The Q&A Archives: Evergreen Ground Covers

Question: I am looking for a ground cover for the retention basin that runs from the west side of our house (full sun) onto the north side of our house (partial sun). The area has a pretty good slope. The basin only has water in it during very heavy storms. It seems to fill up 3 to 4 times a year but then standing water drains about an hour after the storm is over. The area we are looking to cover is approximately 1500 sq. ft. Needless to say the top of the slope is very dry but the claylike soil at the bottom of the slope does not drain very well. I was hoping to find something that was evergreen and that would flower at some time during the season. I am not interested in crown vetch as it looks too wild. I want to make this eyesore a nice looking area. Would vinca work or creeping Phlox? Is Phlox evergreen? Please help.

Answer: Unfortunately, these basins are difficult to plant. The surface must allow for the smooth flow of water in and out and the planting must hold the soil against erosion. The plant must be able to survive the occasional inundation -- as well as fluctuating soil moisture levels. These paramenters account for the seemingly uncreative use of lawn grasses in these areas. Grass is probably the best alternative for an evergreen, even though it is difficult to mow on the slope. Of the two plants you mentioned, vinca is more likely to survive these conditions, although given the moisture levels I would not expect a uniform look from it. In my experience phlox would not survive the periodic moisture. Another possibility is to line it with attractive stones and omit the planting. You might check with the local authorities as to the legality of using different plants and materials as well. In some cases this is very strictly regulated.

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