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Dallas Morning News - July 22, 2021


Groundcovers Update

 

There probably never will be a grass that grows well in shade. Alternatives that are effective and much less frustrating include hard surface materials such as decomposed granite, flagstone, lava gravel, basalt gravel and natural mulches. Shade-loving shrubs, ferns and other plants can also be used. Artificial turf is becoming more and more popular but I'm not a big fan. This organic guy likes real plants better. There is also a concern about the plastic stuff covering the roots of trees and preventing proper "breathing" of the root system.

 

There probably never will be a grass that grows well in shade. Alternatives that are effective and much less frustrating include hard surface materials such as decomposed granite, flagstone, lava gravel, basalt gravel and natural mulches. Shade-loving shrubs, ferns and other plants can also be used. Artificial turf is becoming more and more popular but I'm not a big fan. This organic guy likes real plants better. There is also a concern about the plastic stuff covering the roots of trees and preventing proper "breathing" of the root system.

 

Groundcovers that behave themselves quite well and will be successful include Asian jasmine, English ivy, Persian ivy, liriope, ophiopogon, horseherb and wintercreeper.

 

Asian jasmine tops the list. It is evergreen, dense, low growing, and will climb, but not readily. Colorful variegated forms are also available. Can be kept very low growing by mowing at the high setting in late winter and again in July.

 


Colorful variegated Asian jasmine is now available

Variegated English ivy - especially good when planted among flowering plants

 

English ivy is good for shade to part shade. It will climb most surfaces. Needs good bed preparation, positive drainage and mulch for quick establishment. 'Needlepoint' and 'Hahns' ivy are smaller-leafed cultivars. A variegated form provides an effective contrast with flowering plants.

 

Horseherb is a deciduous to semi-evergreen native groundcover for shade to part shade. It has tiny yellow flowers and is easy to grow. Freezes to the ground some winters but returns each spring, drought tolerant, pest free and looks terrific when planted with wild violets. Some people unfortunately call it straggler daisy and consider it a weed.

 


Horseherb is an easy to grow and durable native flowering ground cover

Persian ivy

 

 

Persian ivy is wonderful for shady areas. It has a softer look but is just as cold tolerant as English ivy and is less susceptible to common diseases. English ivy can tolerate a little direct sun. Persian ivy cannot stand any direct sun and people still using high nitrogen fertilizers will have trouble growing it. Little hard to find.

 

Liriope, aka monkey grass and lilyturf, is an evergreen groundcover for sun or shade. Grass-like clumps spread by underground stems. Blue flowers form on stalks in early summer. Can be cut down in late winter just before the new spring growth, but not critical to do. Easy to divide and transplant anytime.

 


Liriope - a flowering ground-cover for sun or shade

Ophiopogon provides a soft, beautiful look in sun or shade

 

 

Ophiopogon, aka mondograss, is an evergreen low-growing, grass-like groundcover for shade or part shade. Grows in clumps but spreads by rhizomes to form a beautiful solid mass. Needs even moisture and regular fertilization. Can be mowed occasionally for more of a turf look but not necessary. A dwarf form of this plant is very compact, dark green and slow growing. A black form is even slower growing.

 

Wintercreeper, aka purple wintercreeper, Euonymus coloratus "fortunei," grows well in partial shade and I even use it mixed with other groundcovers such as ivies and Asian jasmine.

 


Purple winter creeper goes in sun or part shade and has reddish winter color

Dichondra taking over a weak turf area

 

 

I also like moss, dichondra, and frogfruit, especially in small areas but some gardeners unfortunately consider these plants weeds.

 

 

 

 

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