En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - June 03, 2008

From: Rochester, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Groundcovers, Ferns, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Short or mowable plant for walkway
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I'd like a short and/or mowable plant to use as a walkway in and around a vegetable garden in upstate NY. I was planning on clover, but I want to use a native plant if possible. The native clovers seem like they might be too tall. If it can help the soil/wildlife, all the better.

ANSWER:

It isn't clear to me whether there will be much foot traffic on your walkways. I am not sure how the native clovers, the two groundcovers or the fern would fare under heavy traffic. The sedges listed below might withstand foot traffic the best.

The following are the native clovers that are found in New York:

Dalea purpurea (purple prairie clover) up to 2 feet tall

Lespedeza capitata (roundhead lespedeza) 2 to 4 feet

Lespedeza repens (creeping lespedeza) up to 1.5 feet, photo from Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation

Lespedeza stuevei (tall lespedeza) 1.5 to 5 feet tall

Lespedeza virginica (slender lespedeza) 2 to 4 feet

Please don't use any of the species of Trifolium. They are introduced species and several of these are listed on the Weeds of the Northeast as invasive species.

There are two low ground covers that are evergreen that do well in part shade (2 to 6 hours per day of sunlight) or shade (<2 hours per day of sunlight).

Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry) evergreen, 2 to 6 inches, prefers part shade or shade

Mitchella repens (partridgeberry) evergreen, up to 2 inches, prefers part shade or shade

There is an evergreen fern, Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern), that grows from 1 to 2 feet and prefers sun or part shade.

One of the sedges might be a good choice. Sedge are grasslike and can be mowed, most are evergreen and low-growing. You can read about Woodland Sedges, in an article from the North American Native Plant Society. Below are several sedges that are found in New York.

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge)

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

Carex vulpinoidea (fox sedge)

Visit our Recommended Species page and select New York from the map to see a list of native species suitable for landscaping in New York and are avaiable commercially.


Dalea purpurea

Lespedeza capitata

Lespedeza stuevei

Lespedeza virginica

Gaultheria procumbens

Mitchella repens

Carex blanda

Carex pensylvanica

Carex texensis

Carex vulpinoidea

 

 

More Groundcovers Questions

Prairie wattle for woodland area in Austin
November 29, 2009 - Can prairie wattle be grown in a woodland area? It would get part shade, with full sun for at least half a day. The soil is a bit rocky; location is Austin.
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for heavily traveled walkway from Redondo Beach CA
April 23, 2013 - I am looking for a drought resistant ground cover that you can walk on. I live on a south facing, sunny corner lot, 2 blocks from the beach where people park and need to cross over to get to the sidew...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for a Sunny, Steep Slope in Maryland
April 29, 2013 - I need a groundcover for a sunny dry steep slope in Towson, Maryland. The slope goes from the parking lot down to a deck area.
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for high traffic area in Pennsylvania
August 01, 2012 - I am wondering if there is a Pennsylvania native turf like grass/plant that can withstand a lot of foot traffic (public area with lots of children). This will be used in a formal setting so will need ...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen groundcover for full sun in North Carolina
April 16, 2013 - I have an area that is in full sun and I need to know the best low growing evergreen that possibly flowers to help cover where a ditch/water drainage pipe is below the planting area.
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center