Ground Covers You May Not Have Thought Of, Part VII

Today Richard Lyons’ Nursery today presents the seventh installment of its survey of plants that are sometimes overlooked for their potential as ground covers.

Bamboo Muhly, Muhlenbergia dumosa, and Pink Muhly Grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris: These closely-related species not only succeed as stand-alone landscape elements, but they also work well as clumping, tall ground covers. M. dumosa, native to southern Arizona and northwestern Mexico, has lacy, fine-textured foliage and an attractive billowing growth habit. It is the taller of the two grasses, reaching 4-6 ft. high. M. capillaris, native over a wide expanse of North America, grows 1-3 ft. high. It is particularly attractive in late summer, when it produces long flower stalks that imbue the plant with a pink to purplish hue. M. capillaris is the more drought-tolerant of these species, but both are known for their ease of maintenance.

Calathea spp.: If you are looking for a colorful ground cover for dappled-light settings, the genus Calathea is an excellent choice. Native to South America and Central America, its species feature some of the most eye-catching combinations of hues and patterns found in tropical foliage plants. They thrive in highly-humid conditions, but must have excellent drainage. Watering frequency should be reduced during winter months. Clumps may be divided to expand the area of coverage.

Lantana spp.: The genus Lantana comprises about 150 species native to both the Old World and New World tropics. Many of them are widely used for their spectacular color combinations, the length of their flowering seasons, and their success in attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. Plant them in full sun. They are amenable to being pruned vigorously to keep them compact and improve flowering. Richard Lyons’ Nursery recommends L. camara (Lantana), L. canescens (Hammock Shrub Verbena), L. involucrata (Button Sage), and L. montevidensis (Lavender Trailing Lantana).

Firecracker Plant, Crossandra infundibuliformis: See “Looking for Shady Friends? Part III” (July 27, 2013) on this website.

Green Island Ficus, Ficus macrophylla ‘Green Island’: See “Ficus macrophylla (Green Island Ficus)” (September 1, 2012) on this website.

Lemon Grass, Cymbopogon citratus: See “Herbs for Summer Heat” (August 16, 2013) on this website.

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