Ground Covers: Some Midsummer Recommendations
Perhaps you have an area in your yard that can’t readily be mowed. Or maybe you’re just tired of mowing at all. Then consider replacing grass with attractive, flowering ground covers. Here is a sampling of suitable species being grown at Richard Lyons’ Nursery:
Perennial Peanut, Arachis pintoi and Arachis glabrata: According to Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), in the nearly 80 years since this remarkable plant was introduced to the U.S. from Brazil, it has never suffered a significant disease, insect or nematode pest! And because it doesn’t reproduce via seed, it hasn’t demonstrated any signs of invasiveness. It makes a nice ground cover if you provide good drainage. Perennial Peanut bears edible, peanut-flavored yellow flowers on and off all year. And the plant is tough enough to tolerate salt spray and occasional foot traffic.
Carnation ‘Firewitch’, Dianthus gratianopolitanus ‘Firewitch’: If our weather forecast suddenly calls for a low of 35 below zero, you might not survive, but this plant will! Capable of growing in a vast range of temperatures, this Carnation cultivar produces bright purplish-pink flowers, as well as a clove-like fragrance. Even when not in flower, Firewitch’s blue-gray foliage makes it an attractive ground cover that stays under a foot high. Plant in sunny exposures with excellent drainage.
Golden Dragon Impatiens, Impatiens repens: This Sri Lankan species, now likely extinct in the wild, doesn’t look like what most people think of when they consider Impatiens. Leaves are more rounded than pointed, and they help create a nice ground cover. I. repens produces succulent, burgundy-red, creeping stems complemented by yellow flowers. For best results, plant in filtered light.
Turk’s Cap, Malvaviscus arboreus var. mexicanus: Though capable of growing into a moderate-sized shrub, Turk’s Cap is also amenable — through judicious pruning — to being maintained as a ground cover. It produces bright red, pendulous flowers which call to mind less-than-fully unfurled blooms of hibiscus, to which it is, in fact, related. This plant is a bird and butterfly attractant. For best results, plant in a well-drained site, in full sun to light shade, and provide regular watering. Conduct pruning operations during the cooler months of the year.
Lavender Star Flower, Grewia occidentalis: Native to Africa from Mozambique southward, the Lavender Star Flower possesses several desirable features: Glossy, deep green leaves; edible, square-looking compound berries; non-aggressive roots; attractiveness to butterflies and birds; tolerance of drought, salt spray, strong winds, and light frost. Though capable of being trained to grow as a small tree, G. occidentalis also functions as a ground cover when left to wander around. For best results, plant in full sun and provide supplemental iron occasionally.
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), L. depressa (Pineland Lantana), and L. montevidensis (Lavender Trailing Lantana).