I have a small back garden and have removed the grass and replaced it with flagstone. I would like to plant a low perennial ground cover between the stones. I have some experience with creeping thyme. Is that my only choice for a sandy well drained house with southern exposure. Can I get seeds and start the plants myself? Do you have any other suggestions for me?
Plants that can tolerate foot traffic deserve a spot in every garden. They soften your hard scape, and add texture, scent and beauty to an otherwise utilitarian space.
The important thing when chosing a groundcover is to pick one that is suited to the area and the function of the space. This will allow you to enjoy the results with less work and frustration. It should be noted that when choosing plants it is good to be familiar with groundcovers that are considered invasive in Ontario. Unfortunately many invasive plants are still available in nurseries. Ground covers you will commonly see that should be avoided include periwinkle (myrtle, vinca), English ivy and goutweed. Once you have these plants in your yard they will spread rapidly and invade your gardens and your neighbors’ gardens.
The Ontario Invasive Plants Council has published a guide “Grow Me Instead; Beautiful Non-Invasive Plants for your Garden” which provides details of many alternatives available, including their preferred growing conditions, size and shape, flower and fruit and a photo. Click here.
The following are a few suggestions for you to consider:
Creeping speedwell (Veronica repens) : This is a low-growing ground cover plant that only reaches a height of 1 – 2 inches. In the spring and early summer Veronica repens,Creeping Speedwell is adorned with masses of soft, light blue flowers. Plant in full sun to light shade. Will tolerate light foot traffic.
Prostrate speedwell (Veronica prostrata): Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Avoid wet, poorly drained soils. Plants may be sheared after flowering to revitalize and to encourage new foliage growth.
Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia): Golden creeping Jenny is a low-growing, rampant, evergreen groundcover with rounded, golden yellow leaves. In summer, it produces many cup-shaped, bright yellow flowers. Grow in a moist, but well-drained soil, rich in organic matter. Soil should not dry out in summer. Full sun or partial shade, but color is best in full sun.
Dwarf Bugelweed (Ajuga reptans): is a plant for walkways that is just about perfect, because even when it is in flower, it rarely attracts bees. It’s short stature means it does not have to be mowed, and it is very tolerant to foot traffic. It is also drought resistant when planted in part sun.
Creeping Thyme: is a short, drought resistant plant that flowers in early-mid summer. It’s flowers are a pretty pinkish purple, and the leaves are fragrant when crushed.
Scotch or Irish Moss (Sagina Subulata): are not really moss at all rather, they are a ground cover plant that has delicate white flowers in spring, and grows less than one inch tall. Scotch Moss is simply the golden variety of Sagina subulata. This plant prefers moist, but not wet soil and protection from afternoon sun.
Creeping Sedum: has to be one of best workhorse plants ever. There are many varieties of creeping sedums. They are drought resistant, grows 3-6 inches tall and 24-36 inches wide in a fast growing mat. This plant tolerates almost any conditions except soggy soil. Will even “replant” itself from broken branches.
We have a number of archived posts on groundcovers. Simply type “groundcover” in the search bar located on the right side of the page.
One in particular titled Low Ground Cover in full afternoon sun gives a detail list of various groundcovers which will grow in full sun along with a short description and photo.