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
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - February 08, 2012

From: Carlisle, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Groundcovers
Title: Evergreen ground cover for PA
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I live outside of Harrisburg, PA. We are looking for a perennial ground cover that is long blooming and evergreen. It would be planted under some trees that would give them the whole range of sun (full to shade). Any suggestions?

ANSWER:

Well, if you are over the age of 25 you probably realize that you can't always get what you want, but you can get some of what you want. 

Our Native Plant Database  will  generate lists of plants according to your criteria, using the Combination Search feature.  It is not organized to search for Ground Covers but if you search All Habits and narrow by height (0-1 and 1-3 feet) you will get plants that will do the job including herbaceous perennials, ferns, grasses and small shrubs and vines. Each plant on the list is linked to a detailed page that will give you information about flowering period and light and moisture requirements.  You will find that by requiring evergreen plants you really have to compromise on flowering period, since you live in the north. You say you are looking for plants for sun and shade so you will find some variety, but your biggest challenge will be competition for moisture under those trees.

When I do a search without narrowing for light or moisture conditions, a list of 53 plants is generated, but when I narrow for dry conditions there are only 14 left; and that list reveals a weakness in our database.  There are a few plants with a very broad native range like Coreopsis lanceolata (Lanceleaf coreopsis) and Callirhoe involucrata (Winecup) that are listed.  They may be evergreen in Texas, but they sure aren't in Harrisburg, PA.  You may decide their flowers are worth sacrificing the evergreen quality!  Coreopsis has a very long bloom period, winecups' is shorter but as it is a member of the mallow family, it has hibiscus like flowers.

Here are a few from those lists to consider:

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick) and Gaultheria procumbens (Checkerberry) have flowers and red berries to lengthen their season of interest.

Mahonia repens (Creeping barberry) has yellow flowers, interesting fall colour and grape like fruit

Lycopodium digitatum (Fan clubmoss) is an easy care woodland choice that looks like cedar and Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge) has it's own spiky charm

If providing irrigation water is something you are willing to consider, your choices will expand considerably.

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Lanceleaf coreopsis
Coreopsis lanceolata

Winecup
Callirhoe involucrata

Kinnikinnick
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Kinnikinnick
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Eastern teaberry
Gaultheria procumbens

Eastern teaberry
Gaultheria procumbens

Creeping barberry
Mahonia repens

Creeping barberry
Mahonia repens

Creeping barberry
Mahonia repens

Fan clubmoss
Lycopodium digitatum

Eastern woodland sedge
Carex blanda

More Groundcovers Questions

Locating free tumbled glass for mulch in Austin
October 31, 2008 - Do you know where tumbled glass can be obtained for free in Austin? You've used it as a mulch at the Center. Someone in one of my Native U classes mentioned that it can be gotten free somewhere in ...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for shade under oaks in San Antonio
May 04, 2013 - I have been modifying my landscape to reduce grass and the need for frequent watering. Have turned half the backyard into native plants garden with hardscape and sitting areas. Have 2 mature Monterey ...
view the full question and answer

Low maintenance, native plants for sloping drive near Philadelphia
October 20, 2004 - My cabin is located in the northwest suburbs of Philadelphia. I am looking for low maintenance plants that would look good on the sides of a driveway that slopes upward. This is a potential project fo...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover under live oaks
June 18, 2012 - I have some areas under Live Oak trees (maybe 200 sq. ft.)that remain bare, in spite of trying Habiturf. Soil is dry, poor and shallow. Can you suggest a living ground cover that would not require m...
view the full question and answer

Getting rid of non-native, invasive English Ivy from Davidsonville MD
March 19, 2014 - Just moved and need to rid the well established Ivy planted on the steep slope area around the back and side of the house as it is taking over the bushes on the top and trees in forested area at botto...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center