Groundcover to replace grass--need suggestions, please

Julie17July 25, 2005

Hello--I am looking for suggestions for a groundcover to grow on a sunny SE street corner that slopes steeply. The soil is red clay and the location hot and fairly dry--but moist enough to keep the grass green. It is at my husband's business and is currently covered with a mix of bermuda and other weedy grasses. He wants to be able to stop mowing altogether because the slope is very steep and the ground very uneven, which makes mowing difficult and somewhat dangerous. Because it is a street corner, the plants have to be kept short so drivers can see. To make matters more complicated, there are all kinds of buried utilities there also, and the "boxes" and meters for them are there, too. (The utility companies like to dig around quite a bit, which is why the ground is so bumpy.) We can't plant anything that will hinder their access to their equipment. Also, we don't have much money to spend on this project.

OK--so this is what I want to do. Kill all the grass with a herbicide, leaving the dead turf on the ground to stop erosion and avoid digging. Plant one or more kinds of low-growing groundcovers that I can grow from seed, either by starting the plants in pots, or (even better) by scraping up lines in the dead sod and seeding the slope directly, as you might overseed a lawn. Does anyone know if this will work? Also, can you recommend any plants to try? Would creeping thyme work? I'm also amenable to planting native plants, even "weedy" plants, as long as they are low-growing.

I'm sorry my question is so long, thank you for reading it. I'm open to any suggestions!

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elysianfields(9b CA)

I totally use groundcovers instead of grass througout my entire garden, the one that works well everywhere is Ground Ivy which I ran across at OSH Hardware's garden center (West Coast, just by chance. You can pull it up and stuff it in a new home and it fills on its own as long as it gets some moisture. It's great because it creates a mesh over the top of the soil as many parts of my garden are clay. It turns from green to burgundy seasonally but stays green in milder climates year round. The leaves are a fan-shape and it blooms with tiny violet-purple flowers in spring. I also use helichrysum (licorice) as accent cover. Veronica is nice but needs more water, Australian Astro Turf is more like a moss and takes a bit to get going but nice as it blocks weeds. Wood Violet is good too but slower to fill a larger area, also needs a good amount of water to keep looking good. We also have Siberian ivy around on slopes in the woods where we live, which looks nice, needs little care, but can get out of hand if it starts up trees or fastens itself to building foundations. Keep it away from cracks in masonry, the roots will pry their way in.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2005 at 6:08PM
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Try violas. Once established they don't need much watering, but that will help them from dying out in a hot location. You only need some mulch and a few violas and by next year you will have lots of violas, so the installation is cheap. They will grow easily on a slope. In late summer they may look a little ragged, but can be cut down.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2005 at 7:01PM
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You did not say how large an area you have to fill. You could make it like a rock garden. You can go on a rock hunt. Scatter rock on the slope. (You may have to dig some in.) Between them plant sedums. There are many varieties and colors. Many are low growing and grow quickly.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2005 at 8:18PM
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piggie(Z9b FL)

I'm looking for a groundcover also. Read a lot of good articles about perennial peanuts and sunshine mimosa. Don't know if it'll grow where you live, but I'm set on getting myself some.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2005 at 9:19AM
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:) I'd totally go with a mix of sedums...they're easy to start from trimming, they take a great deal of abuse, and will survive anything the utilities can hand them.

you can buy a single pot of 'autumn joy' at any garden shop, and there will be a dozen or so stems coming off the crown. break half of them off, snap off the leaves from the bottom 1/3 of the stem, and stick the stems in a tray of damp soil. set in the shade for a week, watering lightly if the soil dries out, and they will root. you now have 8 or so plants, plus the 'mother'.

around here, you could go door to door, and have people HAND you plants they have come to find invasive- daylilies, artemesias, stachys (lamb's ear) and three or four kinds of low-growing sedums (also called stonecrop) which you could root in that area, and let the best plants win.

I'm sure there are similar 'bullies' in your neighbors gardens.

the ultimate bully, in my opinion, is a plant called 'yellow archangel' of the false lamium family. it's a pretty plant, invasive and fast spreading- takes sun, takes shade, takes an act of god to kill it, and you can abuse it, taboot.

this isn't the time of year to be mailing plants to you- but I'd be more than happy to share some archangel with you once the weather breaks :)

    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 12:07PM
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Thanks for all your responses--you've given me a lot of new ideas. The space is about 15 X 20 ft, by the way, and I live in Oklahoma. I'll look into the plants you all suggested. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2005 at 11:30PM
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CSemerad(8b PHX)

Dichondra repens is often used as a grass replacement. It can be mowed, but doeasn't have to be. It will take full sun to part shade, and looks great when it spreads. Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: dichondra repens

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 12:58PM
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icaru(10b Turkey)

I have the same conditions you describe and we successfully planted dichondra repens. Looks great!

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden with dichondra groundcover

    Bookmark   August 28, 2005 at 4:26AM
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Julie, I would go with the suggestion of a "rock garden". Find some stones/rocks of suitable size and you may have to "plant" them as you would a plant. Locate rock garden plants on the Web and go from there. One plant is called "Arabis" low, spreading and I'm pretty sure hardy in your area. Anne

    Bookmark   October 3, 2005 at 8:31PM
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wild_woman(7b DFW)


Thickly sown Oenothera speciosa (pink evening primrose) is hardy to zone 5. It is a snap to grow from seed. It requires little water and care and thrives in poor, sandy soil. It freely reseeds, so it would quickly refresh itself whenever digging is done.

Evening primrose produces a flush of pink blooms in April-May and sporadic blooms through summer and fall. If it gets too tall in June - July, you can weed wack it, but most likely it will just flop over and only be about 10-12" tall on a slope. Foliage gets blotched with red at times of stress such as with insect invasion, prolonged drought, or winter freezes. My plants have ( so far) provided groundcover throughout the year keeping cool season weeds from gaining a foothold.

I would not suggest this wildflower except in contained areas surrounded by ample pavement. It does spread rampantly.


    Bookmark   October 15, 2005 at 11:20AM
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Make sure the bermuda grass is completely eliminated. The only success we have had with getting rid of it has been to smother it with mulch during the winter. We used old carpet, large cardboard boxes, covered with leaves, the leaves covered with a tarp secured with rocks to cut off light and air. The roots go deep and it puts out runners. We've had good success with periwinkle , oenothera speciosa (mentioned above) and creeping thyme. All of this need periodic trimming with a weed eater. EP

    Bookmark   October 18, 2005 at 9:07PM
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debbysunshine(san diego)

The family up the street used ground covers and separated areas of her property with brown plastic edging and placed different low growing covers in each with different shades of greens, blues and yellow ground covers maybe herbs but it sure looks nice and surrounded by her gardens..

    Bookmark   October 30, 2005 at 11:44AM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Is dichondra repens the same as ground ivy? The leaves look very similar, but it was hard to tell from the photos shown. Regardless, that ground ivy is amazing stuff. I consider it a noxious invasive. I've been fighting it in my vegetable garden at home and throughout my cottage's lawn. I'm sure it is attractive to many people, but to me it is a horrible weed. It reminds me of the old movies about army ants marching blindly forward, destroying everything in their path LOL.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2005 at 8:15AM
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