Friday, February 22, 2019

Shrub Blog Series - Part Five - Ground Cover Plantings

Ground cover plantings are a great solution to tricky areas in your yard such as slopes and shady spots. They are often low maintenance options that can contend with foot traffic, tough soil conditions, or provide a focal point without too much effort. Ground cover plants tend to creep or clump; they crowd out weeds and create an expanse of lush foliage. It is good to determine whether or not a particular species is considered invasive in your area as these types of plants can grow and spread quickly unless controlled by processes such as edging and deadheading. It is always recommended you work with your local nursery on selections to understand what maintenance may be required.

1. Creeping Phlox (Emerald Blue) – Creeping Phlox has many subspecies and uses, but in this case we love the Emerald Blue variety for ground cover. A single cultivar grows up to 6 inches with a 3-foot-wide spread! The color is incredibly vibrant, with deep blue flowers atop creeping stems. While they require full sun and weekly watering, they thrive in rocky terrain and do an excellent job smoothing difficult edges.

2. Japanese Pachysandra – Pachysandra, also referred to as Japanese Spurge, does very well in the shade. It provides low and compact ground cover with glossy green leaves which remain evergreen throughout the seasons, thriving even in the toughest conditions. Each cultivar grows up to 6 inches tall and 12 inches wide, and you must keep the top 3 inches of soil moist. Pachysandra boasts tiny white flowers in spring and summer and is dense enough to keep weeds down. It grows best in partial to full shade and does well in acidic soil (soil enriched with compost).

3. Sweet Woodruff – Sweet Woodruff is especially valuable for shade gardens and can provide a whimsical feel to your landscape with its star-shaped clusters of leaves and delicate white flowers. Like Pachysandra, it grows up to 6 inches tall and 12 inches wide, but its root system creeps indefinitely and can become invasive if not controlled by methods such as spade edging. Because of this, you may want to be mindful about placement. Dried Sweet Woodruff has a lovely vanilla scent. It does not need to be fertilized and only needs watering in times of drought, so it is very easy to care for.

4. Foamflower – Foamflower is a clumping ground cover option growing up to 12 inches high and spreading from 1 to 3 feet. For about 4-6 weeks in the spring, white or pinkish feathery flowers bloom on long stems bursting out of multi-lobed dark green leaves. During the fall and winter, sometimes these leaves can change to tones of reddish bronze. They do well in part sun or shaded areas, with neutral well-watered soil.

5. Creeping Juniper (Blue Rug) – Creeping Juniper is a coniferous ground cover that will grow up to 2 feet tall and spread 8 feet or more. Mature plants have somewhat scaly green leaves, although this particular variety has a silver-blue hue. In the fall and winter, the leaves turn to a purplish red color. Creeping Juniper is an excellent solution for slopes and erosion control. In addition to its spreading habits which are perfect for large ground cover, it can also be used to cascade over walls. Creeping Juniper does require full sun and occasional watering especially during droughts, but can thrive in almost any type of soil.

6. Carpet Bugle (Burgundy Glow) – Carpet Bugle (sometimes called “bugleweed”) is ground cover best seen up close. At up to 4 inches in height and 12 inches wide, it is one of the smaller options on our list, but it makes a stunning solution for tough partial shaded spots. The foliage is very unique with burgundy-tinged, pale green and cream leaves and deep blue flower spikes. They will do just fine in partial to full sun with weekly watering, and prefer rich soils. The more sun, the better the foliage color will be.

In Part Six, we will be discussing one of our favorite categories: Specimen and Accent Plants! These are the showstoppers and with so many options, it will be tough to pick under 10 varieties, but stay tuned!

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