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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - February 04, 2013

From: Round Rock, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Groundcovers, Vines
Title: Groundcover for vineyard from Round Rock, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I will be planting a vineyard in the Hill Country next spring. I am looking to maintain low-growing understory plants across the entire vineyard to maintain soil health, choosing plants that the leaf hopper does not like. Could you guys give me a list of plants that would meet these criteria?

ANSWER:

Not being entomologists, first we had to figure out what leafhoppers were. So, we went to the Internet and found the following reference material, for all the good it did us. We say that, because the gist of the information we got was that they eat EVERYTHING!

Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension Leafhopper

Extension Office for Williamson County

Texas A&M Central Texas Gardening Got Questions? Follow this link and you can directly contact someone for entomology help. If we can't find plants that can ignore the leafhoppers, then we have to come at it from a different direction: Controlling the leafhoppers.

So, then we tried to narrow it down and searched on "leafhoppers in Central Texas" and found this article from Ecosystems on Key to Leafhoppers  and Sharpshooters. From that article:"

"The following is a key to the leafhopper and sharpshooters (Cicadellidae) captured in and around grape vineyards in north and central Texas. During the growing season of 1997, a total of 47 different species were captured. It is very likely that other species were present but were not captured and therefore are not represented in this key."

Still no information on what might be invulnerable to these little beasties, including the grapevines,  so maybe we should just list some good groundcovers for that area, and if you figure out a control for leafhopper on grapevines, it should work on the groundcover leafhopper, too.

We would like to note that all of the references we looked at on the control of leafhoppers involved keeping the aisles around the grapevine cleaned of vegetative matter, especially in the winter, because the bugs can winter over there and come on stronger than ever in the spring. Of course, if you don't plant anything, there will be weeds coming up anyway, so we might suggest you consider a mulch ground cover.  It shouldn't harbor insects, makes a good walkway and will at least inhibit weeds. Please read our How-To Article Under Cover with Mulch to help you in that decision.

On to plant selection. We suggest you use this list of plants native to the Edwards Plateau as they will come closer to being adapted to your soils and climate than any other list we found. These plants are all also in our Native Plant Database, but you don't have to make so many selections about soils, water, etc. We restricted our search to height of 0-1 ft, in all habits, and selected "part shade" for Light Requirements.

Dichondra argentea (Silver ponyfoot)

Glandularia bipinnatifida var. bipinnatifida (Prairie verbena)

Melampodium leucanthum (Blackfoot daisy)

Pectis angustifolia (Limoncillo)

Nemophila phacelioides (Baby blue-eyes)

Calyptocarpus vialis (Straggler daisy)

Carex planostachys (Cedar sedge)

Salvia roemeriana (Cedar sage)

Viola missouriensis (Missouri violet)

Ruellia nudiflora (Violet ruellia)

Ruellia drummondiana (Drummond's ruellia)

If you have difficulty locating the native groundcovers that you want, go to our National Suppliers Directory, put your town and state or just your zipcode in the "Enter Search Location" box and you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed companies and consultants in your general area. They all have contact information so you can check first to see if they stock what you are looking for.

 

From the Image Gallery


Silver ponyfoot
Dichondra argentea

Prairie verbena
Glandularia bipinnatifida var. bipinnatifida

Blackfoot daisy
Melampodium leucanthum

Limoncillo
Pectis angustifolia

Texas baby blue eyes
Nemophila phacelioides

Horseherb
Calyptocarpus vialis

Cedar sedge
Carex planostachys

Cedar sage
Salvia roemeriana

Missouri violet
Viola missouriensis

Violet ruellia
Ruellia nudiflora

Drummond's ruellia
Ruellia drummondiana

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