by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
- What are the best ground cover plants for desert landscapes?
- Drought tolerant ground cover you can walk on.
- Where should you plant ground cover?
- Arizona ground cover plants.
- Xeriscape ground cover
Mountain landscapes are difficult for plants, especially if you want to keep them low maintenance. Ground-hugging plants are the perfect solutions in an arid climate where rock lawns are the norm and growing conditions challenging.
Do any search online, and you’ll find a lot of bad advice for mountain gardens. You really must verify the sources and confirm with your local garden centers. But, hey, that’s why this column has so many loyal readers! Thank you:)
This list of the best groundcovers is based on local gardeners who shop here at Watters Garden Center. This is not an all-encompassing plant list, merely the most popular found in many neighborhoods. Botanical names and online links are provided so you can reference more varieties. Ensure you receive the first dibs on next year’s plants and pre-order your spring 2022 delivery. Order now, and they are delivered directly to the garden center with free shipping this spring.
This is the most challenging garden spot in every yard. High altitude sun, persistent wind, and extra heat reflected off retaining walls and rock lawns make sunny spots especially hot.
- Friesland meadow Sage, Salvia nemorosa
- Gro-Low Fragrant Sumac, Rhus aromatica
- Dropmore Scarlet Honeysuckle, Lonicera x brownii
- Tom Thumb Creeping Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster adpressus
- Blue Chip Juniper, Juniperus horizontalis
- Emerald Gaiety Wintercreeper, Euonymus fortunei
Fragrance Where People Gather
Whether from their foliage or blooms, some plants just give off more pleasing scents than others. Fragrant plants should be used in specific parts of our yards. Use this list of plants where guests visit over a glass of wine, at a backyard BBQ, and sit by the fire pit. Here are our favorite plants that smell better than most.
- Corsican mint, Mentha requienii
- Walker’s Low Catmint, Nepeta faassenii
- Red Creeping Thyme, Thymus praecox
- Firewitch Dianthus, Dianthus gratianopolitanus
- Hall’s Honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica
- Arp Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis
- Star Jasmine: Trachelospermum jasminoides
- Halo Violet Perennial Violet, Viola cornuta
A backyard with a sheer wall or hill covered in granite boulders has its own challenges. Choose plants with strong roots, and they hold the soil together, controlling erosion.
- Honeybelle Honeysuckle, Lonicera x brownii
- Coral Beauty Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster dammeri
- Blueberry Delight Juniper, Juniperus communis
- Eichholz Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster dammeri
- Wine Periwinkle, Vinca minor
- Huntington Carpet Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis
- Star Showers Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia
- Atomic Red Trumpet Vine, Campsis radicans
- Bearberry Kinnikinnick, Arctostaphylos
To Soften Walls
So many raised beds and walls are sterile and in need of softening. These ground covers ease and disguise strong lines in hardscape elements.
- Blue Uniform Bellflower, Campanula carpatica
- Illumination Dwarf Periwinkle, Vinca minor
- Snow Hill Meadow Sage, Salvia sylvestris
- Sunsparkler Dazzleberry Sedum, Sedum Dazzleberry
- Thorndale English Ivy, Hedera helix
- Roman Beauty Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis
- Cranberry Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster apiculatus
Where Weeds Grow
Choke weeds out with plants that overtake and squeeze them out. Here’s a list of ground covers that are so hardy they choke out weeds, even the most persistent.
- Pink Cat Catmint, Nepeta nervosa
- Golden Creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia
- Elfin Thyme, Thymus serpyllum
- Angelina Stonecrop, Sedum rupestre
- Bowles Periwinkle, Vinca minor
- Creeping Oregon Grape, Mahonia repens
Wildfire Protection: Reduced Fuel Zone
These plants have high moisture contents, so far less prone to catch fire. Growing a ground cover for fuel reduction is often overlooked but definitely worked into the gardens in areas prone to wildfires.
- White Flowered Chocolate Vine, Akebia quinata
- Streibs Findling Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster dammeri
- De La Mina Verbena, Verbena lilacina
- Prostrate Rock Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster horizontalis
- Madison Star Jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides
- Bronze Carpet Stonecrop, Sedum spurium
- Trumpet Vine, Campsis radicans
- Red Wall Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia
For High-Traffic Area
Ground covers make excellent replacements for the traditional lawn. Here are the plants that withstand foot traffic and still look good.
- English Thyme, Thymus vulgaris
- Wilton Blue Rug Juniper, Juniperus horizontalis
- Chocolate Mint, Mentha piperita
- Wine Common Periwinkle, Vinca minor
- Hot & Spicy Oregano, Origanum vulgare
- Green Showers Boston Ivy, Parthenocissus tricuspidata
As we build ever deeper into the forest and mountain valleys, we encounter wild creatures that see our gardens as their personal buffets! Here’s a list of low-profile plants mountain-dwellers find utterly distasteful. Some even have a repellant effect.
- Woolly Thyme, Thymus pseudolanuginosus
- Compact Oregon Grape Holly, Mahonia aquifolium
- Big Ears Lamb’s Ears, Stachys byzantina
- Pineapple Mint, Mentha suaveolens
- Mondo Grass, Ophiopogon japonicus
- Huntington Carpet Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis
- Variegated Lemon Thyme, Thymus citriodorus
- Engelman Ivy, Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Spots under a tree, a deck, or eaves need something that ‘pops’ to bring dark spaces alive. Here are my local favorites that outshine the rest in a shady spot.
- Burgundy Glow Carpet Bugle, Ajuga reptans
- Creeping Bramble, Rubus calycinoides
- Sweet Woodruff, Galium odoratum
- Duckfoot Ivy, Hedera helix
- Tidal Pool Speedwell, Veronica
- Grace Ward Lithodora, Lithodora diffusa
- Bowles’ Common Periwinkle, Vinca minor
2022 Free Garden Class Announcement for next year is very exciting. January classes and instructors are finalized, and the rest of the Spring schedule is coming together nicely. Next year’s categories are going to be certified organic! Here are the topics for the first classes of 2022.
January 15 @ 9:30 am: Houseplant with Professional Style
January 22 @ 9:30 am: Top Landscape Designs with Flare
January 29 @ 9:30 am: Why January is the Month to Plant Wildflowers
Until next week I’ll be helping local gardeners with gift cards and selecting groundcovers here at Watters Garden Center.