You have neither the time nor the energy to devote to a lawn, your land is dry, or too much in the shade, or exposed to sea spray… Don’t panic! There are solutions to replace the lawn and obtain a green carpet… without grass!
Ground covering plants, these plants, with a low development height (less than 4 ft), have the advantages of resisting drought, of quickly colonizing the space at the expense of weeds, of being hardy and of adapting to particularly poor soils.
14 plants cover ground for a poor and dry soil
1. The flower of the elves or epimedium
It’s the most attractive for its evergreen foliage and its elegant flowers at the end of winter. It grows slowly but surely while accommodating rather dry and shady situations.
2. The geranium macrorrhizum
It is indispensable in many situations, forming beautiful green carpets, enamelled in May – June with pink, white or magenta flowers. Its cousin, Geranium endressii, is equally prolific and it is decorated with pink flowers in early summer. It is a force of nature with fragrant leaves.
3. The Irish Ivy
With its beautiful foliage, evergreen and glossy, it grows without too much care and quickly covers square meters in the dark.
4. The dwarf periwinkle, Vinca minor
It’s also very hardy and shade-loving. It flowers abundantly in spring. Look for its evergreen and variegated varieties to light up the nooks and crannies under the trees.
5. Crawling and evergreen Cotoneaster
There are a fast-growing shrub that can be easily contained by pruning.
Acid and humus soil is preferred for this plant, a beautiful perennial with green evergreen foliage, emitting short white spikes in May-June.
7. The officinal sage
A spreading sub-shrub with hairy, green, purple, tricolor or variegated yellow leaves depending on the variety, is a sure value for full sun in rather dry soil.
In these same conditions, you can adopt this plant with the tracing strain, the reddish foliage and the deep blue autumnal flowers. It will even hold the soil on sloping embankments.
9. Stachys byzantina
Always in the sun, in the dry even, you will appreciate the velvety and silvery foliage of the woolly spike, in superb original carpets.
10. The Polygonum
It can also spread out to its advantage in the sun or half-shade. Its green leaves become buff in autumn and its flowering is abundant, in pink and changing spikes, during the summer.
11. Zoysia tenuifolia: the “Mascarene grass”
This plant is widely used in southern gardens. It tolerates drought and trampling perfectly. It is found in sheets or rolls.
12. Lippia nodiflora
This small plant spreads quickly in all directions thanks to its tracing roots. It supports trampling and drought. Small flat, its foliage is null and void in winter, but as a consolation, it is covered with small pinkish white flowers from May to September.
13. Frankenia leavis or “marine heather”
It’s small dark green leaves change color in winter to take on reddish hues. Covering but not covering the ground enough to destroy weeds, frankenia will only be used on small areas because manual weeding will be necessary.
14. Thymus serpyllum (serpolet)
It supports very dry and poor soils. Melliferous, it covers itself with pink flowers throughout the summer.
Advantages of ground cover plants
Nature abhors emptiness! As you have probably already noticed, bare earth is quickly colonized by many plants, in this case in your weed garden. Unless you regularly use weed-killing substances that are not compatible with an ecological approach to gardening, you will have to resort to elbow grease to get rid of these intruders.
Be aware, however, that every time you disturb the soil, you bring seeds to the surface that are just waiting to germinate. It’s a vicious circle, especially when heat and rain combine to ensure exponential greening.
That’s why you will counteract this untimely emergence by using all kinds of mulch (cocoa waste, cocoa shavings, pine bark, flax straw …) forming an effective screen and maintaining by the same healthy moisture at the roots of your beloved plants.
The ideal solution, however, is to combine these two parades to obtain a most aesthetic and decorative effect. An evergreen bed is always preferable to the sight of bare soil or a uniform mulch. With mulch, you will obtain a quick and convincing effect thanks to well chosen ground cover plants that will take place in large beds or at the foot of trees or shrubs.
These plants have the particularity of spreading out rather than climbing. One thus finds plants so called frankly covering plants, hardly higher than a few centimeters like thyme and sedums and others exceeding the meter. That augurs many possibilities of very aesthetic associations. Let us now think about the characteristics of these really essential plants…
Using groundcover plants properly
The ground-cover plants are often very vigorous and fast growing plants with a crawling or lining port. Some produce rhizomes or stems called runners that allow them to spread quickly. They form very dense cushions of vegetation that stabilize the soil, limit erosion and especially prevent the growth of undesirable grasses.
In addition to being decorative, with a minimum of maintenance, ground covers are very useful, especially for greening hard-to-maintain areas of the garden: embankments, slopes that are difficult to mow, hot and dry areas, shaded areas, under trees and shrubs, along walls, along walkways, etc.
Several criteria can help you to choose among the vast choice offered in garden centers and nurseries: deciduous or evergreen foliage, flowering or non-flowering plants, plants for sunny or shady areas, plants for poor and dry soil, for rich and humid soil, for clayey soil, low perennials or shrubs, plants for mild climates, for cool climate, …
The ground cover plants listed above have many advantages over a conventional lawn, as most of them require only limited watering and no mowing.
Groundcover maintenance is virtually eliminated and is limited to a light cleaning: scarification, topdressing and other maintenance operations can be permanently forgotten. These tracing and covering plants can adapt to steeply sloping soils and cover difficult areas such as the base of tall trees or for some of them to withstand prolonged drought situations. In addition, some of them have the good taste to bloom!
Be aware, however, that these plants do not provide a result equivalent to that of an English lawn. Some do not tolerate trampling, others lose their foliage in winter, and still others will grow somewhat irregularly. It is up to you to adapt the choice of your plants to the configuration of your garden!