To become a favourite in Missy's garden, a groundcover must meet a few essential criteria. They must keep the weeds at bay and not require too much watering. They must not only look attractive but compliment the other plants around and above them. They should spread to fill their given area but not become rampant and overtake everything else. They must grow from either cuttings or seeds and be easy to propagate. (ie. be cost effective)
1. Rhoeo – Tradescantia spathacea grows in full sun or semi shade (in full shade it starts looking a bit scrappy). One rosette will soon produce a large clump. We use it as a border plant or as a ground cover. It comes in two sizes and different colour variants. The only thing it hates is too much water, particularly over winter. It will rot away. Snails will hide under it and have a good feast as well.
2. Purple heart Tradescantia pallida is a close relative and another easy to grow groundcover. Its use is a little limited because, as the fashion industry learnt during the 70’s, not everything goes with purple. It can also spread a little too readily if not controlled. John calls it a weed because it grows a little too well, but I like it.
They both come from the Wandering Jew family which are all easy to grow… In fact, one of their cousins, Tradescantia Fluminensis is classed as a noxious weed because it grows a bit too easily.
3. Ornamental Sweet Potato - Ipomoea batatas comes in lime green, dark purple, and a paler mix of green and red.
4. Acalypha pendula – a prostrate form of cat’s tail or chenille plant prefers sun but will grow in light shade.
5. Good old nasturtiums probably should have top billing on my favourites list. We planted some in various parts of the garden as a quick and easy groundcover when we first started the garden. They have an added bonus of being a great nitrogen fixing plant apparently. Each year during winter the self-seeded progeny of those original nasturtiums fill the gaps left by plants that go dormant over winter. They're just starting to pop up around the garden at the moment.
6. Variegated jasmine - Trachelospermum jasminoides 'Tricolor' is actually a vine but grows happily along the ground. It seems equally at home in sun or shade and once established doesn’t mind going withour water for a while.
7. Seaside daisy - Erigeron karvinskianus flowers for most of the year (mainly in spring). I bought a punnet of 6 seedlings a few years ago and they’ve been happily spreading out ever since.
8. Mondo grass Ophiopogon japonicas – comes in different sizes and colours. The mini mondo is perfect for small areas. It won’t usually overstep its territory and is easy to pull out if it does. Its larger cousin will spread quite quickly given the right conditions. Both will grow in full sun but do better in part-shade. The black seems to do best in dry shaded areas and, for me at least, has been quite slow growing.
9. Temple Grass or Zoisya Grass – Took a while to get established (possibly because the soil was poor) but once it settled in formed a knobbly green carpet.
10. The neoregelias are not something you may think of as a ground cover but some spread to cover a reasonable area – the red centred - Neoregelia McWilliamsii plus the matchstick bromeliad - Aechmea gamosepala are two that spring to mind.
None of these are fancy plants. They are the work horses of the garden. They are cheap, easy to grow and serve a very important role - cutting down on the gardener's need to weed and water. That's what makes them my favourites.
There are lots of great groundcovers. What are your favourites?