Looking for drought resistant groundcover, steep slope

Kim_4September 5, 2011

I have spent years seeking a drought resistant groundcover (preferrably blooming) that will survive our very hot summers in NC,on a very steep slope that is impossible to mow. I need something that requires little to no care (slope is not near house or water source). The real problems are no water is available (at least easily available), poor soil, deer, full sun, and like I said, very steep slope. The area I need to cover is about 100 ft. I have tried various grasses, I was told to try vinca (too hot for it), verbena became very scraggly, daylillies are not really spreading well, etc. I do have (please bear with my spelling) Muhlu grass (the pink puffs at the end of the stalks). However, it is just maintaining its green color and no pink occurred over the past two years. I thought about crown vetch, but, nurseries are trying to talk me out of it. I truly need some very sound advice. I would greatly appreciate it. The weeds are very unappealing!

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I also have a very steep slope. We have put in blue pacific junipers. I realize they don't bloom but they are supposed to grow faster than a regular evergreen. I have seen these on other slopes that have made a nice "carpet" so I am hoping they will do the same for us.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2011 at 7:15AM
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Thank you for the suggestion. However, my neighbor has also planted the blue pacific junipers and they are sparse with wide gaps between each plant. They have actually been established for well over 8 years now. So, I didn't want to go that route. I'm truly at a lost.

I hope that they work well for you.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 9:04PM
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How about Phlox subulata, creeping Phlox. Nice spring bloomer, looks like juniper the rest of the year.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 9:21PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

I would recommend phlox subulata (commonly called "thrift") also. Good ground covers for sunny, dry sites are few and far between. This is the best that I know of. If possible, Round up all the weeds first, then plant as closely together as you can possibly afford. The more plants you put in, the quicker they will cover, and the fewer weeds that will get back in them. If the soil is poor, this plant will not spread very quickly, so again, plant as many as you can. Once established, it's tough.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 1:45PM
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Chameleon Plant (Houttuynia) can be invasive but could work.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 10:33PM
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Kim, I have the same problem, but my approach is a little different. I'm killing the grass and weeds a section at a time and making a hillside rock garden, with lots of patches of creeping thyme (blooms in spring and very drought tolerant) creeping phlox (loves the rocks), and sedums, with ornamental grasses and perennials mixed in, like iris, blanket flower, Stella daylily, crosmia, red, blue and purple sages, all drought tolerant.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2011 at 9:27PM
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Thank you for the suggestions. I was just thinking that I could put liriope since it is so fast spreading. Then I read some of your suggestions. I guess I could put a few "boulders" or rocks and plant phlox for the spring time. Love the idea of intermingling other perennials too.

Great ideas! Hopefully this will end my dilemma.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 9:58AM
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Kim, do try creeping thyme if nothing else. It makes a great drought resistant cover and when it blooms the honeybees love it! Plus it's great for cooking and mostly evergreen. Try some in green beans and spagetti sauce. It's a very useful plant.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 1:43PM
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Dear Kim 4 7 NC,
Though all these suggestions are fine and dandy, they are horticultural wimps that will take a king's ransom to purchase in adequate numbers and, then, a considerable amount of time to grow sufficiently to cover a steep bank. What you should go for is horticultural vigor and vitality. In a word: kudzu. It has a talent for growing lushly and covering virtually anything in its path. In addition, it has beautiful purple racemes of wisteria-like flowers in late summer--very fragrant, too.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2011 at 10:59PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

Wedelia. It has small yellow flowers. Our neighbors in 9a used it with great success. He passed away and she ripped it out. Down went the bank they had saved for years.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 3:01PM
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We too have two steep hills in our backyard that get barely any water. We're in north GA. When we bought the house there were clumps of English Ivy, obviously doing terribly. You could see the awful erosion all around the clumps. We planted the spreading type of liriope two years ago, and let me tell you we planted three hundred clumps and five have spread so far. We planted the orange wild daylilies here and there, they have become huge and have started to spread. I stuck giant daffodil bulbs and some vinca minor in spots, they are both doing well so far. I will tell you I have creeping phlox out front with good soil and water, and it has covered everything it can reach (hard to weed in). I stuck two of the same plants out back in a corner of the hill to see how it did, and both are the same exact size two years later. Just my two cents to add, hope I helped!

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 11:59AM
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What about ajuga? I'm a northern gardener transplanted into the south, and am still learning. We stuck some ajuga under a tree out back in soil that is cracked like a desert all summer and it has spread like wildfire! Just a thought :)

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 12:01PM
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lonewoof(z7 SC)

Oh, Lord, PLEASE don't advise ANYONE to plant KUDZU! It will take over EVERYTHING -- the steep bank, the rest of the yard, whatever is beyond that -- and you'll NEVER get rid of it!
Liriope can be just as bad; I spent MANY hours last spring pulling up liriope volunteers in my lawn. And the contributors are on my neighbor's property, so I can't do anything about them!
(What's the complaint about crown vetch?)

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 2:56PM
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Houttuynia cordata is extremely invasive,it will spread quickly for sure and by year 4 or 5 be unstoppable. It is attractive and variegated in color, reds, white, dark green but cannot be contained to the desired space. If you ever try to get rid of it you've got the fight of your life. Why it is still being sold I don't know - bad weed.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2011 at 10:11AM
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You could go with Hardy Cactus (Opuntia humifusa--native to the East coast from Cape Cod to FLorida). They do bloom (bright yellow flowers in June), and are deer-proof. But they do have both those little prickly thorns AND some long sharp ones. I love them!--Keeps out the deer and potential, human trespassers by the way. I have them planted on the south/HOT side of the house along with hardy Ice Plants (Delosperma cooperi--another succulent with pretty blooms).

    Bookmark   October 25, 2011 at 6:19PM
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topsiebeezelbub(z7 Al)

If you haven't already planted this area I would go with your idea...liriope. I have tried and lost most everything else mentioned; unless you have irrigation it would be difficult to keep anything alive. I have had success with lamiastrum, but even that needs water until established. Liriope can be very pretty, and virtually care free. The rock garden idea is great if you have time, money and water.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2012 at 12:37AM
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I am afraid ajuga and lamiastrum are not really very drought-resistant, or? Liriope works for me; of course it looks boring. I also have large and thriving clumps of kniphofia on my dry steep slope, I keep dividing them. But if even periwinkle died, it is an uncommonly problem area.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2012 at 12:43PM
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greyghost61(8b SoWeGa)

I agree with njoasis. There are dozens of opuntia that will grow where you are and they all have nice flowers. I have about 2 dozen varieties that I grow in my yard and when they bloom, it is astounding. Another good benifit aside from the no upkeep, being deer proof and blooms. Most varieties have fruit that taste good and is good for you.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 7:33PM
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