En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

Lawn for a Shady & Wet area in Austin, TX
July 22, 2015 - We have a drainage area that has appeared in our back yard since the neighbors’ homes were built. When we get heavy rains (like this year) all their drainage flows into our back yard and forms a river...
view the full question and answer

Replacing St. Augustine with Horse herb in Austin, TX.
December 12, 2012 - I'm considering replacing my St. Augustine grass with a Horseherb/Straggler Daisy ground cover, but I've heard that it provides a mosquito breeding habitat, especially if you allow dead leaves to de...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for East Texas
November 07, 2010 - I live in the country of east Texas and wish to grow native ground covers around my house and property. I have no way to control this growth, as I have no fences or borders. I have sandy soil and th...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for Central California from Concord CA
July 19, 2012 - I live in a part of California where the summers can be very hot and dry but quite cool and wet during the rainy seasons in the wintertime. The soil around my home is very dry, rocky and infertile. I...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for Southern California near the beach
February 27, 2011 - I'm in Southern California near the beach (3 miles away). I am looking for a front lawn ground cover that can stand many hours of daily direct sunlight, but will also get cool breezes off the ocean a...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center