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Questions & Answers
Groundcovers

This page contains questions (edited) we have received from our viewers along with our responses.  
We thought you might find this information helpful.   

Q:

   I am looking for something to plant in between my flagstones that will take full morning sun.  M., Rifle, 4/11/11

A:
   Woolly thyme and other low growing thyme would be a good choice to plant between the flagstones.
 
Q:    In Oak Creek, CO, we have overspray next to the grass area that needs a ground cover which can tolerate extra moisture. Sod is watered 3x weekly. Attempts to lessen irrigation are underway but the area is still moist. Will Potentilla verna or Ajuga handle this? Or can you recommend plants that withstands elk, deer, critters?  Thanks kindly, B. G., Oak Creek, 5/16/07
A:
   Groundcovers that like moisture include Ajuga reptans and Periwinkle (Vinca minor).  They do best in shade or partial shade.  Moneywort, also known as Creeping Jenny, (Lysimachia nummularia) is a good choice for moist locations.  It grows in sun or partial shade.  Potentilla verna likes moderate amounts of water.  Unfortunately, deer will eat most kinds of groundcover.
 
Q:    I am looking for a groundcover to fill in between flagstones on my patio. Are there any groundcovers suited to this purpose in Colorado?  M. M., Colorado Springs, 4/30/06
 
A:
   There are several kinds of low-growing groundcover that can be used between flagstones.
Turkish Veronica (Veronica liwanensis) and some varieties of Thyme such as Woolly Thyme and Mother-of-Thyme are good choices.
 
Q:    I am looking for the name of the very small dark green-leafed thyme that has tiny pink flowers in spring and tends to grow in a mat that raises a bit. I have it growing on the south  flagstone patio, and it is my favorite of all the groundcovers I bought.  Is this thyme available in a seed and can you plant the seed outdoors between flagstone in Steamboat Springs with any success?  C. K., Steamboat Springs, 4/1/06
A:     You probably have a variety of Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum), also known as Mother-of-Thyme.  Several types have pink flowers, such as 'Pink Chintz' and 'Pink Ripple.'  Because of the short growing season it may be difficult to grow thyme from seed in Steamboat Springs.  Seed is inexpensive, so it wouldn't hurt to give it a try.
 
Q:    What can I plant around the shade border of my blue spruce tree?  I have this area of dead grass and it is so unsightly against my nice lawn.  N. V. R., Colorado Springs, 7/8/05
A:     You may want to replace the dead grass with a shade-loving groundcover.  Periwinkle (Vinca minor), Creeping Oregon grape (Mahonia repens), Lamium (Lamium maculatum) and Sweet Woodruff (Gallium odoratum) are options.
 
Q:   On the north facing side of my house I have an area that grass does not grow in.  I am wondering if there is a good plant (preferably a perennial) that LOVES all shade that will grow there along the house.  I would like to have something that would need little care.  I don't know if it is the lack of sunshine or lack of nutrients in this area, but grass just will not cover it.  Can you suggest something I can try?  D. B., Denver, 5/17/05
A:    There are some nice groundcovers that you might try for the shady area.  Periwinkle (Vinca minor) and Purpleleaf Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei 'Colorata') are two of my favorites.  Neither is aggressive and they stay green in winter.  Periwinkle has pretty blue flowers in May and June.
 
Q:    I would like to find out what kind of short ground cover I can plant that the grass will not take over (if this exists.)  The area is in full sun, about 5' long x 12".  I had periwinkle for a few years, but eventually the grass smothered it.  I am looking for something no taller then 6" in height. 
   Also, what is the best way to plant mint, so that it stays under control?  Thank you!  T. C., Northglenn, 4/27/05
A:
   If the bed where you want to plant a ground cover is beside the lawn, try to put a barrier between the lawn and the bed.  Sink edging, bricks or another suitable material about six inches into the soil.  You might consider using Thyme (Thymus) or Turkish Veronica (Veronica liwanensis).  If you want an aggressive grower, Snow-in-Summer (Cerastium tomentosum) is an option.
    To keep mint under control you can grow it in a container or you can plant it in an inexpensive pot with drainage and then "plant" the pot.
 
Q:   I'm looking for a low ground cover that will grow between narrow joints in a stone path.  Is there a variety of thyme (or something else) that will prosper without additional watering (after it is established)?  There isn't a lot of soil between the stones -- just a crushed stone base.  What is the best way to divide a plant into these narrow joints.  Thanks, C. H., Fort Collins, 2/24/05 
A:    Thyme (Thymus) is a good choice for use in a stone path.  It will need regular watering until it is established and then occasional watering -- about 1/2 inch of water per week.  Pussy toes (Antennaria) is another possible choice.  Once established it needs about 1/2 inch of water every two weeks.  Soak the groundcover thoroughly when you water it to encourage it to grow deep roots.  Avoid frequent shallow watering.  You can use a sharp knife to cut the groundcover into small pieces to insert between the stones.
 
Q:    I would like to replace the grass around my swimming pool with some kind of ground cover that wouldn't use much water and tolerate light foot traffic. The area is in full sun...no shade. Rather not have flowering ground cover from May to Sept. that would attract bees. Any suggestions???  P. W., Loveland, 2/27/03
A:    If the area is small, consider using an early blooming Thyme such as 'Pink Chintz' or a Thyme that rarely flowers such as Woolly Thyme (Thymus lanuginosus).  If the area is larger than a few hundred square feet, you might want to use Buffalograss.  Buffalograss requires only a fraction of the water that Kentucky Bluegrass needs, tolerates some foot traffic, and needs only occasional mowing.  It requires full sun.  Several high quality varieties, such as Tatanka and Cody are available.

Q:    Can you suggest some sort of groundcover or small hedge that I could plant between my driveway and neighbor's fence?  His fence is roughly 3' high, and I don't want the hedge to complete obscure his fence.  The biggest problem may be runoff, as the area gets particularly muddy during rain/snowstorms. The area also gets full-sun throughout the day.  I have approx. 2.5 feet of space between the driveway and fence.  K., Englewood, 3/11/03
A: Some low-growing groundcovers include these:
       Snow-in-Summer (Cerastium tomentosum) - white flowers in June, gray foliage, 6 - 12 " tall
       Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata) - early spring-blooming flowers in several colors are available, 4 - 6" tall
       Thyme (Thymus) - most have flowers, 1 - 4" tall
       Purple-leaf Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei 'Coloratus') - leaves turn purplish in fall and winter months, 12 - 18" tall.

Q:   I am going to be receiving Red Sedum for groundcover.  Can I
plant them now?  I have chosen bright locations under the trees in the front
yard.  I am also looking for a groundcover that will do well under a pine tree
that would have slight sunlight during the day.  Do you have any suggestions?
Thank you.  A. B., Colorado Springs, 9/3/02
A:   You can plant the Red Sedum now, so long as you can provide sufficient water.  Once established, it requires watering only occasionally.  It doesn't like fertilizer.  If you have clay soil, amend it with some compost to improve drainage prior to planting the groundcover.
  Groundcovers that do well in semi-shade or shade include Periwinkle (Vinca minor), which has blue flowers, and Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum), which has white flowers.  Both bloom in spring.

Q:   Hello, I have a question about what I should plant under my blue spruce trees. I have 3 of them, all about 30-40 feet high. Our house faces the north in the front, and one of the trees is in the front yard. We cut off the bottom branches of that tree about 4 feet. The other 2 trees are in the backyard, we cut those branches up to almost 6 feet, however on all the trees the upper branches hang lower than how far we cut up underneath. I would say all of them have full shade underneath. What can you recommend that we plant under them? I'd like something of a ground cover that doesn't require lots of attention.
K. S., Greeley, 6/2/02
A:   Some groundcovers you might consider are Periwinkle (Vinca minor), Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum), and Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans).  Periwinkle and Sweet Woodruff do well in shade or semi-shade.  Bugleweed prefers shade.  All three have flowers.

Q:    I am looking for a fast growing and hardy ground cover for a hillside.  I live in Rock Creek.  Any suggestions?  C.A.,  Superior, 6/23/00
A:
   Here are a few tips to consider before selecting and planting a groundcover.
        1. Soil preparation is vital.  If at all possible, add compost and work it into the soil. 
        2. Weeds are likely to be a problem until the groundcover fills in.  You may want to use an herbicide such as glyphosate (Roundup or Kleenup) prior to planting the groundcover to kill existing weeds.
        3.  If the area to be planted is in the sun during the afternoon or most of the day, choose a groundcover that requires sun.  If the area gets only morning sun, select a groundcover that grows in semi-shade.  If the area gets little sun, choose a shade-loving groundcover.
        4.  The groundcover's height is an important feature that you should consider.  Do you want a groundcover that is flat and mat-like, one that is several inches high, or something that is a low, spreading shrub? 

Here are a few groundcovers:
    Thyme (Thymus) grows 1-4 inches high, blooms in summer, and prefers sun or semi-shade.  Several varieties are available.
    Carpet Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) grows 4-8 inches high, blooms in spring, and tolerates various light conditions.
    Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata) grows 4-6 inches high, blooms in spring, and likes sun or semi-shade.
    Purple Iceplant ( Delosperma cooperi) grows 2-4 inches high, blooms in the summer, and prefers a sunny location.
    Stonecrop (Sedum), depending on the variety selected, grows 2-30 inches high and flowers sometime between May and October.  It likes sun.
    Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis or sabina) is a woody evergreen that prefers sun.  Low-growing varieties include 'Bar Harbor' (6-8"), 'Blue Chip' (8-12"),'Buffalo' (12-18"), and 'Skandia' (18-24").

 
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