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

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Wednesday - February 24, 2010

From: Oceanside, CA
Region: California
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Native plants to go between patio stones in Oceanside CA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hello Mr. Smarty Plants! I live in Oceanside CA about 5 mi from the coast and have an about 20' sq private patio with "issues". Patio has with flagstones, one side all sun all day, middle area partial shade all day (shade fabric covers area), one side sun in late PM only. I am having trouble finding a low height no mowing ground cover for between the flagstones, that will "fit the bill" for all the patio. It needs to be drought resistant because of the clime & my tendency to forget to water daily for 15 minutes (and the smallness of the area - irrigation or drip systems are not workable - manual only). Part of the area has Korean Grass (doing wonderfully), part seems to like baby tears ground cover and part just likes weeds! Suggestions?

ANSWER:

For openers, the plants you are using now are not native to North America. Since our expertise only extends to plants native not only to North America but to the area in which the plants are being grown, we cannot recommend either. Urticaceae solerolia, Baby's Tears, is native to the Northern Meditteranean, around Italy. It is often grown indoors as a houseplant, prefers shade and moderate moisture. It is considered a common weed in many places, and can be very invasive, almost impossible to control. We don't like invasives, either. Zoysia japonica, Korean lawn grass, was introduced into the U.S. in 1895 from the Manchurian Province of China.

Finding a native groundcover that will suit your purposes and the varying environments for plants in your patio is difficult.  Las Pilitas Nursery, which specializes in California native plants, has a location in San Diego County, where you are, and could probably help you more than we could. We looked at their page on groundcovers under 1' tall, but most of them seemed too tall to work in your situation. However, if you contact them or visit, they can probably find something that works for you.

We went to our Native Plant Database, looking at some of the very low-growing plants we have had experience with before that could work in your situation. A few of these were on the Las Pilitas list, and all are native to California. We also checked each of our selections with the USDA Plant Profile on that plant to determine if it grew in or near San Diego County. None of the five fit all your specifications. You are doing the right thing to keep the spaces between your flagstones permeable; that is, permitting water to go down into the soil for tree roots that may be trying to survive, but you  could find that putting pea gravel or a good quality shredded hardwood mulch into those spaces will accomplish the same purposes without the maintenance.

Low groundcovers for patio in San Diego Co., California:

Symphoricarpos mollis (creeping snowberry) - part sun to shade, low water use

Phyla nodiflora (turkey tangle fogfruit) - semi-evergreen, perennial, sun or part shade

Fragaria vesca (woodland strawberry) - part shade, shade

Heuchera rubescens (pink alumroot) - perennial, part shade

Heuchera rubescens var. versicolor (pink alumroot) - perennial, shade Pictures from Google

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Symphoricarpos mollis

Phyla nodiflora

Fragaria vesca

Heuchera rubescens

 

 

 

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