Thursday, April 6, 2017

Good native groundcovers - Robin's plantain and golden groundsel

I've trialed a lot of groundcovers and made a lot of mistakes over the past 6 years in my efforts to find that magical plant that will cover ground and suppress weeds, but not be too aggressive/invasive or too much work to maintain.

Here are two promising evergreen / semi-evergreen candidates that have performed well so far. The fact that they are both native to this part of Tennessee is a big bonus.

Packera obovata, golden groundsel, fully evergreen through this past (relatively mild) winter. 
(I tried growing another Packera - P. aurea - last year, but it did not seem as tolerant of heat and drought, even in partial shade, as P. obovata.)

Erigeron pulchellus, Robin's plantain As you can see, the Robin's plantain gets a bit more tattered over the winter compared to the golden groundsel. Still, in my experience over the past few years, the old foliage tends to decay naturally without any intervention on my part, and the plants will look much better soon as new foliage appears. (Yes, the flower head here looks a little strange...a bit like a conjoined twin. That's not the normal flower appearance, as you can see below, but it's not that uncommon either with Robin's plantain.)

I think golden groundsel needs partial to full shade in hot summer climates like Tennessee, and Robin's plantain also thrives in some shade, but I'd like to try it in sunnier spots too to see how it performs. It's relatively easy to divide and transplant Robin's plantain in early spring or early autumn, but I've learned the hard way that divisions are unlikely to survive if you wait too long in either season.


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