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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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

Horseherb for ground cover in Dallas
September 19, 2009 - When considering horseherb as a ground cover for a large area; are there disadvantages to sowing seed versus planting established plants? If not, what time of year is best to sow horseherb?
view the full question and answer

Shade Tolerant Grasses and Groundcovers for Waco TX
March 15, 2013 - What is the best shade-tolerant grass? What is the best shade-tolerant ground cover?
view the full question and answer

Help with control of small, invasive groundcover
April 16, 2012 - I have a very invasive ground cover creeping into my yard. I've tried to identify it and it's similar to creeping charlie or garlic mustard. Leaves are triangular with jagged edges, small purple f...
view the full question and answer

Restoring the woods in Central Austin.
May 08, 2012 - I live in Austin, south central between Red Bud trail close to the low water bridge and Bee Caves road. My question: I want to make the wooded sections of my yard attractive. They have filtered sun...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for a dry slope in PA
May 23, 2013 - My side yard is a slope with rocky (a lot of small serpentine rocks) soil under white and black pine trees. I can grow lots of weeds :-) but would like to plant a low (0-3in) evergreen ground cover th...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center