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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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Tuesday - July 13, 2010

From: Elk Rapids, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Groundcovers
Title: Ground cover for roadside in Elk Rapids MI
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Elk Rapids, MI (Lake Michigan, East Grand Traverse Bay) Greetings We are looking for a native ground cover that will cover an area along a roadside, about 100 feet from the Lake Michigan shoreline. The area is raised above the shoreline, is sandy, dry and gets full sun. We would like something that is durable and will choke out weeds, including poison ivy. Also, we know very little about plants. Any suggestions?

ANSWER:

For beginning gardeners, the very first thing we do is suggest you read our How-To Article A Guide to Native Plant Gardening which will help you get started right, planting things when they should be planted, and not planting things that don't belong in your area. 

Next, lest we raise false hopes, choking out weeds is usually not the prime directive for most plants, especially involving poison ivy. The reason those plants we call "weeds" are unwanted is because they can survive in an area and establish their own turfs to which other plants, including the natives you want to establish, are not welcome. In order to give your new plants a chance, you will need to arrange for them to be irrigated at least for the first few months, and work on getting the unwanted plants and weeds out of there. Since it would be better to wait until Spring to do this planting, you might spend the gardening time between now and then grubbing out or otherwise removing the weeds. 

Not knowing what size area you need to cover, or how tall you want the plants to be, we went to our Native Plant Database and selected herbaceous blooming flowers, shrubs and grasses or grass-like plants, also selecting on "dry" for soil moisture, and "sun" (which we consider to be 6 hours or more a day of sunshine). All are native to Michigan and we also checked the USDA Plant Profile for each plant to make sure it is native in and around Antrim County. Follow each plant link to our page on that plant to learn its growing conditions, projected size, times of bloom and so forth. We further checked that each plant on the list likes sandy and/or well-drained soil and full sun. 

Ground Cover Plants for Elk Rapids MI:

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)

Fragaria virginiana (Virginia strawberry)

Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot)

Oenothera biennis (common evening-primrose)

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (kinnikinnick)

Juniperus communis var. depressa (common juniper) - pictures

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Asclepias tuberosa

Fragaria virginiana

Monarda fistulosa

Oenothera biennis

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Schizachyrium scoparium

Sorghastrum nutans

 

 

 

 

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