Ground cover that likes sunshine?

draasch(5/6)April 11, 2006

Greetings All!

I'm in the middle of creating a butterfly garden bed... and I was trying to figure out what sort of wood chips or mulch I wanted to put down in the bed... to fill in the empty space and prevent weeds.

But I don't like the idea of having to replenish such mulch each year.

So, I started thinking about ground covers, which is a concept that's somewhat new to me. (My parents in Wisconsin always used wood chips, ever since they did some landscaping in 1978.)

I really love the periwinkle that happens to be on our property. (We've only owned our house for about 1.5 years.) But it seems that periwinkle is more of a partial-sunlight-loving plant... whereas this butterfly garden should get several hours of direct sunlight every day.

So, with that in mind, can anybody recommend some good possible ground cover plants that I could use, ones that enjoy direct sunlight? (I should mention that I'm in Missouri.)

I'd really prefer something that seems to "hug the ground" like periwinkle, as oppossed to some of these ground cover plants that I've seen people put down where the plants seem to climb into the air a good 6 inches or more.


-= Dave =-

P.S. And if anybody knows how I can access my account options for these forums, so I can make sure that I'm getting instantaneous email notificiations about replies to my posts, please let me know! I check-marked that little box last time and never received any replies.

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username_5(banned for no reason)

Hey Dave,

I am a big fan of the low growing sedums for sun loving ground covers. They do well in sun and tolerate dry soils as well so you don't have to worry about watering them all the time. Most can tolerate light foot traffic, but don't over do it.

There are numerous varieties of sedums from tall shrubs to ground covers that grow from 2-6" tall.

The beauty of sedum ground covers is you can rip a chunk up and plop it down anywhere and it will grow carefree. They can be obtained in variety seed packs from some seed vendors, but if you know anyone who has or sells plants you can just give each plant a year to get established and you end up with about 50 times what you started with of each so divide away.

They are pretty good at controlling weeds, but grass can still grow sparsely and is a pain so make sure to plan to prevent the encroachment of grass with any ground cover.

If you are interested I will look up where I got seeds from that produced about 10 different varieties for me that don't get more than 2-3" tall max. They take a good few months to establish from seed and should be indoors during that time. Plants are easier and faster, but more money.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2006 at 3:39PM
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username_5(banned for no reason)

Well, I went and checked my seed packets and what I have is from Stokes Seeds. It is called 'Rock Garden blend'. The label suggests the varieties are max 6" tall and I suppose the plants may vary somewhat from seed batch to seed batch, but I didn't get any that have obtained 6", the max is about 3" which suits me fine.

From what the package instructions say you could order them now and plant them in flats and put them in your chosen area once they sprout. The package says they require part shade for the first 2 weeks and after that it is full sun.

What I actually did was plant them in a flat in the fall and grew them by a sunny window over winter and put them out in the ground around this time of year. I didn't shelter them or 'harden them' at all. I suppose putting them out in mid spring meant the sun wasn't too intense, but they are pretty hardy so I doubt it really matters. They are hardy enough it really doesn't matter what you do. They are the kind of plant you can just rip up a chunk and toss it elsewhere and it grows. Heat and sun make it thrive, but it survives my zone 4/5 winters and wet springs just fine too. Very hardy stuff. Hardy, but not invasive. It will keep weeds under control, but not smother established plants. If you have ever grown chives I would probably liken these plants to chives in terms of how well they grow without care.

The only thing you want to avoid is trying to plant the seeds outside because they are super tiny and any rain will just wash them away.

Anyway, I ended up with about 10 different varieties in varying textures and colors. I just took the flat and dumped it out and ripped it into pieces and stuffed the pieces into the garden soil where I wanted them. While each clump had many varieties what happens is some varieties will die off and another dominate for each patch you place into the garden. No biggy. What you want is something carefree that just lives and does it's thing so the survival of the fittest works out well in this case.

I would say that each 3"x3" clump you stick into the garden you end up with a 18-24" by 18-24" patch by the end of the season. This patch can be ripped up into pieces and transplanted for greater coverage the next season.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2006 at 3:58PM
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alysa(z5 IL)

I had used wooly thyme in my previous home and it was wonderful. Hugged the ground very close and thick, and had pink flowers.

The sedum is a good idea too.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2006 at 2:21PM
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alysa(z5 IL)

I had used wooly thyme in my previous home and it was wonderful. Hugged the ground very close and thick, and had pink flowers.

The sedum is a good idea too.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2006 at 3:02PM
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Toni S

Periwinkle will crawl up your perennials and kill anything under 2 foot tall. Trust me, I know from experience. And when that happens it is a complete PITA to get rid of. Especially if your trying to save your other plants. Like pulling out your lawn. Pretty ground cover , not pretty with low growing perennials.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2006 at 12:09AM
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Really? Periwinkle does that for you in Nebraska?

I've got some here in Missouri in my front yard. And it's beautiful! It doesn't seem to be expanding much at all.

In fact, following my initial post here, my wife and I decided to pay a landscaping consultant for an hour of time. She recommended I use the periwinkle, since I like it so much, in my butterfly garden as a ground cover.

I was a bit surprised because it seems like it "stays" in the shade... in its location in the front yard. But she said it could tolerate sun and would not take over.

I had read where it was considered invasive in California, but I figured in our climate here it might not be?

-= Dave =-

    Bookmark   April 19, 2006 at 7:21AM
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joandaugh(Z5 Chicago)

There is a bunch of periwinkle in the area between my house and side walk. It's been there much longer than we have and it thrives, even though it gets sun most of the day and little rain since it's under the eves on the south side of my house. I haven't noticed that it chokes out the other perennials, but I do yank out some of the vinca when I do clean-up, especially if I feel it's getting too thick. I love the purple flowers. I have the dark-leaved kind.

I used to have some creeping phlox in partial sun, which is beautiful when it's in bloom and covered with flowers, but I don't know how well it shares. I now have golden creeping jenny that I planted last year that's coming back much heartier than I expected. I thought it was mainly a hanging/dangling plant but it is also interesting growing along the ground. It is a light yellow-green color that makes nice contrasts. Again, this is in partial sun but it get a good blast of sun in the afternoon and seems to be pretty hearty.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2006 at 4:20PM
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ademink(z5a-5b Indianapolis)

I love ajuga - there are several varieties. The butterflies love the purple flowers when they're in bloom and I like the burgundy foliage. A definite "ditto" on sedums also - they are awesome and SO low maintenance! Creeping phlox is also good b/c it has one main rooting area and then spreads MANY feet w/o killing stuff. I also have several creeping thymes, wooly and non-wooly and they are amazing.

Ok, I've basically just parroted everyone else...LOL..but they were great answers! :)

    Bookmark   April 20, 2006 at 5:44PM
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webkat5(Z6a MO)

Creeping Jenny is nice and won't smother your other plants...spreads out fast, too...

    Bookmark   May 2, 2006 at 6:54PM
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i really like the dragons blood gets to about 6 inches.....looks like little roses.....blooms in late spring....and crawls nicely.....and if you want to transplant it....just spade up a chunk of easy.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2006 at 12:29AM
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Thanks so much for all of these posts.. I have several areas to cover so I'll try at least 4 of the suggestions. I'm really tired of weeding under only partially shading trees....

    Bookmark   May 12, 2006 at 12:19AM
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led_zep_rules(5 WI)

I have some dianthus that stays about 2-3" tall most of the time. Grows quite thick, and has a grey-blue sort of color to it so that makes it interesting to look at. Sends up taller flower stems in late spring and has nice flowers (mine are pink) but those are only around a short time. My dianthus is growing best in the sun so I am guessing it likes that. A friend gave it to me last year so I don't know the variety name. So that is another thought.


    Bookmark   May 13, 2006 at 9:18PM
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robbins(z5/6 MO)

Golden oregano works well.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2006 at 8:42AM
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Oswegian(Z5 IL)

One other advantage of sedum is beautiful fall color. I will include a link below from a small bed we have. Normally this sedum ("stonecrop") is vivid green and has a small yellow flower during bloom time.

One point to make with trimming the old stems: If you have a wide bed of this, you won't be able to reach the stems in the middle. Best to trim them in winter when you can walk on the bed without hurting the plants, IMO.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 24, 2006 at 3:26PM
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ademink(z5a-5b Indianapolis)

Huge fan of sedum of any kind. I have about 15 different varieties of the groundcovers!

    Bookmark   May 27, 2006 at 6:19PM
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username_5(banned for no reason)

oswegian, that sedum is gorgeous!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2006 at 10:28PM
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