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

Friday - June 25, 2010

From: Cambridge, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Groundcovers
Title: Groundcover for area with impact from rain from roof
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

The small garden on the side of my townhouse gets some hard rainfall during every storm. We've found ways of redirecting and using much of the rainfall (gutter and downspout to rain barrel, permeable brick walkway in the hardest hit area), but some rain comes off a roof angle three stories up and splatters dirt out of the garden bed. Can you recommend a ground cover that could handle the strong rainfall and help to retain the soil in this bed? I have planted a Coast Azalea and Dog Hobble there to cover the concrete foundation. Both are beautiful, and doing well so far, but the continuing erosion of the soil around them worries me. The area gets lots of sun in the early spring, then is shaded by a nearby dogwood and other plantings. I'm considering planting European wild ginger (which I have a lot of) to protect the soil, but would prefer to put in native plants. Any suggestions? Thanks!

ANSWER:

This sounds like a real challenge! I'm not sure any plant is going to be able withstand a heavy periodic downfall of water.  You best bet might be to consider adding a layer of attractive gravel or larger stones to the area that receives the impact of the falling water.  The water would penetrate the rocks and still provide moisture for your plants.  If you don't want to use gravel-type rocks, you could consider larger decorative stones that would serve as a splash area to spread the water and keep it from impacting the soil. Here in Texas we might use honeycomb limestone, but such rocks are probably not easily available to you in Massachusetts.  However, they might be available at an aquarium store.   Here are some photos of landscapes using rocks of various sizes/colors/shapes. 

You might be able to use a groundcover in the area if you protect it while it is getting established.  You could build a frame above the plants with a permeable (to light and water) material over it that would break the impact of the falling water until the plants are well-established.  Or, you might plant a groundcover around any rocks that you add.  If you decide to try a groundcover with the rocks or alone, here are some possibilities that are native to Massachusetts:

Asarum canadense (Canadian wildginger) is very similar to Asarum europaeum (European ginger), but is native to North America.

Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry) is a very low shrub and is evergreen.

Mitchella repens (partridgeberry) is a low evergreen herb.

Cornus canadensis (bunchberry dogwood) is a low perennial that has attractive flowers in the late spring and summer and red berries in the fall.

Fragaria vesca (woodland strawberry) is a low perennial with edible fruit.

Sedum ternatum (woodland stonecrop) is a perennial low-growing succulent.

Here are photos from our Image Gallery:


Asarum canadense

Gaultheria procumbens

Mitchella repens

Cornus canadensis

Fragaria vesca

Sedum ternatum

 

 

More Groundcovers Questions

Wildflowers for high canal bank in Florida
May 27, 2009 - My home is on a canal to a natural lake in Central Florida (Orlando area). I am wondering if there is a wildflower that I can grow on a 3' high canal bank that is mostly shady.
view the full question and answer

Deer proof ground cover for sunny area in Mississippi
June 09, 2012 - I am looking for a low ground cover that will thrive in a sunny location and is deer proof
view the full question and answer

Removal of bramble under live oaks and replacing with groundcover
September 26, 2007 - We have several large live oaks on the front of our 12 acre property in Hockley, Texas. Under and around each oak is an extensive amount of bramble which we would like to remove so that we can enjoy ...
view the full question and answer

Aggressive Frogfruit
September 17, 2009 - I have frogfruit voluntarily growing in my flower beds. I had intended to use it as a ground cover but am concerned that it is taking over. Will it kill (smother) my flowers that I have planted for bu...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for Sunny Slope in CT
May 11, 2013 - I need a plant to use as groundcover and for erosion control on a sunny slope in southwestern Connecticut. Any suggestions other than juniper?
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