Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
August, 2001
Regional Report

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Lantana is an easy-to-grow groundcover with the added bonus of attracting butterflies.

Growing Groundcovers

The value of groundcovers becomes obvious this time of year. When the blazing heat can be felt radiating up from concrete sidewalks, patios, and large expanses that have been covered with gravel mulch. It's not a great time for planting groundcovers, but it's a good time to plan. Flip through some landscape books or plant catalogs, looking for groundcovers that will work for your situation.

Reduce Energy Use

Groundcovers offer many benefits. Well-placed groundcovers can reduce air conditioning bills. The sun's rays strike the plant material and are absorbed, as opposed to striking concrete or gravel mulch next to the house, and reflecting the heat toward your windows.

Create Wildlife Habitat

Groundcovers also provide shelter for urban wildlife such as birds and lizards. These, in turn, will eat insect pests for you in the garden. I enjoy watching a cactus wren that frequently pokes about in some of my groundcovers, pausing from its endeavors to sit on top of a low block wall. I also enjoy the assortment of lizards rustling through the groundcovers.

Easy-To-Grow Groundcovers

There are some nice flowering groundcovers that grow well in our area. Lantana comes in a variety of flower colors such as white, yellow, golden-orange, purple, and some two-tones such as pink, yellow, red, and orange. Rosemary is a terrific groundcover. It's aromatic and useful in the kitchen. It can be clipped if you like a formal appearance or left to grow more naturally. There are several verbenas that grow well here too. I like the bright pink or purple flowered varieties such as 'Goodding's' verbena and sandpaper verbena.

More Groundcovers

I have one difficult area under a tree planted in mint, which spreads invasively. This is the prefect situation for mint because not much else will grow there. Mexican evening primrose creates a carpet of pink flowers in spring. Tufted evening primrose has silvery foliage with white blooms. Prairie zinnia (Z. grandiflora) can bloom with golden yellow flowers from spring through fall, with each plant spreading about 1 foot. African daisy, iceplant, catmint (Nepeta faassenii), and santolina are other interesting possibilities.

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