ASK THE MASTER GARDENERS
Q: I’ve got lots of vinca and pachysandra, but I would like to start growing native ground covers. Can you suggest some?
A: Using plants indigenous to our area is a great way to support our ecology and local wildlife, including nectar for butterflies and seeds for birds. Here are some beautiful, reliable and low-maintenance choices:
Golden groundsel (Senecio aureus) blooms in spring with spectacular yellow daisies above shiny round basal leaves that spread with vigor. Grows 6-12 inches high. Part sun or shade. Deer resistant.
Canada wild ginger (Asarum canadense), which is pictured, thrives in dense shade, where it shows off its large, satiny, heart-shaped leaves. 4-6 inches high. Deer resistant.
Golden star or green and gold (Chrysogonum virginianum) makes a quick-spreading mat that provides a background for lots of bright yellow flowers during spring and into summer. 3-6 inches high. Part shade or sun.
Allegheny spurge (Pachysandra procumbens) is evergreen. Its thick wavy-edged summer leaves develop a beautiful silvery mottling in fall and a bronze glaze during winter. It greets the spring with bottle-brush flowers and thrives under the shade of trees, including evergreens. 6-8 inches high.
Moss phlox (Phlox subulata) is an unstoppable groundcover for full sun. It covers itself with blue, pink or white flowers in spring, then retains its needle-like leaves in a thick green carpet. 4-6 inches high. Deer resistant.
Foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia) makes a lovely sight in spring with masses of airy white flowers floating over patterned leaves. It grows well among the roots and shade of trees. It’s semi-evergreen, with leaves that turn bronze when the weather gets cold. Grows 8 inches high. Deer resistant.
Barren strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides) thrives in tough spots. It makes a thick, weed-choking cover in average soil. Its yellow flowers appear April through July, followed by ornamental red berries. 3-6 inches high. Sun or part shade.
Blue rug juniper (Juniperis horizontalis var. ‘Blue Rug’) is an easy keeper for a well-drained spot in full sun. Its evergreen needles are a striking silver-blue in summer and turn plum in winter. It thrives in average soil and spreads rapidly. 6 inches high. Deer resistant.
Donna Lassiter, Master Gardener with Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Westchester