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Managing Weeds: Creeping Buttercup

April 19, 2013

Following our post about managing morning glory bindweed, one of our readers requested an article on managing buttercup, whichย  has invaded her property.


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

Creeping buttercup is an obnoxious invader that is not a native plant. It loves soggy gardens, which are found in abundance in the Pacific Northwest (and all over North America). Plus, it can withstand seasonal dryness as well. That’s a weed for you — it can adapt and thrive and out-compete other plants readily.

So, how to deal with it?

First, think about the name creeping. That’s exactly what this plant is adapted to do. Once it has taken root in the garden, a single plant has the ability to stretch out stems, which then root in the ground, creating 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.

Single Buttercup Plant

Single Buttercup Plant (Image Courtesy Barbara Sanderson)

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

Since it likes soggy soils, digging it out isn’t always terribly difficult. When soils are moist, they tend to be more loose and pliable, so that’s a good time to work on hand removal.

The combination of two tools for the job makes for relatively quick work. And, if there are two people on the job it goes even more quickly.

Tool #1: Garden Spading Fork like this one: Truper 30293 Tru Tough Spading Fork, 4-Tine, D-Handle, 30-Inch

Tool #2: Hori-Hori or Big Grip Garden Knife like this one from Fiskars, for whom we are paid writers: Fiskars 7079 Big Grip Garden Knife

Once you have these tools, you’re armed to do battle!

Begin by passing through the weed patch with your spading fork. Use the fork to loosen up the soil, but don’t turn everything over. Just shove it into the ground, and then tilt to loosen.

Creeping Buttercup 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. 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. Ideally, put what you pull into your off-site yard waste bag rather than on-site compost, where they may root in and begin to spread again.

As with all weeds, try to eradicate them before they flower. Seeds follow flowers, which mean more plants.

Need help dealing with other weeds like dandelion, shotweed, poison hemlock, bindweed, and more? You’ll find more articles here.

Sure, as fun as it may be to pick those shiny yellow flowers to tuck under your chin in the sunlight to see if someone likes butter or not, there are better flirty games to play in the garden. Plus, who doesn’t like butter?

(Disclosure: Garden Mentorsยฎ is a paid writer for Fiskarsยฎ, however no compensation was paid for this article. Product links above do connect to the Garden Mentorsยฎ Amazon Affiliate store.)



  1. Jeff says:

    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 says:

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

  3. Kay Schaffer says:

    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. Kay Schaffer says:

    I’m looking to get a start of this creeping buttercup. Please advise where.
    Thank you.

  5. Kay, You might try attending a local native plant sale to see if you can get your hands on a native ranunculus. Good luck!

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