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Weekly Express-News Article
There are several reasons that you might choose groundcovers instead of turfgrass:
· With our wonderful live oaks and other shade trees there can be too much shade for grass. There are several groundcovers that require less light than lawn grass.
Here are some groundcovers to consider:
Asiatic jasmine has shiny evergreen leaves. Left to grow naturally, it will form a rolling mat about 1-foot tall. Asiatic jasmine can grow in sun or shade. It is a pest-free low-water-use plant. A typical management scheme is to mow it every spring at the highest mower height and let it grow through the rest of the year, but it can be groomed into square edges and have a manicured look if you use a string mower. Asiatic jasmine can be established with inexpensive rooted cuttings in two-inch peat pots, but it will take two years of watering and weeding to end up with full coverage. One-gallon plants placed on 18-inch centers will fill in the first year. Deer in some neighborhoods may eat irrigated jasmine in drought, but it is not their favorite plant.
Dwarf Mexican petunia (also called dwarf Ruellia) has an attractive blue, white or pink bloom that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Deer will eat irrigated dwarf Mexican petunias in most neighborhoods. It seems to be more palatable to deer than Asiatic jasmine, but still survives in some situations with the hungry pests. Dwarf Mexican petunia will grow in sun or shade but blooms best in the sun. The plant spreads fast but does not take over the neighborhood. The foliage is dark green. A bed will reach 1-foot high. Dwarf Mexican petunia is a good xeriscape plant.
If you want a groundcover for a site too shady for St. Augustine grass, monkey grass and liriope work well. Select the height that suits your taste, from 3 – 4 inches tall for the dwarf mondo grass to 18 or 20 inches tall for grant liriope. Once established, these groundcovers require almost no maintenance and they look like grass. Monkey grass and liriope do not work in full sun and deer will eat them. They are evergreen and another low-water-use groundcover. Obtain rooted starts from another bed or from the nursery.
Juniper selections like “Bar harbor” make excellent groundcovers for full sun. There are scores of selections from which to choose, so you can find one from 4-inches to 2-feet tall. Some have a blue-green or even a red-green tint to the foliage. Deer will usually not eat juniper. They are a good xeriscape plant and usually are pest free, but spider mites sometimes attack them. Spreading junipers are available in 1- to 5-gallon containers.
Prostrate rosemary is another evergreen groundcover for full sun that deer will not eat. It reaches 1-foot tall. The upright version also makes a good groundcover if you want a taller plant (about 2-feet tall). Rosemary is such a low-water-use plant that the easiest way to kill it is to over-water. Like juniper, it is sometimes infested with spider mites.
Turk’s cap, plumbago, and shrimp plant are plants that make good tall groundcovers for sun or shade. All three have attractive blooms that are favorites of hummingbirds or butterflies. Turk’s cap has a red quarter-size flower and makes a good 2.5-feet tall cover. Plumbago sprawls to 4- or 5-feet in circumferences where there is space. It will grow 3-feet tall where there is no support on which to climb and has sky blue flowers. Shrimp plant will grow tall in some situations, but in poor soil it is easy to maintain at 2.5-feet or less. It has rust or golden colored flowers.
For more information on these groundcovers and for other ideas, visit plantanswers.com.