Explore Plants

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
    
 

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)

 

 

 

 







 
 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

More Shrubs Questions

Hill Country natives for a hedge
June 01, 2006 - Can you recommend a "hedge type" bush to use in lieu of a fence along the road in the San Antonio region? My whole back yard is planted with Hill Country natives and I would prefer to keep the the...
view the full question and answer

Plants for pergola in Lubbock TX
May 29, 2013 - I need suggestions of plants, vines, bushes to plant in my backyard near my wooden pergola that will work well in full sun in Lubbock, TX. Ideally, I'd like some that attract hummingbirds and provide...
view the full question and answer

Shade loving plants with color for Irving, Texas
July 01, 2010 - Looking for shade loving perennials or annuals with color - native and low water. Live in Irving, Texas.
view the full question and answer

Orange rhododendrons for Millinocket ME
June 15, 2012 - Where will I find orange rhododendron in Maine? Or orange rhododendron that will thrive in Maine?
view the full question and answer

Non-blooming climbing rose in Conroe, TX
October 09, 2009 - I have a climbing rose and it has never bloomed and has no thorns, it was a cutting from another rose bush. I have given it water and fertilize and have mulch around it also.
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.