The best general groundcovers for North Coast California
Listed here are low-growing, neatly attractive but unassuming groundcovers, which are used where grass is difficult to maintain, beneath shrubs, on gentle slopes, etc. On the North Coast where climate varies considerably by altitude and distance from the ocean, not all of the recommendations will be hardy over the entire area. In arid regions, it is assumed that water is available for the plants suggested.
See also Groundcovers for slopes
- Ajuga. This creeping semi-evergreen perennial has leaves four inches long and narrow, arranged in flat rosettes. They may be green, bronze, or mottled, depending upon variety. The flowers in spring are showy 6-inch high spikes of purplish-blue, ping or white. The plants like part shade. Space them 6 to 12 inches apart and propagate by dividing clumps.
- Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi). This native trailing evergreen thrives here, growing 6 to 12 inches high. While it prefers acid soil, it adapts to sandy beaches or rocky hillside conditions sun or shade, coastal or inland climate. The leaves are small and leathery; little white flowers are followed by bright red berries. Potted plants transplant most easily.
- Creeping Lily-Turf (Liriope species) Hardier than the below variety, but similar habits.
- Dwarf Lily-Turf (Ophiopogon species). These have grass like evergreen leaves up to a foot high and are especially popular in the warmer climates, where they are used mostly in the shade. Stepping on them occasionally does no harm, but they are not good for steady traffic. The flowers are lavender, held erect on a spike somewhat resembling Grape Hyacinth. To plant them, separate the clumps and set divisions three to six inches apart.
- Thyme. These low, carpet-forming fragrant-leaved plants can stand hot, dry, sunny places and poor soil. They tolerate quite a bit of walking upon so are good to grow among stepping stones, patio pavers, and sunny strips along curbs. These are the same plants you grow and use as herbs. There are many kinds, some with green leaves and others with gray or wooly foliage. The flower are tiny, in red, lavender or white. To plant, tear the clumps into divisions and set them a foot apart.
- Pachysandra terminalis, also known as Japanese Spurge. This shade-loving plant is one of the most popular groundcovers. Eight to twelve inches high, its leaves, evergreen and lustrous, spread rapidly by underground or surface runners. The plant can be propagated by rooting pieces of leaf-topped stems in water, moist sand, or wherever you want it to grow--if you keep the soil moist. It prefers slightly acid, moist ground, but tolerates dry conditions. There is a mottled variety.
- Roman Chamomile (Anthemus nobilis). This herb grows three to six inches high with ferny, scented leaves and small yellow blooms. It can be walked upon and mowed. Full sun or light shade are preferred. Set the plants a foot or two apart. They can be grown from seed or divisions.
- Vinca minor or Common Myrtle's slender stems are covered with small glossy evergreen leaves. The flowers, in spring, are typically vivid blue, though there are varieties with white and purple flowers. Roots form along the stems, and pieces cut off and planted in moist soil quickly become plants. Space these, or divisions, a foot apart.
- Wild Strawberry. Several types that have relatively small 3-parted semi-evergreen leaves, white flowers and delicious fruits. They cover ground rapidly by putting out runner plants and like sun or part shade. Space them one or two feet apart.
See also Groundcovers for slopes
WARNING: Because some groundcover plants are aggressive, some of them, under good growing conditions, can become seriously invasive. Glyphosate (Roundup) can come to your rescue if things get out of hand.