En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Groundcover for strip on street from Norfolk VA

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

Saturday - February 23, 2013

From: Norfolk, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Groundcovers
Title: Groundcover for strip on street from Norfolk VA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My house is on the east side of a north/south street. Between the curb and sidewalk is a strip about 3' wide, with two crepe myrtles spaced about 20' apart and a mix of sparse weeds and grass leaving a lot of bare dirt exposed between the trees. The city owns it but I'm responsible for maintaining it. It's where I put my garbage can and recycling bin on trash day, and when someone parks on the street they walk across it. I want to put a native groundcover in that will cover up the bare soil and prevent erosion onto the street. I was thinking of Pennyslvania sedge (Carex pennsylvanica), but the thing is, up to a dozen times a year the street floods during a heavy storm and the water goes up past the sidewalk for a few hours. Since Carex pennyslvanica prefers dry soil, I'm worried that will kill it. Is this a suitable place for the Pennsylvania sedge? If not, what's a good alternative?

ANSWER:

Frankly, that would be a hostile environment for just about any groundcover we can think of. Foot traffic, trash cans and flooding are a lot to ask a plant to tolerate. If the dirt is level with the curb, our suggestion might not work, but if the level of the dirt is lower than the sidewalk and curb, we would suggest some nice round river rock. Not gravel, as this would be just as likely to wash away in the flooding as dirt or plants. You don't want to pave it over because that would deny oxygen and nutrients from the soil around the roots of your trees. We often suggest mulch as groundcover for difficult situations like that, but mulch would be down the street and into the ocean in the first hard rain.

Often the best plant for holding soil and preventing erosion is a grass of some sort. Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge) is not a true grass but is grasslike. Grasses are good because they have long fibrous roots that can anchor the plant and help hold the dirt in place. Unfortunately, those long fibrous roots are going to take a while to develop and if you have that many floods every year, it seems unlikely that any plant would be able to get itself properly established in time to do you some good. The rounded rock would have spaces around it to permit water and air to get to the tree roots; of course, that would also permit a certain amount of weeds to creep up, but vigilance and a little pulling out should take care of that.

Here are links to some articles with suggestions for a rock groundcover:

Decorative Ground Cover Rocks

How to Use Rocks as a Ground Cover to Control Your Weeds

Using River Rock for Ground Cover

We also feel that carex or most other plants would be overwhelmed by flooding. You would likely find yourself doing the planting over and over again. In the meantime, is there any chance that your municipality or area might find a way to prevent that periodic flooding?

 

 

More Groundcovers Questions

Ground cover for cleared property in Austin
February 23, 2010 - I live in a small apartment building near 183 & 620. The land beyond the lawn has trees and has been cleared of brush. They are planning to seed the ground. I thought invasive native ground covers wo...
view the full question and answer

Native ground cover for Houston
March 02, 2009 - I'm interested in finding native ground cover, either perennials or grasses, that would help control erosion on a steep slope along Soldiers Creek. Currently there is Jasmine, ivy, prairie spiderwort...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for steep slope under large oak in East Texas
May 17, 2009 - I live in Longview and have a slope on the west side of my house that is eroding. There is a large 18-20 y-o oak tree that shades half the slope. The slope itself is too steep to safely/easily mow. ...
view the full question and answer

Short or mowable plant for walkway
June 03, 2008 - I'd like a short and/or mowable plant to use as a walkway in and around a vegetable garden in upstate NY. I was planning on clover, but I want to use a native plant if possible. The native clovers ...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for Southern California clay slope
April 02, 2012 - I have a 30 ft. high by 96 ft. long slope with clay soil slope that I want to plant a low height ground cover. Any recommendations on what ground cover possibilities to use.
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