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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.

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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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Thursday - September 02, 2010

From: Pawling, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: User Comments, Groundcovers
Title: Fast growing groundcover for New York
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I love your site! But I can't quite find this answer: can you recommend a fast-growing groundcover native to southern NY State (Dutchess County) that I can plant NOW (August/September). I want to reclaim a large half-shade half-sun area overgrown with non-native wisteria shoots/probably pokeweed/Virginia creeper/not sure what else. The soil is pretty dark and rich from years of being left alone; it was a vegetable garden 40 years ago, I believe. Thank you!!!

ANSWER:

As they say, I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that there are some ground covers/vines/small spreading shrubs that are native to New York State  that would do the job for you (and Virginia creeper is one of them).  The bad news is that they probably won't be fast growing enough to satisfy you.  That means you will still have to do plenty of weeding to keep the undesirables out.

Here are some plants to consider:

Gaylussacia baccata (black huckleberry)

Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry)

Hypericum prolificum (shrubby St. Johnswort)

Matteuccia struthiopteris (ostrich fern)

Monarda didyma (scarlet beebalm)

Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)

Physostegia virginiana (obedient plant)

Viola sororia (common blue violet)

Although none of these plants will be commonly found in the ground cover section of your local nursery and some are more vigorous spreaders than the others, they are all native to your area, available and will eventually fill in the area. You can plant any of these now as nursery plants if you can locate them or even as divisions from your friends' gardens (especially monarda, physostegia and ostrich fern) as soon as the heat lets up later this month. If you plant the violet you will soon be looking for friends to share it with!

 

From the Image Gallery


Black huckleberry
Gaylussacia baccata

Eastern teaberry
Gaultheria procumbens

Shrubby st. john's-wort
Hypericum prolificum

Ostrich fern
Matteuccia struthiopteris

Scarlet beebalm
Monarda didyma

Virginia creeper
Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Fall obedient plant
Physostegia virginiana

Missouri violet
Viola sororia

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