5 Effective Groundcovers That Combat Weeds
Do you experience the phenomenon of missing time that can only be attributed to alien abduction and reading seed catalogs? Must you have a map of where you planted all 350 bulbs on your hillside just so you can remember all the different cultivars? No? That’s totally fine – not all of us are plant nerds. Some of us just need answers to common landscape issues.
In today’s gardening culture, you will find that the themes are changing. Plants not only provide beauty, barriers, and structure, they can also remedy and provide solutions to common landscape and gardening problems. In this article, I address a few of my favorite groundcovers that spark interest while also fighting the good fight against weeds.
Ice Plant (Delosperma sp.)
Ice plant is an outstanding succulent performer in locations characterized by full sun and well-drained, dry soils. My all-time favorite cultivar of Delosperma dyeri is ‘Fire Spinner’ (pictured), and they come in all colors, ranging from whites to reds. A succulent, native to South Africa, this plant can surprisingly withstand cold temperatures quite well. It grows like a carpet, creating a fortress against weeds that spreads moderately fast, and the small, somewhat shiny, daisy-like flowers bloom in May.
Stonecrop (Sedum rupestre)
Another succulent I absolutely can never say “no” to which also displays efficacy against weeds is Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’. It is award winning, and spreads very well without any aggression. Golden yellow and neon green foliage during the warmer months turn into brilliant tones of corals and chartreuse in the winter. Middle Tennessee has the perfect climate for this sedum’s best color story. I lived in Seattle for a while and it just never got consistently cold enough there for this groundcover to achieve its coloration potential, though here in Nashville, its fall and winter color is dynamite.
Leadwort (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides)
Who isn’t mesmerized by a blue flower with zero tolerance for weeds? Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, also known as “Leadwort”, performs best (providing optimal coverage) in partial shade and its foliage even has fall color interest. It begins flowering in mid-summer and continues well into fall. Even the spent flowers and seedpods provide an attractive shape and maroon color interest. While it is not evergreen, it does reemerge in the spring, just in time to fight off pesky summer weeds.
Creeping Raspberry (Rubus hayata-koidzumii –formerly, calycinoides)
One of the most outstanding groundcovers for coverage without being overly aggressive, R. hayata-koidzumii features unique, small, evergreen, lobed foliage that is evergreen in zones 7 – 8. Its growth habit is an interesting combination of matting and creeping, known to be more creeping in shadier sites. It does bloom, though the flowers are small, mostly hidden by the foliage and are often overlooked. The fruit is an orange aggregate. Fall color for this groundcover is exceptional, consisting of burgundy and orange hues. You can see this Taiwanese native draping over the wall at Cheekwood’s Wills Perennial Garden!
Lysimachia nummularia (Creeping Jenny)
This groundcover is ideal for wetter areas in your landscape – near streams, ponds, or pools. It will spread readily, but since it is so easy to remove (not deeply rooted by any means), it is not at all considered invasive. The cultivar, ‘Aurea’ is an attractive and brightly colored yellow and can really brighten up a shaded area of a garden. It does flower, but the real beauty and power of this plant emanates from the foliage.
Throughout my gardening career, I’ve grown to appreciate some truly basic things in life: a well-balanced cocktail, a restful night’s sleep, and, yes, an effective groundcover. When a plant can be used to protect against other, unwanted, plants, an ecological victory has been won. Using groundcovers in place of mulch (which degrades or washes away over time) or herbicide (which has the potential to be toxic and must be reapplied), is just smart.
Next time you are visiting your local independent garden center, keep your eye out for these plants and other similar groundcovers that can add beauty and protection to your landscape.