SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION
These two well-known gardening experts serve as excellent sources:
• Sperry, Neil, Lone Star Gardening-Texas Complete Planting Guide and Gardening Calendar, A Publication of Neil Sperry’s GARDENS Magazine, McKinney, TX, 2014.
• Welch, Doug, Texas Garden Almanac, Texas A&M University Press, 2007.
GROUND COVER CARE AND MAINTENANCE
• Do fertilize new plants.
• Use a diluted, liquid high-nitrogen fertilizer with each watering.
• Apply high-nitrogen granular lawn food every 6-8 weeks with a handheld spreader after established.
• Do not use herbicides on groundcover beds.
Maintaining established plants
• Keep edges neat and trimmed for attractiveness.
• Taper cuts down toward the edges to avoid vertical stubble.
• Trim upright shoots or retrain them to fill in empty spaces.
• Use line trimmer on trailing ground covers to keep the tops even.
My friend, Linda, designed and maintains a beautiful, large hillside yard. Her design plan includes sunny, partial shade and shaded areas so she incorporates more than a dozen ground covers. When viewed from her patio, all the plantings make a cohesive, interesting and pleasing appearance. A variety of colors, textures, flowering and nonflowering ground covers contribute to the beauty of her awesome yard.
Yard analysis leads to plant selection
In last week’s column, I asked you to evaluate your ground cover needs. Do you have a lot of sun or shade? Do you get morning or afternoon sun? What kind of soil do you have?
This analysis of your yard will help you select plants that will do well for years. Below, I list and describe 14 different ground covers for the Coastal Bend region and provide tips in adjoining material for maintaining them.
Ajuga has many varieties (two examples were included in last week’s photos) and as creeping evergreens, grow quickly and can cover a large area with few plants. Normally, it has solid green or variegated foliage, but you can also find ajuga with burgundy and copper foliage. Common varieties have blue or purple blooms. It requires good acidic garden soil.
Autumn and holly ferns are woodland plants that will fill a shady area with beautiful bright to dark green textured fronds. These do best in well-draining soil.
English ivy is a shade-loving evergreen that can have either dark green or variegated leaves. It requires good drainage. Algerian ivy has larger leaves and is not as cold hardy as English ivy.
Mondo grass has fine, grass-like foliage and is an outstanding shade groundcover. It comes in dwarf and standard forms. Planted under deciduous trees, its foliage is so dense that it is easy to remove tree leaves from it. The dwarf variety is slow-growing and perfect for small spaces.
Sun to partial shade selections
Asiatic/Asian jasmine and Confederate star jasmine are well-known, popular evergreens that prefer rich, well-drained soil. Confederate jasmine has fragrant white flowers in the spring. This plant spreads quickly and can be invasive. Be sure to prune jasmine often to control it.
Liriope, often called monkey grass or lilyturf, is a grass-like evergreen that has purple blooms and green or variegated leaves. It makes a great border or groundcover. It prefers average, well-drained soil.
Creeping thyme is a low growing, hardy perennial with lightly haired foliage. This tiny, 3-inch tall evergreen grows in dense mats and is an excellent choice for growing in pavers or rock gardens. It has a mint aroma and flavor and prefers moist, not wet soils. Space creeping thyme 8-12 inches apart so it can spread.
Ruellia plants, often known as wild petunia or Mexican petunia, are evergreen perennials that flower from mid-spring to the first frost. The flowers are purple or blue on green or variegated purplish leaves. They bloom profusely in sunny locations and self-sow so can be invasive.
There are many varieties of ruellia and all attract butterflies. The dwarf variety Katie in purple, pink or white is highly recommended for a groundcover plant.
Sedums are easy-growing succulents that thrive where nothing else grows. Sedums vary in height with the shorter ones used as ground covers. They are self-rooting plants that need little water or fertilizing.
Trailing juniper is an attractive groundcover that prefers well-drained soil and sunny locations. It tolerates heat and adapts best to low-rainfall areas.
Wedelia is an herbaceous perennial that thrives in full sun. It flowers prolifically with small, yellow, daisy-like blooms. The main challenge of wedelia is making sure it doesn’t grow too well. As soon as the wedelia stems touch the ground they root and aggressively spread.
One of its main uses is preventing erosion in barren sites. Consider wedelia for your patio containers or isolated areas in your yard.
Plant ground covers at the same depth as the pot they are growing in. Depending on the size of the plant, space them about 4 to 12 inches apart. Until ground covers are well-established and actively growing, water them on a regular schedule. Do not let the plants dry out. Neil Sperry recommends hand watering at the base of the plants.
After ground covers are established, the most common challenge with them is controlling their growth. Refer to the information included with this article on how to maintain them in a determined area of the landscape.
With proper selection and care, ground covers will add variety, texture and beauty to your landscape like that of my friend Linda as well as control unwanted weeds where they are planted. The right ground cover in the right place is guaranteed to enhance your landscape – and please you, too.
The Gardeners’ Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or email@example.com.