Xeriscape Ground Covers Maureen McCrackenO ne of the basic concepts of Xeriscape is to minimize the requirement for garden irrigation. Since turf has such a huge water requirement, it makes sense to reduce the amount of lawn space in our yards. Using drought tolerant ground covers is one way to accomplish this. With a little creativity, the effect can be even moreattractive than a plain carpet of lawn. Shown below, a large area of Mondo Grass, Ophiopogon japonicus, has been used toreplace turf. The ground cover acts as a boarder against the turf, providing interest in height and texture, but stillmaintaining a continuous green space.The guideline of Right Plant Right Place applies to ground covers as well as bedding plants: plant ground covers in theright light and right soil. Remember, ground covers can be evergreen or deciduous. If possible, it is usually preferable tochoose an evergreen ground cover to provide continual interest and color in the landscape as well as protection of thesoil.For best results, plant ground covers in the fall, to give the plants a chance to become well established and expand theirroot systems before the hottest and driest time of year. Water the newly planted ground cover occasionally for the firstfew months to ensure it becomes well established.Here are a few good drought tolerant ground covers: Liriope, Liriope muscari · Little to no irrigation once established · Purple flowers · Partial sun to shade · Will grow almost anywhere · Dark green or variegated varieties Ajuga, Ajuga reptans · Colorful foliage · Attractive purple flower spikes in spring · Partial sun to shade · Many attractive cultivars · Fast grower, but easy to control
Japanese Stonecrop, Hylotelephium sieboldii · Semi-evergreen to deciduous · Low-growing mat · Sun to partial shade · Sandy, dry soil Hardy Ice Plant, Delosperma Cooperi · Sun to light shade · Blooms continuously summer to fall · Well-drained soil · Spreads easily but not invasive · Propagates easily by sticking a sprig in the ground Creeping Thyme, Thymus serpyllum · Sun to light shade · Blooms light purple flowers summer · Well-drained soil · Forms low dense mat · Fragrant when leaves are crushedFor more information, North Carolina State University (NCSU) has developed a list of recommended drought-tolerantvines and ground covers which you can find at the following Web sites:http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/quickref/ground%20cover/groundcover.htmlhttp://www.ncsu.edu/wrri/uwc/xeriscape.pdf.MM______________Non-copyrighted pictures used to illustrate this article were gleaned from the Internet. Copyrighted pictures by ErvEvans, North Carolina State University, were used with permission.An Extension Master Gardener Volunteer with Mecklenburg County, NC, since 2006, Maureen McCracken is an avidgardener. She is also a Master Composter with the county. Maureen credits her love of flowers and horticulture to hergrandmother, who loved all plants and maintained a multi-use cottage garden with flowers, shrubs, fruits and vegetables.