Ground covers are plants that, well…cover the ground. When we at Details Landscape Art talk about landscaping, we like to suggest mixing heights, textures and bloom seasons. The shortest of the heights, or the base, is the ‘lowly’ groundcover. In addition to covering the dirt or bark with color or greenery, groundcover helps to control weeds by blocking the sun’s rays from reaching the weed seeds. Certain groundcovers that have invasive root systems are useful on slopes to help bind the soil and control erosion. Rosemary is a good example. Some are great for trailing over stone walls.
Ground covers can range from very flat (a few inches tall), to up to a foot tall, or even as tall as two feet or more. They may be either shrubs or perennials. Knowledge of a plant’s eventual spread at maturity is always important in spacing them properly. Following is a list of the common names of reliable groundcovers we regularly use in our landscaping:
-Manzanita ‘Emerald Carpet’ – mounding form to about 18 inches tall, spreading four to six feet wide. White spring flowers, and drought tolerant
-Ceanothus gloriousus – two feet tall, six feet wide, blue flowers in spring. Tough, hardy plant.
-Cistus salvifolius – two feet tall spreading to six feet. White flowers with yellow spots in spring.
-Correa ‘Carmine Bells’ – three feet tall by six feet wide, Australian fuchsia is deer resistant, but MUST have good drainage. Drooping carmine red ‘bell’ flowers bloom from late summer through winter.
-Cotoneaster lowest – short (eight inches tall) spreading quickly to fifteen feet, red berries all year long.
-Lantana – somewhat frost tender, the purple flowered variety is the hardiest. Mounding to two feet tall by about three feet wide
-Myoporum parvifolium – Very short (six inches), reroots as it quickly spreads to six to eight feet. White flowers all summer. Good grass substitute.
Nandina ‘Harbour Dwarf’ – typical nankin leaf, grows to one and one half feet tall – red fall foliage
-Rosemary ‘Prostrata’- tough, hardy, great for erosion control. Pale blue flowers, great for trailing over a wall.
-Star jasmine – taller ground cover to three feet tall. Spreads aggressively. Extremely fragrant white flowers all summer.
Santa Barbara Daisy – eighteen inches tall covered with white flowers almost continuously throughout the year. Must be cut back hard several times a year to prevent legginess and promote flower production
Nepeta (catmint) – many varieties available, ranging fro twelve to twenty four inches tall, with profusion of bluish flowers. Must be cut back every other month to control legginess.
Mondo grass – great shade ground cover about eight inches tall. Spreads underground and resurfaces. Available in dark green or black foliage.
Lomandra ‘Breeze’ – extremely versatile plant can be used as a two and one half foot tall ground cover when planted in masses. Tolerates sun or shade – mounding habit spreads to four feet wide.
Sedum ‘Lemon Coral’ – low growing to four inches tall, with yellow to chartreuse foliage
Vinca minor – sun or shade tolerant, prostrate habit that gets no more than a few inches tall. Periwinkle flowers are beautiful. Available in a variegated variety also.
Landscaping with ground covers is an effective way to control weeds and add a lush lower layer of greenery to the garden.