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Southeast Gardening: Groundcover Solutions

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Groundcovers can be a gardener’s valuable ally in the Southeast. Just be sure to choose the right one for the job.

Creeping juniper borders a driveway.
Juniper on a slope

By Glenn DiNella

Groundcover plantings can be a wonderful solution for landscape areas where turf won’t grow or is difficult to maintain, perhaps is too shady to grow grass, or too steep to mow. Groundcovers also are a heck of a lot more interesting to look at than massive areas covered in bark or pine straw.

English ivy close up

I will caution: There is a fine line between desirable, hardy groundcovers and avoid-like-the-plague invasive groundcovers. Some groundcovers are listed on the invasive species list by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

English ivy among trees

If you have a small, confined bed sandwiched between your home’s foundation and the driveway, or if you are the neat-freak type and diligently trim your groundcover, you might be fine with some of these pushy plants.

Lesser periwinkle

But if you have a large bed bordering native woodland, or you know you are not big on landscape maintenance, you should pass on plants such as English ivy (pictured), greater periwinkle (Vinca major), dwarf bamboo, and bishop’s weed (Aegopodium podagraria). Instead of regular English ivy use a variegated ivy, which is less invasive.

St. John’s wort in landscape

Instead of greater periwinkle try lesser periwinkle (Vinca minor). Because it is tamer, it is somewhat picky about soil and sun exposure. It prefers well-drained, loose, loamy soil while it gets established.

St. John’s wort detail

St. John’s wort is an attractive groundcover that works well in dry, sunny areas. Numerous types of juniper also are adept at holding a dry, sunny slope. Just be sure to water occasionally during the first year as they become established.

Daylilies in landscape

Daylilies can be considered a groundcover. When planted thickly they can keep down weeds, and their tough root system can hold the soil on dry, sunny slopes.

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