Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - June 25, 2010

From: Cambridge, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Groundcovers
Title: Groundcover for area with impact from rain from roof
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

The small garden on the side of my townhouse gets some hard rainfall during every storm. We've found ways of redirecting and using much of the rainfall (gutter and downspout to rain barrel, permeable brick walkway in the hardest hit area), but some rain comes off a roof angle three stories up and splatters dirt out of the garden bed. Can you recommend a ground cover that could handle the strong rainfall and help to retain the soil in this bed? I have planted a Coast Azalea and Dog Hobble there to cover the concrete foundation. Both are beautiful, and doing well so far, but the continuing erosion of the soil around them worries me. The area gets lots of sun in the early spring, then is shaded by a nearby dogwood and other plantings. I'm considering planting European wild ginger (which I have a lot of) to protect the soil, but would prefer to put in native plants. Any suggestions? Thanks!

ANSWER:

This sounds like a real challenge! I'm not sure any plant is going to be able withstand a heavy periodic downfall of water.  You best bet might be to consider adding a layer of attractive gravel or larger stones to the area that receives the impact of the falling water.  The water would penetrate the rocks and still provide moisture for your plants.  If you don't want to use gravel-type rocks, you could consider larger decorative stones that would serve as a splash area to spread the water and keep it from impacting the soil. Here in Texas we might use honeycomb limestone, but such rocks are probably not easily available to you in Massachusetts.  However, they might be available at an aquarium store.   Here are some photos of landscapes using rocks of various sizes/colors/shapes. 

You might be able to use a groundcover in the area if you protect it while it is getting established.  You could build a frame above the plants with a permeable (to light and water) material over it that would break the impact of the falling water until the plants are well-established.  Or, you might plant a groundcover around any rocks that you add.  If you decide to try a groundcover with the rocks or alone, here are some possibilities that are native to Massachusetts:

Asarum canadense (Canadian wildginger) is very similar to Asarum europaeum (European ginger), but is native to North America.

Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry) is a very low shrub and is evergreen.

Mitchella repens (partridgeberry) is a low evergreen herb.

Cornus canadensis (bunchberry dogwood) is a low perennial that has attractive flowers in the late spring and summer and red berries in the fall.

Fragaria vesca (woodland strawberry) is a low perennial with edible fruit.

Sedum ternatum (woodland stonecrop) is a perennial low-growing succulent.

Here are photos from our Image Gallery:


Asarum canadense

Gaultheria procumbens

Mitchella repens

Cornus canadensis

Fragaria vesca

Sedum ternatum

 

 

More Groundcovers Questions

Ground cover for steep slope in Washington DC
May 07, 2010 - We have a steep slope in our garden in Washington DC which has sun from noon to sun set. Could you please recommend some low maintenance plants which would be a good ground cover and limit erosion?
view the full question and answer

What to plant between patio flagstones in Austin, TX?
May 16, 2011 - I would like to plant something between my flagstones on the patio. Something that doesn't require a lot of water, low growing, and can stand a little to moderate traffic. It is in a shade to partly...
view the full question and answer

Destruction of Straggler Daisy in Austin
December 18, 2011 - I hate Straggler Daisy. Not to be offensive, but it appears from other posts on this site that you, Mr. Smarty Plants, and many others would like to treat it as a protected species. It is taking over ...
view the full question and answer

Straggler Daisy as a Groundcover in Salado, TX
October 30, 2015 - I've identified Straggler Daisy or Horseherb as the plant to cover my 20 x 40 partly shady partly sunny lot. Could you provide me with the best method for starting and growing the plant to ensure it ...
view the full question and answer

Plant ID at Wildflower Center from Waco TX
June 18, 2012 - I was at the Center last weekend and no one was able to answer these two questions: 1. Where can I buy Silver Ponyfoot groundcover? 2. What is the name of the plant with coral blossoms in front of...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.