Low-Growing groundcovers are in much demand by gardeners to fill empty spaces, suppress unwanted weeds & to protect the soil from the effects of erosion or drought. Until recently, plants chosen as groundcovers were often from other regions in the world. Plants such as Pachysandra terminalis (Japanese Pachysandra), Ajuga (Bugleweed), Thymus praecox (Creeping Thyme), Gallium odoratum (Sweet Woodruff) are all found in great abundance in garden centres and home landscapes. Some are touted as an alternative to turf grass. While these plants fill in quickly, are low-maintenance and attractive; gardeners are beginning to avoid them because of their tendency to become invasive in their own garden as well as nearby natural areas. Who hasn’t seen Vinca or English Ivy creeping down a ravine? These plants also do not support ecosystems needed by our local fauna. Planting native groundcovers of varying heights will attract more beneficial insects to your landscape. Why not choose from a variety of native plants listed below.
The photos of the plants for full-sun, above, speak for themselves. Texture, leaf shape and of course beautiful flowers. Phlox subulata will happily grow in full sun, in some tough situations. Often gardeners place it next to rocks, softening edges. The dense needle-like foliage grows 15 cm and the flowers are especially bright in the midday sun. Wild Strawberry (featured photo: https://www.northeastpollinator.com/products/ground-cover-fragaria-virginiana-wild-strawberry) is a fast growing perennial that spreads using ‘above-ground runners’, acting as a living mulch protecting the soil. Why not scoop some into your containers for that ‘spill’ effect. In order to produce fruit, you will need to ensure you plant both male and female plants. The best way to ensure this is by planting multiple seedlings. If you’re lucky enough to get fruit, you’ll be attracting birds, pollinators and other wildlife.
Prairie Smoke (Photo: https://freshroots.ca/product/prairie-smoke/) is perfect for a hot, dry garden area and is deer resistant, but fortunately, highly attractive to our threatened Bumblebees. The early emerging pink flowers and later tufts, are said to remind one of a Dr. Seuss character. For a more substantial groundcover in a sunny location, you may want to consider Bearberry (Photos below:https://www.naturewatch.ca/plantwatch/bearberry/) .
Actually a broadleaf evergreen shrub (photos below), Bearberry will grow best in well-drained, sandy soil (full-sun). While slow to get started, (give it a year), you will be rewarded with small tubular pinkish-white flowers, red berries and evergreen foliage that changes to a dark red in the cold weather.
Do yourself and your garden a favour – try one of these fabulous groundcovers this year. Make sure though, that you have the botanical name with you as you head out shopping!
Janet Mackey – Halton Master Gardener