Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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 - July 13, 2010

From: Elk Rapids, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Groundcovers
Title: Ground cover for roadside in Elk Rapids MI
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Elk Rapids, MI (Lake Michigan, East Grand Traverse Bay) Greetings We are looking for a native ground cover that will cover an area along a roadside, about 100 feet from the Lake Michigan shoreline. The area is raised above the shoreline, is sandy, dry and gets full sun. We would like something that is durable and will choke out weeds, including poison ivy. Also, we know very little about plants. Any suggestions?

ANSWER:

For beginning gardeners, the very first thing we do is suggest you read our How-To Article A Guide to Native Plant Gardening which will help you get started right, planting things when they should be planted, and not planting things that don't belong in your area. 

Next, lest we raise false hopes, choking out weeds is usually not the prime directive for most plants, especially involving poison ivy. The reason those plants we call "weeds" are unwanted is because they can survive in an area and establish their own turfs to which other plants, including the natives you want to establish, are not welcome. In order to give your new plants a chance, you will need to arrange for them to be irrigated at least for the first few months, and work on getting the unwanted plants and weeds out of there. Since it would be better to wait until Spring to do this planting, you might spend the gardening time between now and then grubbing out or otherwise removing the weeds. 

Not knowing what size area you need to cover, or how tall you want the plants to be, we went to our Native Plant Database and selected herbaceous blooming flowers, shrubs and grasses or grass-like plants, also selecting on "dry" for soil moisture, and "sun" (which we consider to be 6 hours or more a day of sunshine). All are native to Michigan and we also checked the USDA Plant Profile for each plant to make sure it is native in and around Antrim County. Follow each plant link to our page on that plant to learn its growing conditions, projected size, times of bloom and so forth. We further checked that each plant on the list likes sandy and/or well-drained soil and full sun. 

Ground Cover Plants for Elk Rapids MI:

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)

Fragaria virginiana (Virginia strawberry)

Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot)

Oenothera biennis (common evening-primrose)

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (kinnikinnick)

Juniperus communis var. depressa (common juniper) - pictures

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Asclepias tuberosa

Fragaria virginiana

Monarda fistulosa

Oenothera biennis

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Schizachyrium scoparium

Sorghastrum nutans

 

 

 

 

More Groundcovers Questions

Source for Dichondra from Hillsboro TX
November 26, 2012 - Where can I get dichondra and info about it?
view the full question and answer

Evergreen plant to cover parents' graves in Louisiana
June 30, 2013 - We want to plant ground cover on our parents graves in Plain Dealing Cemetery in north Bossier Parish LA. Soil is red clay/dirt. Want native plant, slow growing, short not tall plant, that might sta...
view the full question and answer

Planting creeping phlox for a groundcover
June 13, 2014 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I live in Southwestern PA (zip code 15065). I have a small slope on my property that is hard for me to mow. I would like to cover it with creeping phlox, which I saw on t...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for beachside planting in Florida
March 02, 2011 - What type of ground cover is best for beachside planting. Looking to replace lawn with salt tolerant, weed resistant, drought tolerant, little mowing, insect resistant ground cover. Any flowers are a ...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover Under Maple Tree in Ottawa That Takes Foot Traffic
April 19, 2013 - Hi, I am looking for a groundcover to put under a large maple tree that will be alright for kids to run about on and will be happy in the Ottawa climate. Your other answers to similar questions have b...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.