Saturday, April 19, 2008

Landscape and Nursery - Drought Tolerant Groundcovers

We have had a relatively dry Spring this year and coming off the drought of 2007 our subsoil moisture is very low. Landscapers and nurserymen should consider plants that are more drought tolerant. The following are some drought tolerant groundcovers.

Drought Tolerant Groundcovers

The use of any groundcover will help to stabilize the soil, reduce weeds and conserve water. Most groundcovers are less water demanding than turf. The following are groundcovers that are particularly drought-tolerant.

Aegopodium podagraria "Variegatum", Bishop's Goutweed, 8 to 10 inches; sun or shade. Assets: Light green leaves with white margins. ID: A herbaceous plant with compound leaflets that are divided into threes. Use: This spreading groundcover can become invasive when used with other plants.

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Bearberry, 6 to 12 inches; full sun to part shade. Assets: Low-growing, glossy leaved, evergreen groundcover with leaves that turn reddish in the fall. Small, white, urn-shaped flowers appear in late April to May. Bright red fruit is effective from late July through August. ID: Small obovate leaves. Use: One of the prettiest, sturdiest and most reliable groundcovers.

Cerastium tomentosum, Snow-in-Summer, 6 inches; full sun. Assets: White flowers cover the silver leaves in May and June. ID: Small linear leaves of this mat-forming herbaceous perennial are covered with white woolly hair. Use: Groundcover or edging plant.

Cotoneaster dammeri, Bearberry Cotoneaster, 1 to 1 1/2 feet. Assets: Dark green foliage is semi-evergreen. Red berries are sparsely produced. ID: Low, prostrate shrub with small leaves. Use: Excellent groundcover for banks, gentle slopes, masses, shrub borders or foundations.

Hemerocallis sp., Daylily, 1 1/2 to 4 feet; full sun or partial shade. Assets: Trumpet-shaped flowers can be found in almost any color of the rainbow. ID: Long linear leaves appear in clumps and tall flowering stems extend from the center. Use: When used in masses, daylilies make a good herbaceous groundcover.

Hypericum calycinum, Aaronsbeard St. Johnswort, 1 to 1 1/2 feet; full sun to partial shade. Assets: Bight yellow flowers bloom from June through September. ID: This semi-evergreen shrub has ascending stems with dark green leaves. Use: Hypericum makes a good groundcover because it grows quickly and effectively covers an area in a short amount of time. Mow to the ground to induce new growth each spring.

Juniperus horizontalis, Creeping Juniper, 1 to 2 feet; full sun. Assets: Low-growing shrub that forms a large mat. Foliage may be steel-blue turning plum purple in winter. ID: Most of the leaves are scale-like. Use: This extremely tolerant groundcover has many cultivars with varying habits and foliage colors.

Sedum sp., Stonecrop, 2 inches to 2 feet; full sun. Assets: Succulent green leaves and small yellow, white or pink flowers that are borne in showy flower clusters. ID: Fleshy leaves with shapes that vary between species. Use: Most sedums are mat-forming groundcovers. A number of different species are available.

Santolina chamaecyparissus, Lavender Cotton, 1 1/2 to 2 feet; full sun. Assets: This broad spreading herbaceous perennial has silver-grey, fine-textured foliage and button-like yellow flowers. ID: The pubescent leaves are pinnately divided into very small segments. Use: Santolina can be used in the rock garden, as a low hedge or as a groundcover.

Thymus serpyllum, Creeping Thyme, 3 to 6 inches tall; full sun. Assets: This mat-forming herbaceous perennial has greyish-green leaves and small, fragrant, purple flowers. ID: The small leaves have a strong mint-like odor. Use: Thyme makes an excellent groundcover around walks where the aroma is released when it is inadvertently crushed.

Excerpted from "Plant Selection for Water Conservation" by Dr. Susan Barton, UD Extension Ornamental Horticulture Specialist.

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