How to Plant, Grow, and Care For Creeping Jenny
Are you thinking of adding some Creeping Jenny as ground cover to your home gardening space? Creeping Jenny can make an excellent plant for just about any home gardening space. But getting it to grow properly can be a bit tricky. In this article, gardening expert Madison Moulton explains how to plant, grow, and care for Creeping Jenny.
Lysimachia nummularia, also known as Creeping Jenny, is a beloved garden groundcover. Spreading quickly and covering a wide area with dense carpets of almost luminescent green, this plant is ideal for covering beds or replacing areas of bare soil with lush foliage.
Like many successful groundcovers, this popular plant is also known to take up more space than it is allowed. While it does have a reputation for taking over, it can be a wonderfully useful plant when properly controlled.
This groundcover remains lush all year, dotted with small yellow flowers in summer that are the perfect tribute to the sunny season. Use along beds, replace parts of your lawn for something more low-maintenance, or plant in hanging baskets and pots to cascade over the sides.
Creeping Jenny Plant Overview
Plant Type Groundcover
Species Lysimachia nummularia
Native Area Europe
Hardiness Zone USDA 3-9
Exposure Full Sun to Partial Shade
Growth Rate Quick
Plant Spacing 12 inches
Planting Depth Shallow
Height 5 inches
Watering Requirements High
Pests Slugs, Caterpillars, Aphids
Diseases Rust, Leaf Spot
Maintenance Low to Medium
Soil Type Rich, Moist
Plant With Keep Isolated
History and Cultivation
Creeping Jenny originates from Europe but has become a common garden plant across the world – particularly in North America. Its botanical name Lysimachia nummularia and another common name ‘moneywort’ are attributed to the small round shapes of the leaves that look like tiny coins, especially when covered with their classic sheen.
Some horticultural confusion has surrounded this plant’s family in the past. Originally placed under the Primulaceae family, it was moved to Myrsinaceae. However, this family has now been classified as a sub-family under Primulaceae.
Luckily, those designations need not worry home gardeners. The most important factor to consider is the botanical name and the cultivar. That’s because it will help you distinguish whether the plant may be invasive or not.
This plant shares a common name with another invasive plant – creeping Charlie. However, one look at the botanical name of its namesake Glechoma hederacea will tell you these are two completely different plants.
The cultivar is also important. L. nummularia ‘Aurea’, with more yellow-ish golden leaves and a slow growing habit, is typically considered safe for use in home gardens if you keep it controlled. Some of the more invasive cultivars, usually with deeper green leaves, are not recommended for planting, or should only be planted in highly controlled areas.
While these plants are usually found in home gardens and have even won a Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit, they can also be found in the wild, growing alongside streams and bogs. Unfortunately, that is usually because they have escaped nearby home gardens and are now taking over other native plants in the wild. If you’re planning on growing moneywort, regular maintenance is essential to prevent damage to your local environment and the plants in it.
Creeping Jenny spreads incredibly quickly and won’t really need propagating if you’re looking to keep the plant in the same place. It should grow to fill empty beds in no time. However, if you want to plant in containers, or move part of the plant to a new section of your garden, you have three options – propagating from cuttings, seeds, or dividing.
Propagating From Cuttings
Moneywort spreads by growing roots from nodes along the stem. As the stem grows, each node (the point where leaves emerge) develops roots that burrow into the soil and anchor the plant to the ground. This makes them incredibly easy to propagate from cuttings.
Start by removing a cutting a minimum of four inches long. The stem should be cut with a clean, sharp pair of pruning shears to prevent damage to the stem or the spread of disease. Cut just below a leaf node at a 45° angle. This increases the surface area and allows as much water and nutrients to enter the stem as possible.
Remove the leaves from the bottom half of the cutting. At least one node should be free of leaves, but preferably two or three to give you the greatest chance of developing roots. This cutting can then be rooted in water or directly into a soilless propagating medium.
To root in water, simply place the bottom of the stem into a clean glass filled with room temperature or lukewarm water. Filtered water is best, as tap water can contain excessive chemicals. Alternatively, boil the water and leave it to cool before pouring it into the glass. Change the water every couple of days or when it gets cloudy until the roots have grown at least an inch or two. You can then transplant the cutting into a pot or out into the garden.
To root in the soil, fill a pot with a mixture of coconut coir and perlite for improved drainage. Make a hole in the mixture and bury the cuttings until the first set of leaves are just above the soil. Water thoroughly and keep the soil moist until roots have developed. You’ll know they are ready to transplant when there is some resistance to being pulled.
Propagating From Seed
Creeping Jenny can also be propagated from seed. This is best done with seeds obtained from a certified grower to ensure you get the right cultivar. However, you can also harvest seeds from an existing plant in your or a neighbor’s garden. However, harvested seeds will not produce the same cultivar as the plant parent and might be more invasive, so caution is advised.
Once the seeds have been collected, sow into trays or straight into the ground. They can simply be sprinkled onto the soil and watered to replicate the natural spreading processes. Once the seeds have sprouted, thin by removing the weakest performing seeds. If planting in trays, transplant out into the garden when the first few sets of leaves have grown. They should be ready in a month or two, depending on your climate and growing conditions.
Propagating by Division
As this plant grows roots along the stems, any part of it can be dug up and planted somewhere else. It doesn’t mind a bit of root disturbance, so the new division should root quite easily.
To get started, dig up the entire existing plant if it’s small, or a part of it if it covers a large area. Pull the plant apart into sections, or cut the stems and roots with a sharp pair of trimmers. Then, replant each division further apart to cover a wider area, or into separate parts of the garden. You can also replant these divisions into separate pots or hanging baskets for a container garden feature.
Lysimachia nummularia is a vigorous grower that can be planted almost any time of year when the weather is suitable (in other words, don’t plant in winter). However, the best time to plant is in early spring. This gives the plant time to establish itself before summer when it will send up carpets of cute yellow flowers.
Choose a spot in the garden where water tends to settle. Low-lying areas where rain flows are ideal for this water-loving plant.
The planting spot should also be far from any other plants in your garden. As the plant spreads, it can smother other tender plants or compete for resources with anything low-lying. It can also creep into grassy areas and ruin a neatly manicured lawn if not controlled. It’s best to plant in a cordoned off the bed where any escaping stems can be quickly trimmed.
Similarly, it’s important to keep the plant away from any areas you cannot access, especially close to natural areas with high biodiversity. If moneywort escapes your garden, it can quickly grow out of control and suffocate native plants in your local area.
To cover a wide area, Creeping Jenny can be given quite a bit of space. 12 inches of space between plants is the recommended minimum, but these plants grow and spread so fast that they can fill up space if planted much further apart.
When planting in containers, place the plants close to the edge so the stems can trail over the sides of the pot. Don’t plant too deep to prevent the stems from rotting and use high-quality, well-draining potting soil. This also keeps the plant contained and stops it from spreading to other areas, becoming uncontrollable.
How to Grow
If you are looking to grow Creeping Jenny, there are several factors you’ll have to get just right in order to grow these beautiful plants effectively. You’ll need the right amount of light, water, as well as the right type of soil. Climate and temperature also matter, and you’ll want to have a proper plant fertilizer. Let’s take a look at each of these factors in detail.
Creeping Jenny will grow best in positions with full sun or partial shade. Full sun will bring out the best of the leaf color, especially for the popular ‘Aurea’ type. It will grow just as well with a bit of shade during the day, but the color will typically deepen and turn a darker green.
This color change is caused by the chlorophyll content in the leaves. When the plant is receiving enough sunlight, it doesn’t need as much chlorophyll to turn light into energy during photosynthesis. If the plant receives less light, it will produce more chlorophyll to make the most of the light it is getting, turning the leaves darker green in color.
If you live in climates with harsh summers, you may want to give your Creeping Jenny some respite in warmer weather. Just as too little light can change the color of the leaves, too much can cause them to burn and blanch.
To ensure your plant flowers in summer, avoid areas with deep and heavily dappled shade. In these areas, growth may be spotty, and the foliage along the stems may not be as dense, making their use as a ground cover far less successful.
Moneywort naturally grows near water sources, alongside streams, riverbanks, or in bog gardens. This provides an indication as to how much water it prefers – a lot. This plant prefers consistently moist soil that never dries out, so it is important to keep it well-watered.
The planting position can be a great help in dealing with your watering needs. If there are areas in your garden where rainwater naturally collects, plant Creeping Jenny there to take care of much of the watering for you. If you live in areas with little rainfall, position the plant near a drain or other water source without intensive chemicals and direct the water there.
When planting in containers, watering is even more important. The soil in containers will dry out far quicker than in other areas. These plants will need to be watered frequently, as much as twice a day in the heat of summer. Don’t let the soil dry out between waterings – even when planted in a deep pot – as the shallow root system may not reach the saturated soil lower down.
As long as the soil is moist and relatively well-draining, moneywort can withstand a wide range of soil conditions. Excessively sandy or rocky soil is not ideal as it does not retain much moisture, but the plant should be happy in any other kind of soil.
It is not too fussed about pH either but does prefer soils high in nutrients due to its natural growing habitat.
Climate and Temperature
These plants will be happy across USDA Zones 4-9, and potentially 3 depending on the region. They may die back a bit in extremely cold weather and become spotty, but growth should return again the following spring.
These vigorous growers should thrive without too much extra fertilization in the right soil conditions. However, they will benefit from an annual application of a balanced fertilizer in spring, just before growth kicks off. This will help the foliage and promote flowering, which can become sparse with a lack of nutrients.
Maintenance is not only important for the health of the plant, it is also essential to keep it from spreading to unwanted areas of your garden.
Start by pruning the plant back around fall. Remove any stems encroaching on other plants or escaping the beds it is confined to. At the same time, remove any dying or damaged stems to promote new growth the following season.
Deadhead flowers regularly before they start producing seeds. This will stop them from spreading via wind to other parts of the garden or surrounding areas. If you’re looking to save the seeds for propagation, only leave a few flowers and deadhead the rest.
Every three or four years, as the growth becomes very dense, divide the plant. This will encourage new growth and spreading and will stop the shallow roots from suffocating each other or competing for nutrients. Lift the entire plant, trim it into sections, and plant 12 inches apart to allow the plant to start spreading again.
The most popular, and least invasive, Creeping Jenny variety is Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea.’ This plant has golden chartreuse leaves that brighten up beds in the sunlight. They are not as vigorous as others, making them far safer to use in home gardens without fear of harming the surrounding environment.
Pests and Diseases
Moneywort isn’t particularly prone to pests and diseases. In the right environment and with the right care, it can grow for several years without any trouble. However, its moist environment does lend it to a few unlikely but definitely possible problems.
In wet weather, fungal diseases are always a concern. When it comes to Creeping Jenny, rust and leaf spot are the ones to look out for. While they may be unlikely, they can ruin the image of the stunning glossy foliage, making your groundcover look untidy and unsightly.
Planting in a full sun position, pruning often to improve airflow, and removing any diseased or dying branches as soon as they are spotted will keep you from encountering these pesky problems. If they have taken hold and you don’t want to pull the plant, you may choose to apply an organic fungicide, taking into account the impact it will have on surrounding plants and the local environment.
As for pests, you may find aphids or caterpillars settling on your plants if you are incredibly unlucky. However, these bugs will usually prefer the tastier morsels in your garden. If you discover any, simply remove them by hand and place them in a bucket of soapy water. You can also apply horticultural oil to the foliage to suffocate the bugs and prevent any eggs they may have laid from hatching.
Slugs and snails may also creep in between the foliage and take a few nibbles. If this is the case, remove them by hand by hunting at night with a torch when they are most active, or by setting a trap. Beer traps work well and will draw snails from other parts of the garden too. Simply dig a bucket or tray into the ground at the soil level and fill it with a can of beer. The snails will be attracted to the smell, drawn away from your plants and into the bucket where they drown in the liquid.
Creeping Jenny is, first and foremost, used as a ground cover. It spreads horizontally incredibly quickly, filling empty spaces with layers of compact five-inch-tall foliage. It’s great for filling beds with greenery and replacing high-maintenance lawns.
Unfortunately, they don’t play nice with other plants (especially other low-lying plants like ground covers) and are best planted alone. Use them to cover a moist spot where no other plants will grow and they should thrive left on their own.
Their growth habit also lends them to planting in containers. In pots, when paired with other plants that can hold their own when faced with an intense spreader, the long stems will trail down the side, making an attractive feature. This makes them ideal for the ‘spiller’ part of the common container design phrase – thriller, filler, spiller.
When planted in a container on their own, these plants work best hanging up. Plant in a hanging basket and place on your patio to cascade down. This also keeps the growth completely contained, stopping it from becoming invasive.
As these plants can handle sitting in shallow water, they are also great in ponds or planted in pots and placed in water features. The stems will trail along the water or drift on top, flowing with the movement of the water.
Out of the garden and into historical uses, it was often used as an herbal remedy in the past. It was used both dried and fresh to dress wounds or as part of a cold compress. A 17th-century Dutch physician recommended moneywort for treating scurvy and hemorrhages. In some areas, tea is made from dried or fresh leaves to treat coughs. However, few studies have been conducted on its use or potential side effects, so ingestion is not recommended without prior consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Creeping Jenny grow underwater?
Thanks to its natural wetland habitats, creeping jenny grows well in shallow water. It can also grow completely submerged and is a popular plant for fish tanks. This plant absorbs excess nitrates and phosphates in the water and helps stabilize the pH, all important factors to consider when keeping aquatic animals. It may not flower underwater, but the golden foliage makes enough of a statement on its own.
Can creeping jenny survive winter?
This plant can grow in zones as low as 3, surviving very cold temperatures. When there is frost or snow, the foliage may die back slightly, but it should return again the following spring.
Can it grow indoors?
If kept in a bright spot near a window, creeping jenny can grow well indoors. It may not flower or grow as vigorously as it does outdoors, but it would look great in a pot on a window sill or cascading from a hanging basket.
The only problem you may encounter is warmth. This plant needs cold temperatures over winter to emerge strong again in spring. Indoor temperatures are typically too warm for this plant. Over the cold seasons, move the plant to a colder unheated room in your house or outdoors and bring it in again when spring comes.
Are creeping jenny and creeping charlie the same?
Their growth habits may be similar, but they are not the same plants. Creeping Charlie, also known as ground ivy, has the botanical name Glechoma hederacea. These plants are from a completely different genus, despite their similarities. Creeping Charlie is far more invasive and is classified as a weed in most regions.
Will creeping jenny root in water?
Creeping jenny develops roots along nodes in the stem, similar to other popular propagated plants like pothos. This makes it incredibly easy to root these plants in water. Simply cut along the stem just below a node, remove the leaves, and pop in a glass of water. You should see roots starting to emerge within a few weeks.
When does creeping jenny bloom?
This plant flowers mainly in summer, covering beds with masses of yellow cup-shaped blooms. Depending on the region, flowering may extend into early fall too.
Why is my creeping jenny yellow?
For some creeping jenny, yellow leaves are a great sign. If you’re growing the popular Aurea variety, the leaves should turn yellow when the plant is receiving enough sun.
While yellow leaves may be a sign of distress in some other plants, yellow leaves do not indicate any problems. To change the color to a darker green, you can move the plant to a spot with more shade, although it may not grow as vigorously or flower in summer.
Why does creeping jenny turn brown?
The foliage of this plant can turn brown for a number of reasons. If you live in a climate with cold winters, this drop in temperature will cause the foliage to turn brown. However, this should not be a concern as it will return again in spring as green as it was before.
Other more serious issues can cause the leaves to turn brown. The first is disease. If there are brown circular spots on the foliage, you may be dealing with a fungal disease. Remove all affected branches and look out for signs of spread. You can also apply an organic fungicide, keeping the impact on the surrounding plants in mind.
The second potential issue is underwatering. When creeping jenny is severely underwatered, the edges of the leaves may turn brown. Ensure you water consistently and increase your waterings in warm weather to prevent these issues.
Why is my creeping jenny not blooming?
Moneywort not blooming is typically a sunlight problem. The plants need plenty of sunlight to produce flowers, and too little will slow growth, preventing the plant from blooming. Older plants established for several years may also begin to underperform without some maintenance. Prune older plants to give them a revival or divide plants that are not flowering as much to encourage new growth.
If you’re happy to keep this plant controlled, it is an ideal groundcover for almost any garden. It grows fantastically in a wide range of conditions, spreading vigorously to cover beds in masses of green foliage.
In summer, these beds will turn into carpets of sunny yellow blooms, brightening your garden to perfectly match the season. The foliage, changing colors with the sun and the seasons, also provides continuous interest. Dedicate an isolated section of your garden or a pot to these popular plants and you’ll be satisfied year-round.