Stillwater News Press


April 19, 2014

In the Garden 04-20-14

Options for your lawn

For many years, landscapers limited their use of groundcovers, preferring to plant lawn. Groundcovers only found a home under trees or on steep embankments. Vining plants like Vinca and Euonymus (Wintercreeper) were common choices for they covered an area quickly and remained green throughout the year.  

Apart from being overused, I am not particularly fond of either of these for three reasons. First, I dislike the height; it is difficult to walk through. Second, it rarely appears nice and full; I want a groundcover to blanket the ground. Third, mowing the vines annually keeps a neater patch, but I prefer a maintenance free groundcover.

A diminutive, yet tough groundcover is Pratia pendunculata, sold on the market as Blue Star Creeper. This tiny leafed plant lives up to its name, creeping without hesitation. Pratia bears pale blue, star-shaped flowers throughout summer and fall, followed by dieback in winter.  

Often used between flagstones in sun and partial shade, Pratia is fairly aggressive when provided with ample water. It may cover the stones and creep into beds, at times climbing into clumps of established perennials as it reaches for light.

For a formal, tidy groundcover; turn to Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Nana’, aka Dwarf Mondo grass. The dark-green foliage of Ophiopogon looks like a small version of monkey grass but it is in no way related. Dwarf Mondo grass blades grow reach 3 inches. Grown as a perennial, plant in partial shade and apply regular water.

Rarely does Ophiopogon flower; it spreads steadily from the base as a means of survival. Divide Mondo grass in early spring by lifting a clump and separating sections with a sharp knife. Trim the roots by half before replanting to encourage new feeding roots.   

Santolina chamaecyparissus, aka Lavender cotton, is for full sun areas. It has no problem with heat, drought or deer. Belonging to the Aster family, choose the variety ‘Nana’ or you may find your groundcover two feet tall!  

Santolina’s gray, felty foliage is coarse and fragrant when crushed. The plant produces yellow, button flowers on eight to ten-inch stems throughout summer. It needs well-drained soil and little water once established.

Yearly maintenance is required for Santolina to look its best. Becoming woody at the base, shear plantings in early spring before the new growth begins. Limit its spread by removing side branches as needed.  

For new landscapes or garden makeovers look with new appreciation to a groundcover’s ability to turn troublesome areas into carpets of color or scale an expanse down to a manageable size.

LeeAnn Barton has worked with nurseries for more than 20 years. She digs in the dirt in Stillwater. Direct questions to her by emailing

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