By Bonnie Manion
Great groundcovers can really enhance your garden by filling up bare or open spots with interest, choking out weeds, repeating a color palette throughout the garden, and much more. Choose groundcovers that are low maintenance, drought tolerant, and full of colorful blooms.
One of my favorite groundcovers is cream African daisy (Arctotis stoechadifolia). Ideal for a large, dry, sunny slope, this fast-spreading groundcover displays beautiful, silver-textured foliage and cream-color daisy flowers. It needs little water, but a little irrigation keeps it looking at its best. When massed it looks like a silver carpet. Try planting it flanking each side of a garden entrance. If this groundcover gets unruly (it can be invasive), just clip it back to your desired area and share clippings with a friend.
Our California wild lilac (Ceanothus) has many stunning groundcover varieties. Ceanothus is a native shrub in California, requiring little water once established and no fertilizing. We can always count on the stunning blooms that herald the beginning of spring. Ceanothus ‘Yankee Point’, pictured here, is one of the best groundcover Ceanothus varieties. It can reach 2–3 ft high and spreads 8–10 ft wide. It tolerates sun, part shade, and will trail if allowed. It has beautiful light-blue blooms in spring.
Another Ceanothus groundcover I recommend is Ceanothus ‘Joyce Coulter’. It is a larger variety than ‘Yankee Point’, capable of reaching 2–5 ft high and 10–12 ft wide. It tolerates heavy soil, likes full sun, and has striking 3–5-in medium-blue spikes.
There are many edible groundcovers too. Some of the best are the prostrate rosemary varieties (Rosmarinus officinalis). I recommend ‘Irene’, pictured, with its stunning deep-lavender blooms, for its cold hardiness. ‘Huntington Carpet’ is another great rosemary groundcover, especially useful for banks. It has light-blue flowers.
Other edible groundcovers are from the creeping mint (Mentha) and trailing thyme (Thymus) varieties. You also can use alpine strawberry (Fragaria) as an edible groundcover.
There are many more great groundcovers for the Southern California garden. I’ve only touched on a few. Many low-growing junipers (Juniperus) make wonderful groundcovers, with a variety of colors. Don’t forget about low-growing succulent perennials, with brilliant, showy blooms that attract bees, butterflies, and birds to your garden.
Most of the groundcovers I have mentioned do not take foot traffic. Consider your garden palette, amount of sun/shade, and needed irrigation to help you determine which groundcover might work best for you.
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