Many gardeners are looking for an alternative to applying mulch every year to control weeds. One good solution is planting a groundcover that creates a dense canopy that keeps weeds to a minimum and eliminates mowing. Several groundcovers are adapted to our Oklahoma climate that may work in many landscapes.
English ivy is an excellent groundcover for part to shady locations. It does best in fertile, moist, but not excessively wet soils. The thick, evergreen groundcover reaches 12 inches in height and has a dark green, waxy leaf. It is quite aggressive and will quickly cover the ground. It will climb trees and buildings if left alone.
Vinca major is a groundcover for shady locations throughout Oklahoma. This evergreen plant grows 12-18 inches tall and is a fast spreader. The heart shaped leaves are medium to dark green but there are variegated varieties that are very attractive in mass plantings. Vinca minor also produces a bright blue flower that is quite showy.
Vinca minor, which belongs to the same family as vinca major, is only 4-6 inches tall that does not spread as fast as vinca major. The plant has dark green leaves that are glossy or waxy in appearance. The flower is bright blue but can vary from white to purple depending on the variety.
For those areas that have partial to very shady location and no full sun, pachysandra or Japanese spurge is a great plant to use. Although it is slow growing, it is an attractive evergreen ground cover that will fill a bed entirely. The dark green foliage grows 3 to 4 inches tall.
Ajuga is a slow to moderate growing groundcover that reaches only 6-10 inches in height. The foliage is purplish to green with flowers that are blue, white or rose color depending on the variety. It does best with at least 3 to 4 hours of full sun each day.
A group of plants that can be used as a groundcover, borders along walkways, paths or line effects are mondo grass and liriope. These plants are grass-like with blades that are about 8 to 20 inches long, depending on the variety.
Mondo grass has shorter more narrow leaves creating a finer texture groundcover than liriope. Mondo grass is slower growing but does make an excellent soft texture, deep green grass-like groundcover.
The taller liriopes are very bold and attractive large clumps of grass-like plants. Their flowers are very attractive that can vary from blue, lavender to white. Variegated varieties are available and should be considered to enhance the landscape. Taller liriope has to be trim back ever year before spring growth. A lawn mower set at the highest setting can accomplish this task.
Many of the junipers with low growing forms can inhibit weed seeds from germinating. Junipers are evergreens that do best in full sunny locations but can tolerate light shade. ‘Blue Rug Juniper’ is a blue colored juniper that will spread 4-6 feet across, while maintaining a height of only 4-6 inches. ‘Parson’s Juniper’ is a green, 1-8 inches tall juniper that has a spread of 6-8 feet.
Purple wintercreeper, a trailing euonymus, grows in sun to partial shade. The leaves are waxy deep green color during the summer, turning purple red in the winter. They grow about 8 to 16 inches tall. The plant grows densely, intertwining and rooting soundly in the ground. Pruning lightly will keep this plant from spread up buildings and trees.
Creeping phlox grows 8-10 inches tall and spreads out at a moderate rate. It has lavender to purple flowers in the early spring and fall that cover the entire plant. Creeping phlox is a plant for sunny to partial shady locations. In full shady locations it becomes weak and a poor competitor against weeds.
Jim Coe writes a weekly garden column for The Lawton Constitution.