Monday, August 26, 2013

Groundcover Warning: Blue Star Creeper, Pratia pedunculata, Laurentia fluviatils, Isotoma fluviatilis


Blue Star Creeper, pretty flowers, pretty aggressive, pretty finicky about growing conditions, etc.

Blue Star Creeper, a.k.a. Pratia pedunculata, Laurentia fluviatilis or Isotoma fluviatilis

Pros:

- Spreads fairly quickly. Tiny plants 2-3 square inches can form an expanding patch 10-15 feet wide within 2-3 years.

- Profusion of charming light blue flowers in spring for several weeks. Bloomed starting mid-May this year and was still covered in flowers in early June. In cool summer climates, Blue Star Creeper might bloom all summer. I say that because our temperatures have been cooler than average most of this summer (highs in the mid-80s or lower many days) and Blue Star Creeper started reblooming in late July. The flowers do seem to attract some small bees, wasps and/or hoverflies.

- In spring, the foliage can make a lush green carpet.

- Tough. Survives heat, cold, drought and wet conditions (though it may not look good in the process).


Cons:


I ripped up a patch of Blue Star Creeper here a couple of weeks ago. Clearly I did not get it all, because bits and pieces are creeping back. Gonna have to try to dig it out again. Could take a few tries (at least) to eradicate Blue Star Creeper from a garden bed.

- Hard to control. Blue Star Creeper spreads on below-ground rhizomes. And it tends to travel a little...unpredictably, not necessarily advancing in a straight line, but suddenly popping up several feet away. When I decided that Blue Star Creeper was insinuating itself where I did not want it, I started digging with my Cobra weeder and found that Blue Star Creeper had made a thick web of white roots below the surface (see photo below). When you try to uproot this Creeper, the roots are likely to break, leaving bits and pieces below ground to resprout. This extensive underground root system makes controlling or eradicating Blue Star Creeper a challenging proposition - at least through manual means. (I have not tried spraying it with any herbicide because I tend to avoid using such chemicals when possible.) Since the plant grows so close to the ground and the leaves are so small, that also makes it hard to get a grip to pull up a patch. The fact that Blue Star Creeper is an invasive exotic is another strike against it since we can't count on co-evolved predators or pathogens to keep it under control. That being said, at least Blue Star Creeper is diminutive. Generally it only grows a few inches tall, so at least it's not about to climb and strangle a tree as kudzu might.

These roots are just a small representative sample of the web that Blue Star Creeper has woven underneath the soil. It's pretty scary stuff. My advice -- stay far, far away. I imagine I'll be fighting to get rid of this for years to come. I wouldn't mind having a small patch, but I don't think that's possible unless I wanted to grow Blue Star Creeper in a pot.


Not native to the U.S. The nomenclature is very confusing on Blue Star Creeper, but according to Paghat, there are actually two different species that are frequently marketed under the same common name, one from Australia and one from New Zealand.

- Doesn't block weeds all that well. Blue Star Creeper's small size may be an asset in terms of making it not-that-thuggish, but it also makes it only partially effective as a weed-blocker. So it's kind of a lose-lose situation - the Blue Star Creeper insinuates itself like a weed, but it's not actually thick or tall enough to shade out other weeds like clover. And as Paghat says, "some weeds are practically nursed by the mat of [Blue Star Creeper] foliage, and weeding will mean ripping out big patches of the ...creeper."

- It just doesn't look that good much of the year. Heat and cold and drought and wetness may not kill it, but they can make it look like Hell warmed over. More specifically, in cold weather, the plant may brown and sort of disappear under the soil. In hot weather (especially in full Tennessee sun) the plant may bake to a crisp and disappear. In drought, you guessed it, Blue Star Creeper pulls a disappearing act. That's sort of a pity, because if the plant were green and mat-forming all year, at least I could consider using it as a lawn alternative (assuming that deep metal or plastic edging could control its spread...which I don't know for sure). It's so low-growing that at least it never needs mowing!


Conclusion:

To sum up, Blue Star Creeper is aggressive, invasive (in the U.S.), offers poor weed suppression and has low aesthetic appeal for much of the year. I can't recommend Blue Star Creeper for the Southeast and I certainly would urge caution before adding it to your garden. Read some of the other negative experiences that Dave's Garden reviewers have had. Blue Star Creeper is one of the few plants that I regret planting. I'm now trying to undo that mistake and warn others from making the same error.

PS - If you'd like to stay abreast of the latest developments at Garden of Aaron, you can now subscribe via email! Totally convenient, totally free - what could be nicer?

73 comments:

  1. Did you ever try growing it in a pot?

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    1. I have not tried this, Laura.

      It's probably a good option if you'd like to have the plant, but don't want it to spread.

      (I should qualify that by saying I don't know if it can spread by seed as well as by roots. In my garden, it only spread by roots, but I'm not able to categorically rule out the possibility of self-sowing...)

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    2. Was thinking about this for a lawn replacement for the Pacific Northwest since it has already found a home in my lawn, and not on my paths where it was placed originally.

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    3. Thanks for the comment. Blue star creeper seems to work better as a garden plant in the PNW than in lots of other climates.

      I could see where it would make sense as a lawn replacement (probably would never need mowing), but you might want to think about strategies to keep it from invading any flower beds etc.

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    4. Aaron, we live in zone 8 and are looking for ground cover for a hill along the carport. What would you recommend?

      Thank you,

      Russ

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    5. Hi Russ, Thanks for your comment. A few questions:

      1) What part of zone 8 do you live in? Zone 8 could be Deep South or coastal Pacific Northwest?

      2) Do you have sun, shade or a mix on the hill?

      3) Do you prefer a woody or herbaceous groundcover? How tall a groundcover do you want? Do you want something vigorous (that you may need to prune) or slower growing but less maintenance down the road?

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    6. Hi Aaron!


      I was original thinking to use blue star creeper but now re-thinking that decision. :)

      Since you've offered graciously suggestions to few other people, could you offer a suggestion for me as well. I need laws cover for mostly shaded area, something that can withstand foot traffic (including an active toddler), low maintenance / prefer no mowing, drought tolerant. We live in California / San Francisco area, zone 8. Thank you!

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    7. Hi Ayka,

      Thanks for your comment!

      I'd like to help, but I don't know much about California gardening.

      This could be a good place to start - http://www.sfgate.com/homeandgarden/article/Native-ground-covers-the-perfect-glove-and-East-3237900.php

      It's got some good suggestions of groundcovers for sun and shade, but I think the "foot traffic" bit is going to be the hard part.

      Lots more ideas here - http://www.sfpublicworks.org/sites/default/files/856-Recommended%20Drought%20Tolerant%20Plant%20List.pdf

      Of the shade-tolerant plants recommended there, some of the sedges and the strawberries (Fragaria spp.) might be tolerant of a decent amount of foot traffic.

      (If you're just talking about a path through the groundcovers, you could consider putting down some stepping stones. I'm not sure any/many of those shade groundcovers will withstand playground-type foot traffic...)

      I will say that the eastern wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) has been very tough and hardy for me. It even tried to spread into the lawn, so it would probably do fine with foot traffic. But it spread so fast that I'm removing it. Couldn't deal with 10-feet of lateral growth in a year! (It sounds nice if you're trying to cover a lot of ground, but not so nice if you'd like to keep the strawberries out of your lawn, patio, bushes, other perennials, etc.)

      If you have sandy soil especially, I'd encourage you to think of the beach strawberry. It's native to California, which is especially important if you're choosing a spreading-type plant - http://bonap.net/MapGallery/County/Fragaria%20chiloensis.png

      Good luck! If you find something that works for you, please come back and post another comment that might benefit other gardeners in your situation :)

      PS - I'd also suggest visiting the SF Botanical Garden or other nearby gardens and talking to the gardeners and volunteers there about your challenge. They probably would have some other useful suggestions!

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    8. Thank you for the references! I know I'm looking for something almost impossible but I'm optimistic to find it. Visiting local botanical gardens is an excellent suggestion as well.

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    9. My pleasure. The foot-traffic bit is probably the greatest challenge, but I hope you can find something that meets at least most of your criteria! Happy gardening :)

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  2. Ok. I'm going to give it a chance in a pot that is on the patio and far away from my herb/flower garden. Thanks

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  3. Thanks so much, I was deciding between Elfin Thyme and Blue Star Creeper. Appreciate the information re creeper's invasive quality.

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    1. My pleasure, Sonia.

      Yep, I'd go with the thyme. I haven't grown creeping thyme myself, but I've heard good things about it.

      Does your groundcover have to be able to handle foot traffic? Because if not, I have a few other suggestions I could throw your way...

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    2. I am in 7b and I would love other suggestions. I have a walkway where half of it gets 4-6 hrs of sun/day and the other half gets none! LOL I literally don't know what to plant between my flagstones....any suggestions would be great! I'm thinking one that doesn't NEED sun but doesn't mind it either! ;)

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    3. Hi Christy,

      Happy to try to help. Are you in the Southeastern U.S.?

      In partial sun, you could try Teucrium chamaedrys 'Prostata' (creeping germander), Coreopsis auriculata 'Nana' (mouse-ear tickseed) or Chrysogonum virginianum (green-and-gold).

      With the first two plants, you might need to use a clippers or a mower to cut them back once a year in the winter if you're planning on growing them in a path.

      I've had good luck with the first two species, not so much with the green-and-gold, but it's grown very well for some other garden bloggers I know, so I probably just did something wrong.

      Let's see, for the part of the walkway in full shade, I think I'd suggest trying an Epimedium ('Frohnleiten' has been the best for me) or maybe Robin's plantain (Erigeron pulchellus). Actually, Robin's plantain would probably grow very well in partial sun too, so if you just wanted a single species, that could work nicely. It has rather tall flower stalks in the spring, but if you found they interfered with the walkway, you could just cut them off and I don't think it would rebloom.

      Another idea for the fully shady spot -- might also work with 4 hours of morning sun, but probably wouldn't be happy getting blasted with 4 hours of afternoon sun -- would be Mitchella repens (partridgeberry). It would probably send out runners across your flagstones, but it's quite a slow grower and VERY low to the ground, so I don't think that would be hassle for you. In fact, the only real drawback is that it's such a slow grower that it might take a few years for it to fill in among your flagstones.

      My final suggestions would be ajuga (ideally A. genevensis) or wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), but both of those send out runners, and I can't imagine you'd be happy seeing the runners criss-crossing your flagstones. They are both happy in sun or shade though.

      Oh one other idea -- what about simply using moss among the flagstones, especially in the full shade areas? I don't know whether your flagstones are close together (1-2 inches of space between them) or farther apart (6 inches?), but I think moss could be lovely, especially if the stones are quite close together. I'm no expert on moss, but if you have some moss already growing on your property in shady places, you could try transplanting some to the area between the flagstones. Actually, depending on the species of moss, I'm sure you could probably find one that would do OK in partial sun as well. I think I actually have more moss on my property in partial sun than in shade, although the moss does seem to go 'dormant' (not sure if that's the right term for moss) during hot and dry weather, it returns and expands during cooler and rainier seasons.

      Hope this helps!! :) Please let me know what you try and how it turns out. Best of luck to you!!

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  4. I'm so glad I just happened upon your blog! I was considering Blue Star Creeper for my garden, and after reading your assessment, I know it's not right for me. I'm in Indiana, and I also have heavy clay soil. I have spent years chasing Winter Creeper, Vinca and Obedient Plant (an oxymoron) around the garden in an attempt to eradicate it, and I can see I would be doing the same with Blue Star. I have a rather formal, structured garden, and I need plants that won't misbehave. Thank you.

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    1. I'm happy my blog post could save you from repeating my mistake, Dawn!

      Isn't it sad that someone gave 'Obedient' plant its name? Shouldn't it be called 'Disobedient Plant' or 'Naughty Plant'? LOL :D

      Hope you get more useful information from Garden of Aaron blog. Feel free to comment again anytime!!

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  5. Actually, I love this ground creeper. It looks so whimsical and divides easily. I do however have a problem with the clover growing along with it. I just soak the ground extensively and the clover comes out pretty easily. Any star creeper that is removed during this process grows back easily and quickly anyway. I have recv'd nothing but compliments. It does however look rough after our winters in the Okanagan but looks beautiful again in April. We have extremely hot summers and it blooms for me in all locations in my yard all summer. I love this stuff!

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    1. I'm happy to hear that it works well for you!

      Have you found it to be invasive / spreading out of control? Or is that not a concern for you?

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    2. I have blue star creeper that was started under some azaleas (seattle area) Unfortunately, it "crept" into our grass, and I don't know how to get rid of it there. I can yank and pull it out from under shrubs, but it is like my once-tidy grass is half blue and half green. I long ago tried to do without harsh chemicals, but I am wondering if there is anything that will kill the creeper and not the grass . . . any suggestions?

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    3. Thanks for your question, anon.

      Unfortunately, I don't have any easy answers for you, although I think your story is a cautionary tale about the risks of planting invasive exotic plants.

      A few suggestions:

      1) Maybe if you let the grass grow long, it would shade out the blue star creeper?

      2) You could of course spray a non-selective herbicide (taking all reasonable precautions) that would kill the grass and (presumably) the creeper. Then you could reseed. I don't know what would be the best time to do that in your zone, but midsummer (at least in the Southeast) is not generally a good time to try to reseed a lawn.

      3) You could try a broadleaf weed killer. I'm not sure if blue star creeper is susceptible to broadleaf weed killers though. You'd have to check the bottle, ask the manufacturer or spot-treat a small area.

      Generally speaking, I try to avoid spraying any herbicides. I will admit I have occasionally used Roundup and I have also sprayed a product that contains chelated iron, which can be somewhat effective on broadleaf weeds while not hurting grass. (The iron product I bought is no longer available, but there are other products with iron on the market now such as - http://www.amazon.com/BAYER-NATRIA-KILLER-CONC-Bottles/dp/B004Q0BQ6C/ref=sr_1_1?s=lawn-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1434196523&sr=1-1&keywords=iron+weeds) One downside to the products that contain iron is that you are not supposed to spray the grass when the high temperature will be over 80 or 85. At that temperature, the grass may suffer too, although supposedly it recovers faster than most weeds.

      I'm really sorry you are suffering this problem with blue star creeper. Hopefully your experience will serve as a cautionary tale to warn others about the risks of planting this groundcover in an area where it has the potential to spread out of control.

      PS - Another option, hard as it sounds, might be simply to learn to tolerate the weed in the grass. Blue star creeper is so low growing that it shouldn't overwhelm the grass. And like I said, if you let the grass grow long, hopefully it wouldn't even be that noticeable...

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    4. I sprayed the blue star creeper with a product for killing clover. It worked well and didn't hurt the grass.

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    5. Thanks for the update!

      Just out of curiosity, do you remember what product you sprayed? I have quite a bit of clover in my grass, some of which I can tolerate, but some of which can get out of control and/or try to invade the perennial beds. I could use something to knock it back a bit...

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  6. I live in coastal South Carolina, what ground cover would you recommend? Something instead of grass that can tolerate some foot traffic. Thanks.

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    1. Hi Nancy,

      Thanks for your question. I can think of lots of possible groundcovers for SC, but the foot traffic requirement does make it a bit trickier.

      Perhaps yarrow (Achillea millefolium) might work? http://articles.latimes.com/1992-12-20/realestate/re-4398_1_yarrow-lawn (I'm just growing it for the first time myself this year, but so far it seems very tough, spreading nicely and tolerating repeated clipping by rabbits.)

      I think Ajuga (A. reptans or another species such as A. genevensis) could probably tolerate some foot traffic http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/giam/plants_and_grasses/grasses_lawncare/ajuga.html

      If you're OK with an ornamental grass (not a turf grass), you could try Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama). It's not native to South Carolina, but it does grow naturally in southern Alabama, so I would think it should tolerate your climate and conditions http://www.northcreeknurseries.com/plantName/Bouteloua-curtipendula-, http://bonap.net/TDC/Image/Map?taxonType=Species&taxonId=17813&locationType=County&mapType=Normal

      Sedges look like grasses, but they are not actually grasses. I think many (or at least some) are supposed to be able to tolerate foot traffic. See this page for more details - http://nativeplantwildlifegarden.com/native-sedges-why-you-should-carex/

      I've never tried it myself, but you could consider Phyla nodiflora (frogfruit). It's native to your area (coastal SC) and reportedly serves as a butterfly host, while also attracting lots of pollinators to its flowers, but it stays very low-growing - http://bonap.net/MapGallery/County/Phyla%20nodiflora.png. Reportedly takes foot traffic https://ag.arizona.edu/pima/gardening/aridplants/Lippia_nodiflora.html. It has a reputation as being an aggressive grower, so I don't know whether containing its spread (e.g., keeping it out of flower beds) would be an issue. You might need some sort of edging material to keep it at bay. On the other hand, if it spreads out of control, at least it's a native, so you don't need to worry about having upset the apple cart of your local ecosystem.

      Hope these suggestions are helpful!

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  7. Thank you SO MUCH for posting this warning. I was minutes away from putting my blue star creeper into the ground, and wanted to do a quick check on its hardiness. Now I will keep it in a large pot. I have been battling invasive bindweed, wiregrass, chameleon plant, and plumbago and cannot deal with another thing that I can't pull out and won't go away!!

    By the way, I have had great success with "mother of thyme" and lemon thyme as lovely and manageable groundcovers. They do well in Virginia (zone 6B) in both full sun and half shade, and actually do fine in moist soil as long as it is well drained. Mother of thyme is extremely low growing and does take very light direct foot traffic. Mine is planted between widely spaced stepping stones and holds up to not only foot traffic, but my somewhat heavy use of a wheelbarrow along that path as well. It might do great in coastal South Carolina.

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    1. Happy to help!

      When you say 'plumbago' has been a problem, do you mean the hardy blue plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) or leadwort/skyflower (Plumbago auriculata)?

      The hardy blue plumbago has not spread as quickly as blue star creeper, but it's starting to make me nervous. I think I may have found a seedling 20-30 feet away from the main patch.

      I can't grow skyflower here because it's not hardy.

      Thanks for the advice on mother of thyme and lemon thyme! I've been thinking of growing some thyme as a groundcover, but had heard that it melted out in high summer heat and humidity. Good to know that has not been your experience in Virginia! :)

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    2. Hi Aaron. I have trouble with hardy blue plumbago, ceratostigma plumbaginoides. I have it in a small dry, hot sunny patch where it is well behaved, and has been a stable clump for several years. However, in another open bed with loose good soil and late afternoon shade, it root runs like crazy. It is a rhizome. I have pulled and dug it out for the past 3 years, don't let it flower, and it still pops up several feet away from its origin and continues to spread. I think it seems to be less aggressive in beds that are heavily planted and where its roots compete with other plants.

      The trick with the thymes (all of them) is to clip or shear them back after they flower in early summer, and shape them in late spring when they break dormancy. I will clip mine typically twice over the summer, heavily about mid-to-late June, and again very lightly in early September. It keeps them nicely rounded and not straggly. Maria

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    3. Well, I'd like to reciprocate by thanking you for warning me about hardy blue plumbago.

      I tried growing it in full sun, but it couldn't stand the summer heat here in TN so it died out (I believe).

      But it's thriving in a partial shade (morning sun) bed and like I said has popped up 20-30 feet away, so I'm thinking I'll probably try to pull and dig a lot of it out this fall. Yet another exotic groundcover causing issues!

      Thanks for the advice on caring for the thyme. Do they tend to be long-lived in your garden? And do you garden on clay, sand or loam? I notice you said they do fine on moist soil (which is good to know as our soil is often damp in winter and spring), but how about summer drought tolerance?

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    4. So, I have had thyme here in both clay and loamy soil. It does fine in both, especially if clay has a light mulch as their roots are relatively shallow and run. The mother plants crowns are not long lived, about 2-3 years. It may be because we have wet snowy winters. Mother of thyme is hardiest and does not (here in my garden) have crown die out. But as thyme creeps it roots, and starts new plants, which in turn live 2-3 years. I find that lemon thyme and the others tend to move around a bit as their roots establish new plants, If needed, I simply rearrange/replant the new smaller clumps in spring. I will let them go a long time without rain, but will not let them go more than 3 weeks in our hot summer without a drink. I think as arid climate natives they will survive without a lot of moisture, but when they get water regularly, they thrive!

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    5. This is all great information! Thanks so much. I think I'll try planting some thyme next spring :)

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    6. I accidently happened upon your blog and you saved my garden! I am installing a flagstone walkway/patio where grass would not grow because it is too shady. I was just about to order a flat of the blue star ground cover. I am so glad I found out in time that it is the devil! Thank you!! and to all your readers too! Now my question is what do I plant in it's place? I am in Portland Oregon which is generally a wet, temperate climate although last year we had many days of 100 degree heat. We just finished a solid month of rain. My soil is great as I live in an older home where the yard has been enriched over a number of years, good dark loamy soil! Your advice please. Thank you for all your information!

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    7. Happy to have saved your garden :)

      You could check this PDF for some ideas that are appropriate to your region - http://www.oregonmetro.gov/sites/default/files/native_plants_for_willamette_valley_yards_booklet.pdf

      Just hit "Control + F" and search for "groundcover".

      A few ideas that popped out at me from the guide would be wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana), Oregon redwood sorrel (Oxalis oregana) and Erigeron glaucus (seaside daisy).

      Good luck and please don't hesitate to return and let us all know what worked for you! Happy Gardening!!

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    8. Hi Aaron,

      I have a similar question but I live in Washington D.C. (Zone 6b or 7 I believe). Part shady patio looking for grass substitutes. Was looking into mazus reptans or blue star, area is about 100 squ feet of flat surface with a short walway with flagstones.

      What could be good ground covers?

      Many thanks in advance!

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    9. Hi Ratiba,

      Well, I still think that Fragaria virginiana (wild strawberry) could be a good option.

      Or maybe golden groundsel, Packera obovata (http://bonap.net/MapGallery/County/Packera%20obovata.png, http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=e397)?

      You could also try Erigeron pulchellus (Robin's plantain, http://bonap.net/MapGallery/County/Erigeron%20pulchellus.png, http://www.northcreeknurseries.com/plantName/Erigeron-pulchellus-var-pulchellus-Lynnhaven-Carpet)

      If you have enough sun, yarrow (Achillea millefolium) or 'Blue Spruce' sedum might work...

      I can also recommend 'Biokovo' geranium - it's not-native, but not at all aggressive (at least for me) and easy to remove if it goes someplace you don't want it (http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=s870).

      Do not - I repeat, do NOT - plant Geranium sanguineum. I once used to recommend it as a groundcover, but have found it both less attractive and far more aggressive/invasive than Biokovo geranium.

      Good luck! If one of these (or something else) ends up working out for you, please come back and let us know!! :)

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  8. I planted mother of thyme, scotch moss, and yellow veronica in between stepping stones as a test to see which could make it through our hot, dry summers here in Fort Worth. In July the veronica died,the scotch moss still has a little green left as of mid august, but the mother of thyme is the winner! Still green and spreading!
    I'm glad I read your article, as I was looking to get some blue star! No way! I have spent most of the summer trying to get the ajuga that the previous owner of the house planted out of my yard, it everywhere! And yes, you are right, you can walk on it.

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    1. For some reason, I don't mind the Ajuga. So far, it has been well-behaved -- spreading through the beds where I want it, but not the lawn. Then again, I don't actually like grass, so if it started spreading into adjacent lawn areas, I'd probably just try removing the grass in hopes the ajuga would take over those spots so I could plant perennials and shrubs among it.

      Thanks for another recommendation on mother of thyme. Sounds like I must try this groundcover. If it can thrive in Fort Worth, I'd say the odds are good it can perform well in Nashville too!!! :)

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  9. I live in Arizona and we have two large trees that have caused our lawn to disappear. I'm trying to find a good ground cover that will stand up to 115 degree temps in the summer and sometimes 20 degree temps in the winter. I'd like something that will be thick enough to represent a lawn, but not necessarily grass. Any suggestions?

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    1. Wow. That's quite a tall order.

      Have you tried contacting your local Agricultural Extension agent and/or visiting your nearest botanical garden to get ideas? It's likely that most of the plants that would do well for you in AZ are very different from the ones that would thrive in TN.

      Here's a publication from University of AZ with plenty of groundcover suggestions. I've never tried most of these plants, but I have grown Ajuga, which does quite well for me in partial shade and can spread to make a nice lawn alternative.

      I've also grown the prostrate germander (Teucrium chamaedrys) and that too does very well for me in partial shade.

      Good luck! Hope some of the ideas in the publication work out for you - http://extension.arizona.edu/sites/extension.arizona.edu/files/pubs/az1110.pdf

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    2. Thank you for your quick response. I will look at the publication with great hope!! I've talked to local garden stores, etc., but they couldn't come up with any good suggestions either. If I succeed in finding something that works, I'd be happy to let you know so maybe you can pass it along to someone else in my situation. Thank you again!

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    3. My pleasure :)

      Please do report back if you find something that works well as a groundcover for you.

      As you say, it's certainly possible that I'll face a similar question again in the future and so I'd love to be able to offer advice from a position of greater knowledge.

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  10. Hi Aaron.

    I came across your blog while researching Isotoma. Im glad you shared your experience because now I know its not for me. Im in Zone 9b, Northern Cali. Temps range from 30 on occassion to over 100 on occassion. Temps are normally right in between, those are extremes. My soil is packed clay so I guess regardless of what I put I'll have to greatly amend the soil. I'd like a groundcover for the borders of my yard, maybe something that can take light foot traffic. any ideas?

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    1. Hi there! Thanks for your comment.

      I'd encourage you to look into native plants. Perhaps a perennial like California fuchsia (Epilobium canum) or a low-growing shrub like coast buckwheat (Eriogonum latifolium)?

      If you go with a native, the odds are that the plant will have a better chance of thriving in your local environment -- and perhaps contributing to the ecosystem -- without a lot of coddling or inputs from you.

      Since Northern California natives are very different from Tennessee natives, I'd encourage you to visit one of your local botanic gardens (San Francisco? Oakland?) and ask some of the gardeners there for advice on tough, clay-tolerant native plants.

      Regarding soil amendments, you'll probably hear a lot of contradictory advice from different sources. Personally, I have dreadful compacted clay 'soil' in my yard and yet I amend only minimally when I plant.

      I have a few reasons for adopting the minimal amendment approach:

      1) Organic amendments will decompose and eventually you'll be back to whatever soil you started with.

      2) I believe gardening should generally be a low-cost and low-input activity open to everyone. Amendments can get costly - especially if you want to heavily amend a large area.

      3) Amending clay soil is backbreaking work. I'd rather avoid it if I can.

      4) Unless you amend your whole yard, the roots of trees, shrubs and even spreading perennials will want to move outside of the planting hole you've amended. If the soil *inside* the planting hole is nice and loose, the roots may just circle within that hole rather than venturing out into the big, bad world beyond. Circling roots are Bad. By only lightly amending the soil - and trying to mix up whatever amendments I do add into the clay - I hope to convince the plants that their roots might just as well explore as stay put.

      5) This may be more of a concern in the Southeast where I believe our annual rainfalls are much higher than in Northern California, but amending clay soil risks creating a 'bathtub effect' where the amended hole collects water and drowns whatever plant it holds. If you are going to amend on clay soil, the advice I've read that makes most sense to me is to mound the soil up and plant high to increase the plant's chances of survival.

      6) Not every plant needs well-drained loam. Some plants need sand. Some thrive in muck or swamps. Rather than trying to re-engineer your land, I'd encourage you to try to figure out which plants might thrive under the conditions you already have.

      Good luck! Please don't hesitate to visit again and report back on your experiments!

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  11. Hi, Aaron.

    Thanks for your advise. This will be a Japanese garden so I thought the groundcover would help with my other problem and stay within the Japanese theme. Namely, since we're in a drought I took a sod cutter and removed the water-sucking lawn. I was going to put weed fabric on most of the yard with decorative rocks on top. But now I'm left with hardpacked clay on top. Then we had some heavy rains and large portions of the yard flooded with muddy water. I'm afraid that if I had the fabric and rock, it would all become muddy and contaminate after the next rain storms. I was thinking that groundcover could help absorb that water and prevent flooding. Portions of the yard were under about 2" of muddy water.

    Ill check out those plant ideas and see what'll work. This muddy water really put a damper on the whole project. Oh well. Thanks again

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    1. Ah. I see. I didn't know you were going for a Japanese theme.

      Maybe you need to see if a landscaper can install some sort of drain (I think there's one called a 'French drain') that could reduce the flooding problem and allow you to put down decorative rocks?

      Word of warning with the weed fabric -- I have not tried it myself, but I've heard horror stories from gardeners who tried it and then had weeds germinate either on top of the fabric or break through the fabric. Unless you have first-hand knowledge that this works in your region, I'd encourage you to find some other way to keep down weeds.

      In my experience, the only long-term (and most eco-friendly) solution to block weeds is by outcompeting them with other plants! :)

      Here are some more groundcover options for you - http://www.laspilitas.com/garden/groundcover.html

      Be aware that drought-tolerant plants often need good drainage. There are often exceptions though to that rule, it can just take a bit of digging (and talking with local experts) to find them!

      Good luck :) :)

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  12. Hi Aaron

    Great advise again! The "deeper" problem is I have bindweed also. This stuff is horrible and a losing battle. it was even infiltrating and invading the lawn. The roots of these plants go very deep and spread voraciously. It chokes out other plants in its path; hence the name bindweed. Unfortunately, the only remedy I've found is weed killer. I know bad stuff. but I've tried pulling it out, digging it out to no avail. ive read that pouring hot boiling water can slow their growth. But thats a ton of water for my whole yard. Also goats will eat the active sprigs, but i've no goats I can borrow. They only thing that controls its spread is the weed killer. If you can share ideas that's great.

    The weed fabric isn't the best choice I know. I've used it before and yes weeds grow through it or on top of it. But for the most part the weeds are much easier to control and with the decorative rock it provides a base. Without the fabric, the decorative rocks would start to sink into the mud and become contaminated even quicker. At $100/cu yard for some of them, the rocks are not cheap.

    I cant install a French drain as I've no graded path from the yard to the street. That would be cost and time prohibitive. Our city wouldn't allow a curb to be cut and a drain added either. Its a great idea though if I could do it.

    The yard drains to surface level in about 3 days after a heavy rain. Maybe whatever plants I put in those areas will survive those times. But of course, that's 3 days after a rain, not including the rain days. Heck, I may end up putting grass back into those flood prone areas. It survived and thrived before but defeats the purpose of low water low maintenance.

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    1. Ah. I (thankfully) don't have any experience with bindweed, so not sure what to suggest to cope with that. If you have to resort to weed killer to protect other plants, I won't judge you.

      (Even if you could borrow goats, I suspect they'd eat all your desirable plants as well as the goatweed!)

      How about raised beds? Would that help with your drainage problem? Or maybe use large paving stones to create a sort of patio and then garden in pots and other containers?

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  13. HI, Aaron.

    I'm glad you dont have bindweed problems. I wouldn't wish it on my worst plant enemies. Unfortunately for me, its only a matter of time before they show up again, even with my lawn removed and the hard packed clay. In fact now with now competing plants, they'll thrive more. It was 8 months before I could do anything after removing the lawn, and those bindweeds started really taking over. Roundup killed much of it, at least the stuff I could see.

    Thats funny, I never thought of them goats eating other stuff. They ate my sweater as a kid. I doubt they'd eat only what I want to them to eat.

    The flood areas are in lower areas of the yard, which is now all hard compacted clay. So I need something for those areas specifically to absorb or hide/cover the water and yet maintain my Japanese garden theme. That's why I thought a nice, full groundcover would be good. I thought of pavers but that might just displace with water elsewhere, unless I left spaces for the water. Hmm, maybe some groundcover between the pavers. That would look nice and provide green absorbtion to the flood areas and make additional pathways. Ah, ha.

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    1. You may be on to something with the pavers separated by a groundcover :)

      Also, I'd encourage you to look into 'rain garden plants' that are native or adapted to your region. Sounds like a rain garden scenario (intermittent inundation followed by long dry periods).

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  14. In 2009 we planted blue star creeper in a sun/shade bed. It did beautifully and has looked great throughout the summers. This bed is bordered on two sides by neighbor grass which was a problem to keep out of the flower bed, The creeper has done well competing with the invasive grass. The Star creeper has not invaded the neighbor's grass or our lawn in over 5 years. The only dividers are 3 1/2 inch cherry tone logs on the neighbor's side, and a decorative concrete boarder separating the creeper from our grass. Last year we planted the creeper as a two foot boarder in another large sun garden, and also in a third garden that gets a lot of shade. It has done well in the sun, and so-so in the shaded garden. We have not had a problem controlling it, in fact, Johnny Jump up's, forget me not's, and Ivy are more of a problem to control. For our Utah yard, Star Creeper has been great, and I am glad we planted it. We have less of a weed control problem in the creeper beds than in other gardens.

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    1. Thanks for the comment and sharing your experience.

      I'm glad to hear blue star creeper is working for you.

      A few questions:

      - Does the creeper die back in winter and in midsummer? I would think it would be pretty dry in a Utah summer, but maybe you water it to keep it green?

      - Have you tried digging up any patches of the creeper? I think you may be surprised at the web of roots it weaves under the surface...

      - I'm not surprised to hear that ivy is invasive. I wouldn't recommend planting that for groundcover either. As for Johnny Jump-Ups, personally I love seeing them here and there in the garden, but they're far from invasive here. After several years with no attempt by me to rein them in or pull them out, I have only a smattering of Johnny Jump Ups here and there. (At least, the ones that I call 'Johnny Jump Ups' are not invasive. I understand the common name is used for several different plant species.)

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  15. I had some blue star in a pot, I believe it was a mixed pot purchased from a garden center. In the fall I discarded the plants, believing them to all be annuals, and threw the potting soil that remained in a low spot of a sparingly planted bulb garden. In the spring the blue star sprouted on the soil I had dumped in the garden and became established in a small area, about 4x4 feet, and I left it alone. This second growing season it has at least doubled in size. Because the gardens I do have are mainly naturalized perrenials and the area was sparsely planted, they are not causing any problems for me, and are serving a purpose.

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    1. Happy to hear blue star creeper is working for you.

      As you say, it's capable of doubling in size each year, which can be fun for the first few years (especially if you're trying to cover quite a bit of ground), but could cause trouble down the road, especially if it creeps into wild areas (since it's probably a non-native plant for you (unless you're writing in from Australia or NZ).

      Still, I'm happy to hear that it's not causing you any problems and serving a purpose at the moment :)

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  16. I'm near Portland OR and first saw Blue Star Creeper at a park mixed in the grass lawn. In this climate it does have a lot of charm if you don't mind it in the grass. I planted some in a border and it did venture into our lawn which is mowed once a week during the growing season so that keeps it down a bit. Right now in October, the creeper is not blooming but has filled out and gives a lush look to the grass. It seems to be quite happy confining itself to the lawn area.

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    1. Sounds like the creeper is much better suited as an ornamental in your climate than here in Tennessee!

      I'd still be a little worried about it as a (mildly?) invasive exotic, but of course lawn grass is exotic too, so...

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  17. I came across your blog while researching Blue Star Creeper. Based on all the negative comments, I'm thinking I need to consider something else. I live in Alabama and need a ground cover for a full sun and moist area. Any suggestions? Also deer tolerant would be good too!
    I've looked on internet, but haven't found a lot of options.

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    1. Hi Steve

      Thanks for your question.

      I think you're smart to look for alternatives to blue star creeper.

      If you're OK with something a little aggressive, how about the native blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinium - http://bonap.net/MapGallery/County/Conoclinium%20coelestinum.png). It has beautiful blue flowers in autumn that attract butterflies and I think the foliage is pretty too. It makes a tall, deciduous groundcover, but I think you can cut it back in midsummer to keep it a bit shorter.

      Other options might include Coreopsis lanceolata (http://bonap.net/MapGallery/County/Coreopsis%20lanceolata.png) or Fragaria virginiana (wild strawberry - bonus of sweet edible (though small) fruit - http://bonap.net/MapGallery/County/Fragaria%20virginiana.png)

      As the links I've provided show, these are all native plants, which means that if they do spread a little out of control (as groundcovers do sometimes) you don't have to worry about them having a negative impact on your native ecosystems, since they belong in your area naturally.

      I grow all three of those plants and have not had a problem with deer eating any of them, but your mileage may vary.

      Hope these suggestions are useful. It's not easy being a responsible gardener and still finding groundcovers that do the job. I've been trialing plants for 6 years and I'm still figuring out the groundcover part of the equation, but I'd suggest trialing a few different options and hopefully you can find something you like that works well for you!

      PS - If your soil stays consistently moist, you could also try Monarda bradburiana (http://bonap.net/MapGallery/County/Monarda%20bradburiana.png) or Osmunda cinnamomemum (cinnamon fern, http://bonap.net/MapGallery/County/Osmundastrum%20cinnamomeum.png)

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    2. You've given me a lot of great options to research. I'm sure one of these will work. I'll keep you posted. Thanks again. Look forward to future articles from you.

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    3. Great! Happy to help :)

      PS - One other option I meant to suggest is yarrow (Achillea millefolium). It's grown just fine in heavy clay in full sun for me. It also has the advantage of staying evergreen through the winter and I believe it can take a lot of abuse (foot traffic, even mowing). In fact, I've just started trialing a patch as a lawn alternative!

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    4. I've not had that experience at all!! I've contained it to a bed on the edge of my grass for 10+ years. I just rip it up along the border and replant (which means basically laying it on another patch where I want it). Maybe it's because I'm in Oregon? Just moved to Missouri and planning on using it around pavers on a side yard. I LOVE it and think it's absolutely gorgeous year round. Small, mounding ground cover.

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    5. Hi Anon,

      Thanks for your comment. It will be interesting to see how it performs for you in Missouri. My guess is that you won't be pleased with its performance in summer or winter. Feel free to come back and leave another comment once you've had a chance to assess its performance in your new state.

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  18. As an Englishwoman spending every spring/summer in Fentress County TN discovering what grows and what doesn't is a whole new learning experience for me. I have failed miserably with grass so need some good advice on drought tolerant groundcovers on a large area of poor soil. Like the posts above I was tempted with Blue Star creeper but will now give it a miss.

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    1. I can imagine it would be a major challenge to adapt to Tennessee after gardening in what I presume is a milder and more temperate English climate.

      I'm going to presume you have heavy clay soil in Tennessee?

      Do you have sun or shade on the ground you wish to cover?

      For shade, at this point I'd feel confident recommending Erigeron pulchellus (rose petty), 'Biokovo' perennial geranium, Epimedium 'Frohnleiten', Packera obovata and Fragaria virginiana.

      Fragaria virginiana seems to work equally well in full sun. Otherwise I don't have a great deal of full sun options to suggest at this point. I do like 'Blue Spruce' sedum. I'm trialing coral honeysuckle vine as a full sun groundcover.

      Good luck! If you find that any of these - or other plants - work for you, please return and let me know! (Or if you have other questions about what might work, feel free to ask here or via my Contact page. I've trialed a lot of plants over the past 5-6 years and though my experiences are by no means definitive, I can at least share what I've learned.) :)

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  19. I live in East TN. My "backyard" is a very steep sloping bank to the lake shoreline. It has been left in a natural state...bare under the tree canopy. I need a low maintenance ground cover that is low to the ground to keep the lake view, controllable, fast growing, will choke weeds, will not climb trees, and is pet safe. This is a very large area that gets sun and shade and no foot traffic. Several have suggested juniper but after researching it, that's not an option. I've been thinking about thyme. If that's an option you suggest which type is my best bet? I love the look of the Wooly Thyme, but I'm not sure it's the one for me. I'm open to other options you think might work for me. I prefer a year round green or color. We don't have to worry about deer. I really need your guidance. Thank you.

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    1. I think you are right to be skeptical of the juniper option. First of all, there aren't many low-growing native (Juniperus virginiana) juniper cultivars. I grow 'Grey Owl'. I think there are some others now like 'Royo'. Second, junipers tend to like a lot of sun. They're not really forest understory plants. Or rather, they might grow in a forest understory, but I don't think they'd be particularly full or attractive from an ornamental standpoint. I think they'd struggle. Also, if you'd like to be able to walk through this woodland (would you?) the junipers would eventually make that difficult. And even the dwarf varieties get fairly tall (5-6 feet?) unless pruned, which I presume might interfere with your lake view.

      5) Which raises another question. You say you want a low-growing groundcover. How low were you thinking? Wooly thyme only grows about an inch. I don't grow any thymes myself, but I think you'll run into one of the same problems as with the juniper -- namely that I believe thymes prefer full sun. So I don't think they would grow thickly in a woodland setting, nor do I think a 1-inch tall groundcover (in my experience) will block most weeds.

      6) The best advice I can give you is to plant a variety of low-growing woodland native plants. Don't try for a monoculture. Even if you find a plant aggressive enough to block out all other plants on the forest floor, you'll probably be skewing your local ecosystem. Instead, I think the most beautiful, durable and sensible option will be to find what grows locally in your woodlands in East Tennessee and try to replicate that in your backyard.

      No matter what you do, I suspect that you'll have woody plants (either exotic weeds or native shrubs and trees) try to sprout through the groundcover layer. The woodlands want to reproduce themselves, after all, and woodlands are the natural climax ecosystem in most of East Tennessee. So you (or someone you hire) will need to get in there from time to time if you don't want woody plants blocking your view of the lake.

      I can say from personal experience that ferns are quite nice in a woodland setting - things like lady fern (recommended in that article above) or really any of the native Dryopteris ferns.

      I think you can't go wrong with wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), Robin's plantain (Erigeron pulchellus), Packera obovata (golden groundsel), Asarum canadense (wild ginger) or Mitchella repens (partridge berry, although this is a very low-growing groundcover and again I question its weed-blocking abilities).

      The *native* pachysandra (Pachysandra procumbens) and several of the woodland phloxes (covered in that article above) might work well. And then there are other woodland wildflower options in both the Solidago (goldenrod) and Aster (Symphyotrichum) families such as Solidago flexicaulis (zigzag goldenrod), Solidago caesia (blue stem goldenrod), Aster cordifolius (white wood aster) and Eurybia divaricata (also called white wood aster).

      I haven't grown it myself, but I've heard the *native* wood poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) makes an excellent and fast-spreading (via self sowing) woodland groundcover.

      Non-natives that might play nice in your woodland and fill some of your groundcover goals include Geranium x cantabrigiense ('Biokovo'), Epimediums (such as E. x perralchicum 'Frohnleiten') and maybe some hellebores.

      You could also mix in a woody groundcover called Japanese plum yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia 'Prostrata'). It stays quite low to the ground (probably not more than 1 or 2 feet tall after many years), so I don't think it would interfere with your view.

      Hope some of these ideas prove useful. I know you were probably hoping for a single suggestion, but there's no magic bullet in landscaping. It's usually better to include lots of native plants and biodiversity in your landscape, both for the native wildlife and for the beauty and resiliency of your garden! :)

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  20. Wow love your website! I just purchased blue star to put in between my patio stones. I had not been familiar with Laurentia so I googled it's hardiness. I live in N. E. Ohio, zone 5. The garden center listed it as a perennial, but read that it's not hardy here. Our winters can go down to -25. I was disappointed at first, then I read your post, now I think it'll be fine to plant. I have a moderate size area to plant, which I plan to plant in perennials, so I'll just use blue star as a filler until my thyme and Irish moss start to fill in the area. What is your view on Veronica as a groundcover.

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    1. Thanks for your friendly comment :)

      It does seem like blue star creeper should be hardy to zone 5.

      As for Veronica, there are many different species and cultivars, I think, so it's hard to give a blanket statement. I grew the 'Georgia Blue' cultivar of V. umbrosa for a while. It was pretty in the early spring and kinda blah after that. http://www.monrovia.com/plant-catalog/plants/2830/georgia-blue-speedwell/

      Generally speaking, I'd advise you to try to find a native plant that can handle the conditions you've described. For instance, if your patio is shady, your native wintergreen looks like a good choice - Gaultheria procumbens, http://www.monrovia.com/plant-catalog/plants/1300/creeping-wintergreen/

      Fun fact, the wintergreen plant is the source of the original wintergreen flavor. You can read all about its historical medicinal and flavoring uses here - http://ouroneacrefarm.com/wintergreen-harvest-make-alcohol-extract/ (Just be sure to pay attention to the cautionary warnings about the aspirin-like compounds that the plant contains.)

      You might get some more ideas on native groundcovers here (https://www.bbg.org/gardening/article/native_groundcovers/), especially the last suggestion (Chrysogonum virginianum, a.k.a. green-and-gold)'

      Good luck!

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  21. Wow. I'm getting quite an education here. I just moved and need to rehab a very small backyard. Sunny, seems to be some hard Ft Worth clay but no standing water after it rains. Needs no mow/low maintenance lawn substitute, as I have fibromyalgia with nearly constant low back pain and fatigue. I bought some blue star to go between pavers (too many, some need removing as time/health allow). Invasiveness is not alarming, but--how poisonous is it? I have two 45-50 pound dog kids. Would walking on it hurt them if it gets in their paw pads and fur? What about the dog happy dance where they wiggle on their backs on a soft surface? I'm thinking now the blue should go to a side yard where the dogs don't go. I have some woolly thyme and sedum to experiment with, are they safe for dogs? I really like the look and feel of Irish moss, but not sure if the partial shade from the neighbor's overhanging tree is enough for it. Any ideas for this challenging space?

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    1. Based on my experience, I think blue star creeper would bake in Fort Worth sun.

      I have not tried thyme or Irish moss personally, so can't help you there.

      I have had good experiences in full sun with 'Blue Spruce' sedum (http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=263689&isprofile=0&gen=Sedum). Heard very good things about 'Angelina' too, which has a similar growth habit, but different coloration.

      I don't know if any sedums are toxic to dogs (You could ask the ASPCA, which keeps lists on plant toxicity), but sedums are categorized as 'safe' on a University of California list... https://ucanr.edu/sites/poisonous_safe_plants/files/154528.pdf

      You might consider a native groundcover - Phyla nodiflora, Texas frogfruit - although I have not grown it personally... http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=phno2

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  22. Hello, glad to have found your site! I, like many others here, was looking into adding blue star creeper to my yard and am rethinking that idea.

    I have a slight variation to some others' comments/questions: I just put in some Turfstone-equivalent pavers which are big concrete blocks with a bunch of ~4 inch square openings to allow water to drain and foliage to grow through. I am near Jacksonville, Florida and this is the west side of the house, so heat and humidity is a thing. I put these pavers right outside my screened back porch because my dogs kept digging up the yard right outside the door, so heavy foot traffic is a major factor. This location also receives a good amount of rain from the roof during our thunderstorm deluges, though it can get quite dry here for a few weeks at a time.

    Any suggestions? My original plan was to just put in sod plugs, but I thought something a little prettier and hopefully better smelling would be a nice touch. Thanks for the help and keep up the awesome blog!

    Matt

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    1. Hi Matt,

      Thanks for your encouragement on the blog :)

      Finding a very low-growing groundcover for between (or in this case, within) pavers is always a challenge.

      If you have some shade in the area, you could try Mitchella repens (partridge berry, http://www.mailordernatives.com/mitchella-repens-partridge-berry-sold-out/)

      I have not tried it myself, but I believe that Phyla nodiflora (frogfruit, http://bonap.net/MapGallery/County/Phyla%20nodiflora.png) could be a good low-growing groundcover option for sun for you.

      Both those plants are native to your area. Partridgeberry is slow-growing in my experience, which means it will take a while to fill in, but should be manageable.

      I've heard frogfruit is fast, which means you might have the opposite problem - quick to fill in, but ultimately might take some time and effort to keep it from spreading beyond where you want it ... unless of course you're fine with it spreading! It is a native after all :)

      Powderpuff mimosa (Mimosa strigillosa) might be another fast-growing native groundcover option... http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/powderpuff-mimosa.html

      Good luck! If these ideas don't work for you, you might want to try contacting UFL or your local Extension agent for ideas. If you find something that works well, please do come back and let us know!

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  23. Hi there,
    Love your site! I live in Colorado, zones 4 to 5 (not in the mountains). I have a flagstone walkway in partial sun, north-facing, right next to the house for some protection. As I'm sure you know, Colorado is a semi-arid climate with less than 14" of rain per year. In summer temps are in the 90s and in winter below zero. The previous owners put sand between each stone and it gets everywhere. I want to replace the sand with short, low maintenance plants that can handle this climate. I definitely don't want anything like the creeper which sort of sounds like bindweed. Around here that's a bad word! Do you have any suggestions? Many, many thanks! -Kay

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    1. Hi Kay,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I don't think blue star creeper would do very well in your zone. It's only rated to zone 5, and even here in zone 6/7 I had a lot of dieback in the winter. My guess is you'd experience significant dieback or even outright death of the plant in your part of Colorado.

      Colorado is such a different climate than Tennessee that I'm not sure my personal experience would be very helpful.

      You might try this page from Colorado State - http://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/yard-garden/xeriscaping-ground-cover-plants-7-230/

      Some of the options are much taller than you'd want between flagstones, but there are some very low-growing options (1-2 inches tall) listed as well.

      (I do see that Colorado State has recommended Sedum acre, which I believe can be invasive in some parts of the country, but perhaps it's not invasive in your state? I've had good luck so far with Sedum rupestre 'Blue Spruce' which is rated as hardy to zone 3 - http://www.monrovia.com/plant-catalog/plants/975/blue-spruce-stonecrop/)

      If you're near to Denver, perhaps you could visit the botanical garden there to get an idea of some effective groundcovers you might like?

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