En EspaŅol

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?


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

Thursday - September 02, 2010

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


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!!!


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. johnswort
Hypericum prolificum

Ostrich fern
Matteuccia struthiopteris

Scarlet beebalm
Monarda didyma

Virginia creeper
Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Fall obedient plant
Physostegia virginiana

Missouri violet
Viola sororia

More Groundcovers Questions

Low native groundcover for Wicksburg/Newton AL
July 29, 2009 - I am laying a rather wide-set flagstone pathway in our back weeds (planning some native grass and wildflowers in the fall on either side of the path). I am looking for some very low native groundcover...
view the full question and answer

Bare feet-friendly native groundcovers for New York
April 14, 2005 - We own land at elevation 1600', near Sherburn, NY. We want to walk barefoot around the tipi area, but don't want to plant grass (mowing grass). What native ground cover would be kind to bare feet ...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for steep slope under large oak in East Texas
May 17, 2009 - I live in Longview and have a slope on the west side of my house that is eroding. There is a large 18-20 y-o oak tree that shades half the slope. The slope itself is too steep to safely/easily mow. ...
view the full question and answer

Replacement for shade grass in El Paso TX
April 05, 2013 - We currently have a Honey Mesquite tree with thinning bermuda grass underneath in our front yard. I suspect that the filtered shade is killing the bermuda. I was thinking of planting Buffalo Grass, or...
view the full question and answer

Groundcovers for California
September 16, 2009 - Can you recommend native ground covers for shade area to prevent soil erosion; the area is near an old California Live Oak.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center