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Managing Weeds: Creeping Buttercup

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Need help managing buttercup that’s invaded your garden?

We get a lot of requests for help managing buttercup. That’s because this creeping buttercup is a tenacious garden invader. And if you’re like many modern gardeners, you want to get rid of buttercup without herbicides. And you want to know how to get buttercups out of your flowerbeds by getting those creeping buttercup roots all the way out of your soil.

Managing Buttercup weeds

A well-established patch of Creeping Buttercup. (Image courtesy Barbara Sanderson)

Let’s start with some facts about creeping buttercup.

Creeping buttercup is not a native plant to most cultivated gardens. But many of us have it abundance. This is especially true in the rainy Pacific Northwest. That’s because creeping buttercup loves soggy soil. And even if you aren’t in the PacNW, buttercup may be in your garden. That’s because it can withstand seasonal dryness as well. In fact, that’s a weed for you! These unwanted plants know how to adapt, thrive, and out-compete other plants.

Okay, so how can you better manage buttercup weeds?

First, think about the name creeping. That’s because this is exactly what this plant is adapted to do. So, once it has taken root in the garden, a single plant has the ability to stretch out stems. And what stretches out, roots in the ground. But, it stays connected to the original plant, which feeds and supports it. So, buttercup easily creates a second plant, and a third, and a…well, you get the idea.

It creeps and spreads as it goes, creating a thick, ground cover patch fast.

So…where will you likely need to manage buttercup in your garden?

Buttercup will invade soggy pond spaces. And it will take over lawns. Plus, it will smother mixed planting beds as it travels.

Since it likes soggy soils, digging it out isn’t always terribly difficult. That’s because when many types of soils are moist, they tend to be more loose and pliable. And that’s a good time to work on hand removal.

And what tools work best for managing buttercup?

The combination of two tools for the job makes for relatively quick work when digging out buttercup. And  if you can work as a team of two or more people, weeding out buttercup will go even faster.

  • Tool #1: Garden spading fork
  • Tool #2: Hori-hori garden knife

Once you have these tools, you’re armed to do battle! This is how to get rid of buttercups naturally. In other words, you won’t be applying pesticides to get rid of creeping buttercups.

And, if you don’t have your buttercup weeding tools yet, pick’m up in our affiliate store today.

Next, how to use these tools to deal with buttercup weeds?

Begin by passing through the weed patch with your spading fork. That means you’ll use the fork to loosen up the soil. But don’t completely turn everything over. Just shove it into the ground, and then tilt it to loosen the weeds.

Creeping Buttercup Weeds Properly Pulled

Buttercup Top Growth & Roots Removed (Courtesy Barbara Sanderson)

Then, you (or the second person on your weeding team) follows behind using the garden knife to lift each plant –and any runner plants — from the soil. But  don’t just rip the top growth off, or the plant will simply re-grow. Instead, get to the root of the matter and remove it all.

Then, place the weeds on a tarp to fry them in the hot sun until they’re crispy. If you don’t, they may just sprout anew in the yard waste or in your compost heap.

Got farm animals to help with weeding?

Unfortunately, buttercup isn’t a plant you want to eat. That’s because it’ll give you one nasty bellyache. And, it might do worse too. However, sometimes chickens do a good job tearing it up, but they don’t really eat it. And, friends with pigs tell us those oinkers love to help you with managing buttercup weeds by gobbling them up. But creeping buttercup is actually toxic to most livestock. So better to keep farm animals away from buttercups instead.

Love butter?

While you’re weeding, pick those shiny yellow flowers. Tuck one under your weeding partner’s chin in the sunlight. If there’s a golden reflection shining up, the game says that person loves butter.

It’s an old game we played with our grandparents. And while it isn’t super exciting, it does make weeding a little more fun.

A final note on how to manage buttercup weeds…

As with all weeds, try to eradicate them before they flower. That’s because seeds follow flowers, which mean more plants.

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19 comments on “Managing Weeds: Creeping Buttercup

  1. Jeff on

    There was a soggy area of our lawn which was overrun with creeping buttercup. Then we got chickens (five hens) at let them free-range during the day over the lawn. In a few months the creeping buttercup was gone completely. Apparently chickens really like it.

  2. koko on

    I am looking for perfect ground cover.
    Butter cup is the best for tough zone’s ground cover.

  3. Kay Schaffer on

    I’m looking to buy a start of this Butter Cup ground cover. I have to try to start in a place that grass won’t grow, holds water when it rains, and need to build up the soil in this area. Please advise where I can obtain a start. Thank you.

  4. Rachel on

    I can’t believe anyone would ever want a start of this stuff …ugh. It’s taken over my flower bed and it’s a big area. I’ve resorted to digging up huge clods of dirt and departing plants from it then piling up the clods to dry out the roots of this monster weed. Still in the process so am venting. My euphorbia turned out to do the same. Man I’ve had to learn some hard lessons in what I plant and putting off weeding.

  5. Garden Mentors on

    Rachel, sorry to hear you’re doing battle with this beast. But, it sounds like you’re on the right track to manage it. And, agreed, we wouldn’t seek out creeping buttercup starts either.

  6. Skyler Walker on

    My favourite tool for getting out buttercup is the ho mi digger. It works better for me than the hori hori knife.

  7. Debbie on

    I never realised how creepy the buttercup is. The buttercups I allowed to grow at the side of my pond have now invaded it. My pond has gone all algae’fied and the frogspawn has disappeared, along with the frogs. I’m concerned that the buttercups, though as yet flowerless, have poisoned the water. Is it possible?

  8. Hazel on

    I’m with Rachel I have loads of creeping buttercup dug out loads last year think it trebled this year I’m going to remove all my plants and dig out as much as I can then cover with membrane and guess leave for a few years so disappointed as I had a lovely patch goodness knows where it came from. If anyone has any solutions I need to hear.

    Thanks

  9. Garden Mentors on

    Tabbatha,

    Thanks for writing in. If you’re looking for a groundcover the compete with buttercup, there are some. But don’t expect these plants to out-compete the buttercup. In other words, don’t expect your buttercup will go away. That being said, these are a few plants that may be able to mingle with the buttercup: strawberry, Ajuga, and low growing mint family plants.

    But, better yet: dig out the buttercup. Then plant something new instead!

  10. Glenn on

    Our two kunekunes have demolished a field of this. Initially they ate the leaves with no apparent ill effect, but soon moved on to rooting up the entire root system and eating only that, which they seem to much prefer.
    Maybe a good option if u have a lot of thus to remove? (And access to a local friendly kunekune!!)

  11. Deb on

    My lawn is 3/4 buttercup. But is this so bad? Do any native critters eat it? Or are the flowers useful to insects? Cleaning it out would be a monster job and I keep it out of planted areas but is it so bad as a lawn cover? Is a grass carpet that much better?

  12. Garden Mentors on

    Deb, Thanks for your buttercup questions. First, sometimes deer will nibble on it. But buttercup is pretty well known as a plant that offers up belly-aches, so most critters don’t seem to prefer it. Also, when deer nibble ours, it just encourages it to spread more. Pollinators do visit the flowers. It isn’t their top choice, but sometimes they’ll hit those buttery blooms. But after they do, that means more buttercup seeds to spread around. All of this being said, we have a lot of it and do our best to keep it out of areas where it will choke our food, flower and herb crops. In the lawn, we don’t bother to battle it. Instead, it gets mowed. This also helps keep the blooming and weed seeding down. However, it does also help stimulate the roots to spread. And, finally, regarding lawn clover…we prefer the clover to the buttercup. And so does wildlife, including pollinators. Plus, the clover helps feed the soil! And, as for lawns, not our favorite. That’s why we let a lot of other plants like clover, plantain, and even buttercup invade it.

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