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Speedwells are beautiful, easy-to-care-for flowers that add a vibrant pop of color to any garden or lawn. So why are they often considered a weed?
Speedwell is considered a weed due to its tendency to spread quickly. These flowers spread faster than most garden plants. If their growth isn’t checked, they end up outcompeting other plants for resources.
The rest of this post will cover how planting this species can affect your garden. I’ll also give you tips on controlling an unruly Speedwell population later. Let’s get started.
Does Speedwells Affect a Garden the Same Way as Weeds?
Speedwells can affect a garden the same way as weeds. They compete with other plants for nutrients, water, and sunlight if left to their own devices. As a result, they can negatively affect the growth of other species and take over the entire garden.
Another quality that Speedwells have in common with other types of weeds is that they can attract pests and diseases to which they might be resistant, but other plants aren’t.
With that said, it’s important to note that not all Speedwell species are created the same. Some are even purposefully grown as ornamental plants. That’s why it’s important to differentiate between weed-like variations such as Veronica Persica and safe-to-plant species such as First Love Speedwells.
The fact that some Speedwells variations are desirable and can add value to a garden rather than take from it sets these flowers apart from conventional weeds. But while the “preferable” species are less prone to overspreading, it’s still a good idea to understand how they spread and how you can keep their population in check.
How Do Speedwells Spread?
Before diving into the various Speedwells control measures, let’s explore some of the most common ways these plants spread to help you understand what might be causing their overgrowth in your garden and how to counteract it.
According to RHS, these plants usually spread through (source):
- Birds or insects.
- Their stems being scattered by a lawn mower.
- Their clippings are put on the compost pile (which you then spread across the garden).
Now that you’re more informed on how Speedwells can affect your garden or lawn and the most common ways they spread, let’s dive into some of the best control measures you can take to keep their growth at bay.
(For deeper details, read How To Control the Spread of Speedwell Plants.)
If you’ve caught the Speedwell spread in time, you might be able to keep it in check by removing each plant that’s out of line by hand. Though this might be the most tedious option on this list, it happens to be the safest and most effective.
The first thing you’ll want to do is wear gardening gloves to protect your hands. Once you do that, pull each plant you’d like to get rid of from the roots (so it doesn’t regrow) and dispose of it properly.
If you’re not up to the challenge of pulling each Speedwell plant by hand (or their spread has reached a point where hand-pulling is simply not feasible anymore), using herbicides is your next best option.
Be sure to choose the right herbicide for the species and follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely. Otherwise, you might damage nearby desirable plants.
Most gardeners are familiar with the plethora of benefits mulching provides to a garden. However, not many know it can also be a form of weed control.
To control Speedwells spread through mulching, apply a thick layer of mulch around your desirable plants. Pack it on tightly, so you don’t leave any cracks or openings for growing seedlings (source). The mulch will smother Speedwells (or any other type of weed) and stop their growth.
Try to Boost Grass Growth
If your lawn is dense enough and well-maintained, even the hardy Speedwell won’t persevere because it’ll be outmatched as far as competition for resources goes.
For the best results, keep the grass relatively tall and lush. The whole point is to limit Speedwell’s access to sunlight, water, and nutrients.
If you’re not a fan of grass, you can always opt for another type of groundcover. Groundcovers are low-growing, fast-spreading plants that can not only help keep weed populations at bay but also add to the aesthetic of your growing space.
Here’s a list of some of the best groundcover plant varieties you can consider aside from grass:
- Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum).
- Ajuga (Ajuga reptans).
- Dead Nettle (Lamium maculatum).
- Ice Plant (Delosperma cooperi).
- Vinca (Vinca minor).
- Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum).
- Sedum (Sedum spp.).
- Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus).
- Carpet Bugleweed (Ajuga genevensis).
- Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata).
These plants come with unique advantages and drawbacks, so be sure to research each before making a choice. Here are some tips that can help you along the decision-making process:
- Consider your preferred aesthetic.
- Only choose plants that can thrive in your climate.
- Consider what type of soil would each of these options require.
- Look up each alternative’s requirements. That way, you can determine whether it’s low or high maintenance and how much water it’ll need.
- Only choose groundcover plants that have similar requirements to plants that are already in your garden; the logistics are much easier that way.
Take Preventative Measures
The best Speedwell control measures are preventative ones. These include maintaining a healthy, diverse growing space by removing all Speedwell seedlings as soon as they appear. You can also apply pre-emergent herbicides to prevent the seeds from germinating.
If you prefer to keep a few Speedwell plants, make sure you pinch the flower heads before blooming season. This keeps these plants’ population in check by controlling propagation.
Though this approach requires a lot of care and attention, it’ll save you a lot of stress and headaches moving forward.
Speedwells are some of the most resilient plants. But while this quality makes them an excellent choice for amateur gardeners looking for a plant that can thrive with minimal care, it also means that their population can quickly get out of control.
Ultimately, these flowers’ effect on your garden will depend on how well you can control their growth. If you strike the right balance, you can still have Speedwells complement other plants without overtaking them.