looking for groundcover for mostly sun

trudyloneganJanuary 7, 2008

I would like to shrink my lawn and convert a large part of my front yard to groundcover. I was thinking ivy, but a landscaper suggested vinca instead so it won't grow up the trees (there are a few of them) and attract bugs to the trees. Part of the area is part shade, but more is full sun. It's on a slight slope. I'm in zone 7 in Chapel Hill NC and want something that will survive the summers and winters, need minimal watering and not grow tall. I had some border vinca in the area before and it did very well but grew too tall for the look I want. Does anyone have a suggestion for a ground cover for this situation, a particular variety of vinca or ivy or anything else? Ajuga? THANKS! I don't mind watering about once per week.

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How about strawberries? They look good all year except about now until mid-Feb. Flowers in the spring, fruit you can ignore if you want, lush spreading leaves in mats to about a max of 8" more usually 4", reddish tinted leaves in the fall. They'll take some shade but not full shade. With shallow roots they don't compete with tree roots. You will have to weed the grass out but they mostly shade out anything that sprouts after the strawberries get going.

Nancy the nancedar

    Bookmark   January 7, 2008 at 5:49PM
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There's that creeping raspberry also. Doesn't look like a normal raspberry, has small rounded textured leaves, sometimes blooms, occasionally sets flavorless fruit.

Do you plan on walking through (or up?) or up against any part of this slope? There are tons of ground cover conifers but they don't feel so great against bare legs or ankles (and they are a fire danger if they are up against your house).

Your biggest problem is going to be keeping it weed free. With any sun and regular watering just about anything will grow there. Finding something that will out compete the weeds is the trick. Daylilies can do it and there are small ones that can be quite vigorous. Some of the sedums can out perform the weeds... the list is long

    Bookmark   January 7, 2008 at 8:08PM
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Tammy Kennedy

trudy, if you decide you do want vinca and don't mind coming to garner, i can give you oodles. i have vinca minor, which never gets taller than about 4-6". vinca major may have been what you saw- it'll get to a foot or so. it doesn't climb trees, but is considered invasive. so if you butt up to a place where it's woodsy or someone won't mow the perimeter, i'd have to say you might want to reconsider. it wouldn't need any water once established- mine's on a clay hillside competing with bushes and trees, never gets more water than ma nature gives, and has thrived. i don't think i even watered more than once or twice when i planted it. it gets little if any direct sun, but is in some brightish dappled shade to full shade. we don't rake or blow that area, and it does fine with the falling leaves- they eventually just work down under the leaves of the vinca. seems to reseed a little, but not too much.

you definitely don't want ivy- it's an absolute thug, and will really burden the trees. and the birds love the eventual fruit and will spread it far and wide. and please, don't even think about japanese honeysuckle.

ajuga could work, but would need some supplemental water to look its best. a really gorgeous groundcover (but hard to find) is our native pachysandra- much prettier than the ugly japanese stuff commonly sold. there are other nice native vines that would look nice- virginia creeper is one (but it will climb trees).

you may want to consider a mixture of plants, so that if any one develops disease/pests you won't lose your whole stand. if one eventually out-competes everything else, you know you have something well adapted to that area. you'll probably find not many things can span the shade to the full sun.

i've not bought from this place, but it might spark some ideas: http://classygroundcovers.com/

    Bookmark   January 7, 2008 at 8:10PM
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I have been testing a few things for my backyard. It's kind of a tie between 3 of them. I was looking for something that could hold up to full sun, need little water and was evergreen. The 3 I found the best was Roman Chamomile (doesn't spread as much as I would like and needs 1 mowing at the end of flowering to get rid of the flower stems), Creeping Thyme (spreads well but turns a russet color in winter) and Dianthus Deltoids (doesn't spread well). Of course the problem with all 3 is that they don't beat out the weeds, so I am only doing a little bit each year while keeping the area heavily mulched to try and keep out the weeds until I get there.

If I ever get the back finished and it looks good I may start on the front yard.

Hope this helped.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 8:21AM
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Tammy Kennedy

wgafaw- glad to hear your assessment of those, since i'm using chamomile and thyme in some paths between some raised beds. well, i was before i found a cheap source of mazus- so i added it into the mix, too, along with creeping golden oregano. we'll see who wins.

so, you didn't have to baby the chamomile through the heat and drought? when i've grown it before i felt like it likes a bit less that full sun and needs some water. where i put it in the paths is partially shaded. oh, and give it some time- cham. will spread well when it gets going- it may be that it needs plentiful water for that. the dianthus d. will reseed itself around if you let it, and spread that way.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 8:51AM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

Depending on the height you would be happy with, a couple of prostrate rosemary might also work, if only in spots. They will mound up to about 15-20", but with watering they will spread to 3-6'. They flower, about now, into spring. Where a branch touches the ground, they will re-root, so the spread can keep going for quite a while. You can't walk on them, but in the areas you weren't planning to walk anyway.... They are pretty good about keeping weeds out from under, but you will have to weed out any trees that sprout, such as sweetgum or tulip poplar. And you can use any trimmings in cooking!

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 9:09AM
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Have you ever seen the groundcover form of St. John's Wort?
I planted a few in full sun to partial shade last summer. Despite the drought, it not only survived but has remained green so far this winter.

Another choice (yes, it can be invasive) is Creeping Jenny. For tough soils nothing can beat it for fast coverage at a low height. If you dig a small tench around the area it will stay put.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 11:10AM
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Tammy Kennedy

but- creeping jenny isn't happy in dry soils. it is very pretty, though, and fairly easy to pull if it gets out of bounds. i use it in our ditch as it can handle flooding occasionally. i think nearly any good ground cover can be invasive in the right situation- their ability to spread is what makes them good ground covers in the first place. it's a matter of can you control the perimeter and staying away from the real thugs like ivy and honeysuckle.

for dry sun, another on that would do well would be thrift (phlox); it blooms in pinks, blues/purples, reds and whites. or some of the groundcover sedums can handle some shade, and would love the sun. they look lovely intermixing if you use different kinds- many forms and colors are available. most bloom white or yellow, but there are reds and pinks, too. specifically, sedum acre, sedum tectractum (sp? - aka chinese or paddle leaf sedum) and sedum 'angelina' are 3 good spreaders with nice forms. delosperma is another succulent that can deal with some shade (it just won't bloom) but is evergreen and spreads nicely (it turns red in winter). you can't really walk on it, but it would work well if you can avoid that. has hot pink blooms, but there are other colors available.

also, i have a kind of perennial heliotrope that while it isn't completely evergreen makes a nice spread- @ 3'. it's scentless, but flowers from spring through first frost. it does retain some green in the winter. where i use it i trim it back in fall or spring to the base, but for a ground cover i'd guess you could just leave it. it looks almost like a lighter homestead verbena, which is another good choice.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 12:07PM
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One possibility as a ground cover, or really a perennial used as a ground cover, is Geranium sanguineum. It takes part shade/sun and dry soil in stride. It is also partially evergreen in winter, turns lovely shades in the Fall, and has a long bloom season. The only problem would be getting your hands on enough plants since this plant does not spread on its own, except by seed. It is easy to start from seed if you are so inclined.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 4:15PM
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I have had great luck with blue star or white star creeper. Have both and both have done great.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2008 at 12:09PM
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jody(7b - NC)

I love the phlox when its in bloom, but it gets really ratty during the heat of the summer.

There are some wintergreens that might work - gaultheria procumbens.

You might investigate potentilla which is supposed to make an evergreen ground cover and will had both sun and part shade as well as a long blooming period.

The most successful groundcover at my house is euphorbia, but I think it is taller than what you want. It looks good right through the winter.

I've seen iceplants used as ground covers in full sun - delosperma - they made a great display.

Let's see - ceratostigma plumbaginoides - true blue flowers in the fall - also on my list of things to try.

mazus reptans - reputed to tolerate foot traffic.

If you try any of these, please post results - this is a topic of interest to a lot of people.

I've wondered if there is some mix of these groundcovers that will provide a "garden" look also - the taller ones in the middle, something like that.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2008 at 8:44AM
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Have used mazus for years and was surprised at the amount of sun it tolerates - it crawled over the edges of my driveway.
Now it is all in sh pt/sh amd survives wo watering.

In the sun I am not very interesting - vinca minor, juniper p. 'nana', "Bar Harbor-very dense cover with slight color chg in winter, juniper "Blue Pacific" -pretty color-dense, a sea of dwarf yaupons-it only takes a light mulch under these to keep all the weeds out-but pinestraw is slight problem in fall, "Clarissa" holly is much prettier to me with that nice mounded shape, but it needs some extra moisture in my yard (DIYF drip system) in the hot sun- a lot of a very L var liriope. Red groundcover roses - also need a light mulch but no extra water after the 1st 2 yrs.-dwarf daylilies. The plain green liriope is a good cover & will get very thick, & you have to mow it once in the spring & if it or the var. kind gets sun scald in winter-I just cover very lightly with some pinestraw.

I have some low sedums under & around low dianthus, candytuft,& artemesias, a ton of purple heart, geranium maculatum, wine cups, low alliums,several of the old pink fairy rose,1 floral carpet rose, some lacy lilac verbena I got from PDL, "Little Grapette" - all planted too thickly with pebbles and weed barrier fabric. I deadhead in sp & when it is not too hot, -but since it is all grayish it looks OK to me when I don't. Also saponaria off. -the double rose one.

Also the various GC petunias are DT, need no deadheading,are weed suppressing, and planting them each spring is really not much trouble. My peren. choices are quite dull but I was reluctant to use trays of annuals(wanted to save money) -not smart to be so rigid.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 10:37PM
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I am relly talking too much-but this has long been a problem for me. Pam Harper's book "Time Tested Plants" is good. I want GC that can be raked (liriope, mondo) or that swallows most or all of the leaves (vinca minor, J. c. "Blue Pacific")--We & neighbors have many oak trees(large, slow to break down leaves).
In one area I did kill the grass, cover with ground leaves, a layer of very thick very wet newspaper, and a thick layer of mulch - treated with Preen about every 2 1/2 mos,& planted only my white crape myrtles (Wal-mart). Two springs later, I planted the "Blue Pacific" and var. liriope (Wal-mart), and really renewed the mulch.This is the best area. The trees went in in sp. of 2001 (I think), the wetest sp and sum-trees grew so fast. You really do have to plan on a weed fighting campaign in early years & figure it into your budget. Now, I REALLY try not to disturb the soil
around the GC, never bring more weed seeds to suface & for me averything now has to be DT. As someone here said, sunny well prepared areas are an invitation for weeds, and consider how you will groom the edges. After the juniper spreads its max, the ground runners root & it starts all over-even wo rain or fert. There must be many GC threads.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2008 at 11:16AM
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