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?

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
1 rating

Tuesday - November 02, 2010

From: Benton Harbor, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Groundcovers, Grasses or Grass-like, Shrubs
Title: Ground cover to withstand dog traffic in Michigan
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I need a soft ground cover that will grow in sand, and be able to take four big dogs that love to run in the yard. Grass just doesn't make it. Someone suggested that groundcover might work. Thanks for any suggestions you might have.

ANSWER:

Well, I am afraid that we won't be of much help.  The reason turf grasses are used is because they can withstand foot traffic better than perennial plants and groundcovers.

You say that the soil is sandy but don't mention if the yard is sunny and pretty much a wide open corral for the dogs to run in.  If that is the case ... good luck!  Just keep trying to encourage the grass to grow; the real reason the grass fails in the high traffic areas is due to compaction of the soil (yes, even dogs can compact the soil, especially if they run back and forth along the same path day in and day out).  So aereate the lawn and top dress it with compost every year to keep those roots healthy.

However, if you would like to have some sort of garden and would like to try to keep the dogs out of the beds you might look at the design the dogs have created for you.  In the areas (paths) they have trampled the grass, you could replace it with gravel or mulch and the areas they ignore could be turned into planting beds.  I would recommend planting dense shrubs, vigorous perennials and big clumping native grasses in beds that are deep enough that the dogs can't see through and barge through.

You can visit the Recommended Species page on our Native Plant Database and it will generate a list of plants native to Michigan that are known to do well in a garden setting and are readily available. You will have to narrow your search to match the conditions in your yard (light and moisture).

Here are a few you might try; you will notice that there are no ground covers on the list.

Shrubs

Ceanothus americanus (New jersey tea)

Cephalanthus occidentalis (Common buttonbush)

Cornus sericea (Redosier dogwood)

Ilex verticillata (Common winterberry)

Physocarpus opulifolius (Atlantic ninebark)

Rhus aromatica (Fragrant sumac)

Rosa acicularis (Prickly rose)

Viburnum opulus var. americanum (American cranberry bush)

Perennials (although the dogs certainly could break off the flowers, the plants are tough enough to survive)

Anemone canadensis (Canadian anemone)

Coreopsis lanceolata (Lanceleaf coreopsis)

Heliopsis helianthoides (Smooth oxeye)

Lupinus perennis (Sundial lupine)

Monarda fistulosa (Wild bergamot)

Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed susan)

Tradescantia ohiensis (Bluejacket)

Vernonia fasciculata (Prairie ironweed)

Grasses

 Calamagrostis canadensis (Bluejoint)

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)


Ceanothus americanus


Cephalanthus occidentalis


Cornus sericea


Ilex verticillata


Physocarpus opulifolius


Rhus aromatica


Rosa acicularis


Viburnum opulus var. americanum


Anemone canadensis


Coreopsis lanceolata


Heliopsis helianthoides


Lupinus perennis


Monarda fistulosa


Rudbeckia hirta


Tradescantia ohiensis


Vernonia fasciculata


Calamagrostis canadensis


Panicum virgatum


Schizachyrium scoparium

 

 

 

 







 
 

 


 


 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

More Groundcovers Questions

Groundcover for under oak in Plano, Texas
May 15, 2009 - I live in Plano Texas USA. I have a huge live oak tree in my front yard and a large Cape Myrtle as well under these trees no grass will grow so we have dirt or mud when it rains. Fact is the front y...
view the full question and answer

Reducing Allergens in Yards and Gardens
January 31, 2012 - What are some allergen-free native plants to Central Texas that thrive in the soil and can survive in the weather?
view the full question and answer

Competition between Horseherb and Chickweed
July 04, 2014 - Ok, sorry I did it wrong the 1st time!? I live in Houston, and I have chickens! I also have mass amounts of Horseherb, and I want to buy some chickweed seeds and plant it for my chickens! My question ...
view the full question and answer

What habitat would my Antennaria solitaria like in Red Bank, TN?
October 26, 2010 - I want to know what habitat my mystery plant will like- sun, shade, dry or moist. I think it is an Antennaria solitaria or Little Pussytoes. I got it at a native plant sale here in Chattanooga. It has...
view the full question and answer

Shade tolerant groundcover plants for Tarrant County, Texas
November 01, 2011 - I live in far NE Tarrant County (Ft Worth), TX and need a groundcover that can tolerate complete shade and poor, rocky, clay soil. I need mostly for erosion control, and needs to be relatively low
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center