GroundCoverFilter: What's the best ground cover for around my newly landscaped front yard?
July 20, 2009 6:43 PM   Subscribe

GroundCoverFilter: What's the best ground cover for around my newly landscaped front yard?

I just recently re-landscaped the slope in front of my house and was leaning towards mulch to fill in around the plants, but now (after scaling the slope several times already to weed and deadhead) I don't think mulch would be the best idea.

I was thinking maybe a ground cover would make more sense. Something spreads fairly fast and that would survive under the plants once they have established themselves. Also something that could take an occasional trampling since I will need to walk on it occasionally. No vine-like ground covers please...the hill was previously covered in Ivy and it took forever to remove it.

What would you recommend?

(Additional Info: The area is about 20 x 20 and contains a variety of perennial flowers and shrubs. The house faces West, so the front gets strong afternoon/evening sun.)
posted by pghjezebel to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've had creeping phlox recommended to me for a similar application. It's not evergreen, and it doesn't spread super-fast (which is good because it keeps it from being invasive!), but otherwise seems like it would fit your needs. There are several varieties, some that prefer more/less shade, more/less water, etc, so you will want to look through them online.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:05 PM on July 20, 2009

Best answer: I really like Wild Ginger. If your area is cool and not too dry, Irish Moss is also very attractive.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:11 PM on July 20, 2009

Best answer: Wintergreen can be really pretty, or there is an entire series of Steppables plants designed to be low-growing groundcovers that can be walked upon. We sell them where I work and have heard stories of great success with them-- think an effect almost like living mulch.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:33 PM on July 20, 2009

Best answer: Nthing the Steppables. I've never bought them as such, but am a fan of just about any variety of thyme. Most other things that spread rapidly also have underground runners that are prob worse than ivy: strawberry, vinca. Just don't plant creeping Jenny as it is classed as a noxious weed in some places as it's uncontainable. I have both thyme and strawberry, plus perennial geranium, wooly lamb's ears (tallish) and various spurges/euphorbias, all of which are in a south facing bed which gets direct sun most of the day, wind from the west most days and which are watered only occasionally using a drip hose. I deliberately went for things that would survive extreme heat/cold/wind/dryness. Ten years in, they're thriving. I also put down a layer of mulch to help them out in the beginning, to keep the soil moist and the weeds down until they became established. BTW, of the steppables, the prostrate evergreen looks a lot like the one I have which grass will find it's way under. And, it's prickly. No walking barefoot around that plant!
posted by x46 at 8:46 PM on July 20, 2009

Best answer: Thyme makes a pretty and fragrant ground cover.
posted by Ostara at 8:47 PM on July 20, 2009

Best answer: Whatever groundcover you plant, you should mulch anyway. It will help the groundcover spread and is generally much better for the average garden than bare soil. It's especially helpful on slopes where rain causes erosion. Soil organic material holds more nutrition and water, and keeps soil temperatures constant.

I'm not sure what you mean by not vine like. If you mean you want something like a flat shrubby thing, that will be woody and you can't walk on it without damage. You will either find groundcover that spreads by underground runners, or long shoots that sometimes root when they lay on top of the soil. The faster and more vigorous are often the most difficult to control. I prefer planting slower growing groundcover that are better behaved than something really fast.

I suggest talking to your local nursery person who will know your climate and soil type and can point out something for a hot, west slope that complements the plants you have.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:43 PM on July 20, 2009

Best answer: A mix of clover and creeping thyme is also lovely. Clover can be repeatedly reseeded; go to Seeds of Change for seed; impossible to find at traditional retailers. Creeping thyme takes a couple of years to establish rather slowly and then just takes off. It's available at most nurseries and even the Big Boxes now (as are the "Steppables" mentioned above). Both of these can be walked on barefoot and the creeping thyme has the further advantage of smelling wonderful when you do so.

Be careful with the Steppables as some of their line (notably some of the sedums) are invasive in some areas. Check your local University extension for information on what to avoid.
posted by nax at 3:54 AM on July 21, 2009

Response by poster: LobsterMitten, thank you! I think that's (creeping phlox) what grows under my neighbors shrubs on their slope, but none of us knew what it was called!

I also like the idea of creeping thyme. I actually have some that I was going to split up and use in between the flagstones on our walkway. The Creeping Jenny is pretty is as well, and it doesn't seem to be listed as a noxious weed in our area either.

The Steppables seem perfect, but it looks like most of their online selection is sold out atm, so I guess I'll have to look locally.

Thank you all for your help!!
posted by pghjezebel at 6:15 AM on July 21, 2009

I see from your username and profile that you're in Pittsburgh - we were able to get Steppables at Reilly's, though that was back in May or June. I'm not sure if they have any now.

You may need to wait until next spring to see them back in the nurseries.
posted by dforemsky at 10:02 AM on July 21, 2009

stepables are awesome, but be warned, a lot of them spread like crazy if you give them the right conditions and lots of room. I have 8 varieties in my yard, and when the overrun, I split them up and replant. Yay, free plants!
posted by ducktape at 10:38 AM on July 21, 2009

We just planted chamomile for this purpose (in the back yard). Our front yard is a bunch of dead grass waiting for landscaping and mulch so I'm really glad you asked this.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 11:23 AM on July 21, 2009

Just for clarity's sake- "Stepables" is a company that is taking varieties of commonly available plants and rebranding them. You do not need to buy these plants under their brand; they are not even proprietary varieties. It is probably cheaper to buy anything you like from them from someone else.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:48 PM on July 21, 2009

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