The Q&A Archives: Ground cover

Question: I want to grow something in the place of grass, some kind of low growing perennial. I would like to eliminate the need to mow the lawn. However maybe a grass that doesn't grow as much as normal grass.

Answer: Many people use ornamental ground covers to reduce maintenance, while adding color and textural patterns to problem spots in the landscape.

There are wide variety of ground covers to choose from. Choose ground covers with interesting leaf color or texture, attractive flowers, fruits or Autumn color adding year round interest. Ground covers may be woody or herbaceous plants.

A popular woody ground cover in Wisconsin is creeping juniper. It prefers a sunny spot on well drained soil, where this low growing evergreen shrub has a maximum height of 6 to 24 inches. Another sun-loving, low growing woody shrub, the cranberry cotoneaster, reaches two feet in height and has attractive red fruits and red autumn foliage. It is hardy to Zone 5.

"Gro-Low" fragrant sumac is a winter-hardy, sun-loving groundcover shrub that reaches 2 1/2 feet in height. It tolerates dry soil and has orange fall foliage.

A popular carpeting shrub that tolerates shade is wintercreeper euonymus. It comes in emerald, golden and variegated leaf colors. As a groundcover planted about 18" apart, it will quickly fill in and reach 6 to 18 inches tall. Vinca, commonly known as periwinkle or myrtle is a shade-tolerant vine that has attractive dark shiny green leaves and blue flowers in May.

There are numerous perennial herbaceous ground covers that do nicely in a wide range of landscape conditions. Pachysandra is a commonly used shade tolerant perennial with leathery, evergreen glossy leaves. It prefers acid soil so may not do as well in high pH soils. Asarum or wildginger is a shiny deep green foliage groundcover that is lovely in shade on rich soil. Aegepodium commonly called gout weed is a groundcover that prefers partial shade but can also handle sun and tolerates poor soil. It has green leaves edged with creamy white margins. This plant is invasive and should be used where it can be contained or mowed back to keep it under control. Bergenia, is a perennial with very large leathery evergreen leaves that tolerates sun or shade. It has year round appeal with attractive pink flowers in early spring and fall foliage of red and orange that persists through the winter. Bergenia is a wonderful ground cover for edging as it tends to be less invasive than some ground covers.

Sedum and moss phlox are two sun loving perennials that do nicely as ground covers, as well.

Hope this information gives you some ideas for replacing your lawn!

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