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

Monday - March 09, 2009

From: Blakeslee, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Groundcovers
Title: Groundcover for Poconos in Pennsylvania
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hi Mr. Smarty Plants, I am having a problem growing grass. I live in the Pocono mtns of Pa. my soil is not typical for this area. I have very sandy soil, probably poor quality. grass will not grow. I would like to cover the area with a ground cover plant that spreads fast and would not be poisonous to my horses, goat and dogs. I thought about baltic ivy but it turns out to be very poisonous. Do you have any suggestions? I would like something wild looking, low maintenance. Thanks Jennifer

ANSWER:

First of all, Mr. Smarty Plants wouldn't recommend Hedera helix (English or Baltic ivy) since it is not native to North America and is widely considered to be an invasive species.  And, you are right that it could be toxic to your animals.

Here are some candidates for a groundcover in your poor, sandy soil.  You will notice that I included a couple of grasses and a sedge that will grow in sandy soil in Pennsylvania.  You might intersperse them with other groundcovers for variety.  All these have been checked against our favorite toxic plant databases (Poisonous Plants of North Carolina, Cornell University Plants Poisonous to Livestock, Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System, University of Pennsylvania Poisonous Plants) and do not appear in any of them.

Bromus kalmii (arctic brome)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Carex cephalophora (capitate sedge)

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (kinnikinnick)

Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry) and more information

Dasiphora fruticosa ssp. floribunda (shrubby cinquefoil)

Artemisia frigida (prairie sagewort)

Artemisia ludoviciana (white sagebrush)


Bromus kalmii

Schizachyrium scoparium

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Gaultheria procumbens

Dasiphora fruticosa ssp. floribunda

Artemisia frigida

Artemisia ludoviciana

 

 


 

More Groundcovers Questions

Evergreen ground covers and low plants for Dallas area
May 25, 2010 - Would like a list of low growing (24" or less) evergreen plants including ground covers, scrubs, etc-flowering and non-flowering that are hardy and require low maintenance in the Dallas area. So ofte...
view the full question and answer

Low plants to cover bank too steep to mow
June 26, 2008 - I have a bank along the road that is too steep to mow. This bank faces east and only gets 2 - 4 hours per day of sunlight. I'd like to try ground cover to prevent erosion, however visibility is a p...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for Connecticut sandy gravel bank
January 11, 2012 - What ground cover plant can I use on a sandy gravel bank behind my house?
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for shade in Duval County, Florida
September 17, 2014 - What low growing ground cover would be good for a lake edge area. This area is shaded with overlying woodland type trees. I planted some autumn ferns but they have getting overrun with poison ivy. I a...
view the full question and answer

Groundcovers for Shade Under a Sweetgum
March 25, 2015 - I have 3 large sweetgum trees that produce so much shade each summer, and grass, even grass meant for shade, won't grow here. It's become a barren desert! I have English ivy but it only seems to gro...
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