Bishopsweed, goutweed/Garden Curse


For quite some time, I have been dealing with a nuisance in the form of a little green plant known as Goutweed, Ground Elder, Bishop’s weed, and other names. SEE WIKI. It comes in either a green or green and white variegated variety. Historically, it has been used for medicinal purposes related to gout, but garden centers are now marketing it as an appealing ground cover.

My original neighbor planted it as a ground cover, and I unknowingly brought it home from a garden center concealed within a Weigela bush I purchased.

My battle with this nuisance has escalated to a full-blown war. Goutweed, a highly invasive species, has conquered my garden with its underground runners. Unlike dandelions, it doesn’t have a central root system, making it even more challenging to eradicate.

I have three locations where the Goutweed invasion has become intolerable—two in the front of the house and another in the rear garden. Like most homeowners in my allotment, I had a front garden around my lamppost. A couple of years ago, I planted a Wegelia bush and found a new dark green leafy plant just taking over everywhere within the garden. I pulled out clumps and clumps every day, but it kept growing back thicker and thicker. When I fertilized my flowers, I fertilized the green monster. The consequences were unexpected and severe, turning my once beautiful garden into a battleground.

The lampost garden looked very pretty in the Spring and Summer. I had a purple clematis on the center lampost behind a lovely green grass, three Knockout roses on one side, a Wegelia, and a dwarf Japanese feather red maple on the other. SEE BELOW

You can see above how the Bishops Weed overtook this poor garden. This is the more common green variety. You cannot see them, but in front of the lamp post, there are some annuals completely covered by the weed!

Following a significant research period, I learned that pulling it would not work because its runner ( rhizomes) is now embedded within the other plants; I could not eliminate it. Eventually, I gave up trying to maintain the lamppost garden. The feeling of hopelessness and resignation was overwhelming, but it was clear that a different approach was needed.

My garden center in Ireland said it could not be killed or eradicated. However, some research here in Ohio and online suggests you can kill it or at least keep it under control if you work at it every year. I will discuss control in the next post. I am currently attempting to kill/control it in my favorite back garden. Some New England states have banned the sale of this plant. SEE MAINE

Desperate for a solution, I sought the advice of a professional garden service. Their recommendation was drastic: remove the entire garden, bring in fresh topsoil, and plant grass. A bobcat was brought in to remove all the soil down three feet, and all the plants had to be discarded due to contamination. SEE RESEARCH

After that winter, the grass grew nice and thick. According to the garden company, mowing the grass every week will prevent the weeds from having time to regrow. There is no sun on the leaves and no photosynthesis. He believes the weed will eventually be eradicated, but he also said there is no guarantee; just a tiny remnant of the runner is enough to establish another plant. So, on this recommendation, I no longer have a garden in this area.

The second front location is a small area between the two units of this semi-detached condo. My new neighbor is not a gardener and would have preferred no gardens. She would have liked all grass with just a few evergreen shrubs around the house. She does not weed or maintain the gardens.

We share a common area between the joining of the houses. It is a small area. The original builder placed a tree in the center, a couple of rhododendrons, small plants, and mulch. The original neighbor planted a variegated ground cover in the area- you guessed it- Bishops Weed. He maintained it by cutting the flowers back, which seemed to keep in check, but it then grew into my side of this shared area. I pulled it, not realizing the futility of this action. He moved, and my current neighbor moved in.

This is what the front garden looked like last Spring. We cut it back to the back of the large hosta

After the original owner moved, I hired the condo organization’s gardener to pull all the bishop weeds, place a dwarf tree in the center, and plant some hostas and coral bells. It was a low-maintenance garden—or so I thought.

It looked good for about a year or two, and then the Bishop’s Weed returned with a vengeance. I had surgery on my hip and was unable to weed it, and the goutweed literally choked most of the plants. Eventually, a few giant ferns appeared. As you can see from the picture below, it is entirely out of control. Additionally, I found that this variety of plants can cause burns and a rash. Unfortunately, it bothers me to touch it, so I avoid this area.

This was just a couple of weeks ago. See the flowers; it is well past the hosta now.

My neighbor is unhappy about my placing the tree in the center and with the overgrowth of the weeds. However, she does not want to hire anyone to address the problem, so I no longer wish to be responsible for that area. I decided to leave it to the condo association.

I worry that the invasive devil will get into the lawn, which will be a real mess. Hopefully, the garden company the condo association uses will address this possibility. Having a condo can be a hindrance to a homeowner/gardener. I do not want to get into any dispute with either the condo association or my neighbor.

It is amazing to me that garden centers still sell this invasive groundcover. If you plan to use a ground cover, I recommend researchinggoutweed and speaking with your garden professional about this possibility.

This got a bit long. In the next posting, I will show you how I handle this weed invasion in my large back garden. Have a great day, everyone!


Hi, my name's Darleen.

This homebody works on making my own haven, and I would love for you to feel free to do this too. I lean toward a New England, English country decor, but you can adapt my ideas to fit your style. I write about decor, eating, gardening, travel, and antiquing. I am a fanatical devote of genealogy and love to assist other searchers. If any of this appeals, join me and make your home your haven.

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