weed that can be difficult to control once it has taken hold overing large areas in the garden. Spraying with a systemic weedkiller can be an effective way to manage it without digging.

Here are some general tips for using a weedkiller with glyphosate.

Choose the right weedkiller: The best weedkiller for this weed is one that contains glyphosate. This chemical is effective at killing the plant’s roots and preventing regrowth.

Timing: Apply in late Spring to early summer, when the plant is actively growing. This is when ground elder is at it’s most vulnerable to herbicides.

Application: When applying herbicide, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. It’s important to apply the herbicide directly on ground elder leaves, ensuring that the plant is fully covered. Protect any nearby plants as Glyphosate is not selective and will kill plants that are accidentally sprayed.

Re-applications: Gout weed can be difficult to eradicate completely, so you may need to repeat the application several times until all the ground elder has been zapped. It’s important to follow up with additional applications in late summer or as necessary to prevent regrowth.

Be Safe: When using herbicides, it’s important to wear protective clothing and follow all safety precautions listed on the product label. Keep children and pets away from the treated area until the herbicide dried.

Know What Your Dealing With

ground elder foliage in spring

It’s pretty easy to identify ground elder.

Depending on where you live in the county it generally appears early in February.

Colonies of light green leaves. The edges are serrated and when young usually arranged with 3 leaves per side shoot.

Ground Elder flowers from May – June. Producing flat heads of white flowers.

If in doubt use a fork to gently lift the emerging growth to look at the roots. Ground elder spreads horizontally via spaghetti like rhizomes. Spot these and 100% your’re now in the ‘I hate ground elder club’.

Quick facts

Latin name: Aegopodium podagraria.

Common name : Ground elder, gout weed & bishop weed.

Fast growing perennial plant – young shoots appear in early spring & die back in late Autumn. Ground elder can quickly establish itself forming a dense blanket of weedy ground cover.

Nothing to do with the elder tree.

Fleshy tall stems, leafy growth with dark green leaves, white flowers in early summer.

Invasive – no real benefit to wildlife.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it in my garden?

Whilst the ground elder white flowers produce seed, infestations normally occur when the roots have travelled under the fence from neighbouring gardens or from waste ground.

If one of these is the root cause then one way of preventing this is to use a bamboo barrier along the fence line.

Can You Compost Ground Elder?

It is not advised to add ground elder to the compost bin. Compost heaps rarely get hot enough to completely destroy the roots of the plant.

Ground Elder Is Growing In My Lawn, What can I do?

Regular lawn mowing will control outbreaks of ground elder growing in the lawn.

With regular mowing these weeds will not be able to draw energy through their leaves. Within a season or two they’ll be weakened enough to give up trying and die off completely.

It’s a wrap from Me

So there are my top tips on how to eradicate ground elder.

Whether you choose to use an organic or chemical approach when controlling ground elder the sooner you attack the problem to sooner you will be rid of this garden nuisance.

Remember, gout weed is the Mo Farah of them all and will spread quickly, very quickly if left to its own devices.

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