Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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
3 ratings

Thursday - September 02, 2010

From: Pawling, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: User Comments, Groundcovers
Title: Fast growing groundcover for New York
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I love your site! But I can't quite find this answer: can you recommend a fast-growing groundcover native to southern NY State (Dutchess County) that I can plant NOW (August/September). I want to reclaim a large half-shade half-sun area overgrown with non-native wisteria shoots/probably pokeweed/Virginia creeper/not sure what else. The soil is pretty dark and rich from years of being left alone; it was a vegetable garden 40 years ago, I believe. Thank you!!!

ANSWER:

As they say, I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that there are some ground covers/vines/small spreading shrubs that are native to New York State  that would do the job for you (and Virginia creeper is one of them).  The bad news is that they probably won't be fast growing enough to satisfy you.  That means you will still have to do plenty of weeding to keep the undesirables out.

Here are some plants to consider:

Gaylussacia baccata (black huckleberry)

Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry)

Hypericum prolificum (shrubby St. Johnswort)

Matteuccia struthiopteris (ostrich fern)

Monarda didyma (scarlet beebalm)

Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)

Physostegia virginiana (obedient plant)

Viola sororia (common blue violet)

Although none of these plants will be commonly found in the ground cover section of your local nursery and some are more vigorous spreaders than the others, they are all native to your area, available and will eventually fill in the area. You can plant any of these now as nursery plants if you can locate them or even as divisions from your friends' gardens (especially monarda, physostegia and ostrich fern) as soon as the heat lets up later this month. If you plant the violet you will soon be looking for friends to share it with!

 

From the Image Gallery


Black huckleberry
Gaylussacia baccata

Eastern teaberry
Gaultheria procumbens

Shrubby st. john's-wort
Hypericum prolificum

Ostrich fern
Matteuccia struthiopteris

Scarlet beebalm
Monarda didyma

Virginia creeper
Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Fall obedient plant
Physostegia virginiana

Missouri violet
Viola sororia

More Groundcovers Questions

Ground cover under Spruces from West Chester PA
December 06, 2012 - Trying to get a native groundcover (or any grass/wildflower/fern) planting established under a small stand of spruces. Established stand (30+ years old), so lots of needles on ground. Just about tot...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for North Central Texas
January 24, 2009 - I live in north central Texas. My backyard has very fine, powdery sand soil. The previous owners of the property let the grass die out and now every time it gets windy, the sand gets into our patio an...
view the full question and answer

Non-invasive sun ground cover for Atlanta GA
June 29, 2011 - I would like to find a non-invasive ground cover for zone 7 (Atlanta, GA) in full sun. I had a bed of ivy with daylilies on a slight slope. I have pulled up the ivy but want something that is not as i...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for foot traffic in dry shade from Prineville OR
May 12, 2013 - I live in central Oregon. I have an area under a large elm tree that slopes on all sides and has lots of foot traffic and no sun. (my kids have a swing in the tree and play around it a lot.) It's a v...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for Massachusetts
March 21, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, We are trying to kill poison ivy in shaded areas bordering our driveway and want to plant something quickly to replace it. There are many tall trees in this area, mainly pi...
view the full question and answer

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