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

Thursday - May 23, 2013

From: West Chester, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Drought Tolerant, Groundcovers, Shade Tolerant
Title: Ground cover for a dry slope in PA
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

My side yard is a slope with rocky (a lot of small serpentine rocks) soil under white and black pine trees. I can grow lots of weeds :-) but would like to plant a low (0-3in) evergreen ground cover that is dog and cat safe and does not attract the neighborhood skunks or white footed mice (this area rivals Lyme CT for Lyme disease carried by ticks on mice and deer). I am in West Chester Pa. Thanks for your help!! I have been struggling with this slope for 7 yrs.

ANSWER:

This is a really tough challenge and I am surprised to hear that you can even grow weeds.  Although I am familiar with your area (not all the Green Gurus live in Austin, TX; we just wish we did!) I decided to search our Native Plant Database to see what native species fit your criteria.  Entering your conditions into the Combination Search (PA, dry conditions,  0-1 ft, evergreen and plants of all habits and duration) a list of only 3 plants is generated:

Coreopsis lanceolata (Lanceleaf coreopsis), which is really not what you are looking for, but makes the list because it is so adaptable and is evergreen in parts of its very wide native range.  It would be a great plant for your perennial flower garden.

Lycopodium digitatum (Fan clubmoss), whose "cedar-like appearance, low growth, evergreen leaves, and spreading habit make it ideal for the well-drained eastern woodland landscape. Once established, it spreads quickly by stems that lie just at the surface of the soil."

and

Mitchella repens (Partridgeberry), "A most attractive woodland creeper with highly ornamental foliage, it can be used as a groundcover under acid-loving shrubs."

Not a lot of choices, but either of these plants, if you can find them in retail nurseries, would be a great alternative to weeds or gravel (your other two choices).  Neither plant would be a risk to your pets, but we can't guarantee that native wildlife will avoid them.  Native animals and native plants are usually found together.

Visit our Suppliers Directory to search for Native Plant nurseries in your area or check with the Pennsylvania Native Plant Society to find sources of these plants or other natives.  Although you may find other ground covers in nurseries that will survive in your conditions (although you do say you've been fighting this battle for a long time), we gardeners have learned the hard way about alien ground cover species that become invasive over time under ideal conditions.

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Fan clubmoss
Lycopodium digitatum

Partridgeberry
Mitchella repens

More Groundcovers Questions

Native turf grass for acreage in Denison TX
January 27, 2014 - I have recently moved to Denison TX where we have 5+ acres of true crosstimbers land. I am looking for a native turf grass that will do well in sandy soil and with the water provided by nature. The m...
view the full question and answer

Salt-tolerant groundcover for shade with no water supply
September 11, 2013 - We have a home in Neptune Beach (Jacksonville) Florida (NE Florida). We have a large area outside our ground floor master bedroom that is completely covered (there is a large solid deck above it). ...
view the full question and answer

Dense groundcover for full sun on the California coast.
November 08, 2011 - Can you recommend a very dense ground cover that serves as a lawn (in full sun on the coast, pref. drought resistant)? Many thanks in advance.
view the full question and answer

Groundcovers to replace meadow grasses
September 08, 2008 - Are there any groundcovers that are tolerant to local conditions between Bastrop and Elgin and hardy enough to takeover meadow grasses? I have a couple of acres that was a meadow before I moved here e...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a Steep, Sunny Slope in Iowa
April 28, 2013 - I am looking for plants native to Iowa for a steep, sunny slope or groundcover.
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