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 Compost and Mulch Questions

Native shrubs or ground cover for north-facing landscape in Ft. Worth
March 23, 2010 - Need native plant ideas for a landscaping bed against the house facing north. Already has 1 Beautyberry but two others died of root rot last year due to incredibly high water table in our area. Old ...
view the full question and answer

Perennials for flower bed in Humble TX
July 28, 2010 - I have a 10 foot by 10 foot flower bed that needs to be replanted and I am located in Houston, TX so what would be some good perennials to plant that are good to grow in this heat? I have been told L...
view the full question and answer

Yellowing leaves
May 06, 2008 - What causes yellowing of native garden plant leaves?
view the full question and answer

Native Grass is Falling Over
November 09, 2011 - Hi Mr. Smarty Plants, I've tried to find this answer but am stumped as to the cause. We live in Fredericksburg, TX and have several different tall grasses, Yellow Indian grass, Little Bluestem, wire...
view the full question and answer

Esperanza failing to bloom in Odessa TX
September 01, 2009 - I have 3 Esperanza plants that have not bloomed this spring/summer. I live in Odessa, TX. We had about 5 inches of rain in July in one week (very unusual), but they have not bloomed-before or after. ...
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