Groundcovers are the answer for low maintenance gardening. Most are tough, water wise and need very little care once established.
What distinguishes groundcovers is that they are generally low growing spreading plants that cover more ground than compact, upright growing bedding plants.
Groundcovers are mostly associated with spreading leafy plants like Lamium, plectranthus, ajuga, hen and chickens (Chlorophytum), Tradescantia purpurea, and Creeping Jenny ( Lysimachia nummularia Aurea).
But there are also flowering groundcovers that are just as tough and with the added bonus of adding swathes of colour to the garden. They attract bees and butterflies too.
Because of their spreading nature, fewer plants are needed to cover larger areas so it’s easier and more cost effective to use flowering groundcover to make a bold statement.
Give them a good start
Because most groundcovers grow in the same place for a few seasons they should be planted in well prepared soil with added compost together with 5:1:5 or 8: 1: 5 organic granular fertiliser and superphosphate or bonemeal.
Water plants two to three times a week until they are established and then reduce watering, depending on their requirements. Less frequent deep watering is preferable, and more economical, than frequent, shallow watering.
Flowering groundcovers will flower more and for longer if given an application of fertiliser once a month during summer.
Best for sun
When it comes to tough, vygies top the list. The term vygie is a catch-all name for flowering succulent groundcovers like Delosperma, Lampranthus and Mesembryanthemum that are all indigenous.
Delosperma (also known as Ice Plant) is a vigorous, mat-forming, evergreen succulent with a mass of large, daisy-like flowers, with a yellow centre. They flower continuously from early summer to autumn and do best soil that drains well, preferably on the sandy side. Plants don’t like to be waterlogged.
Delosperma Ocean Sunset is a hybrid variety with the largest flowers of any Delosperma and produces theses in abundance. The flowers close at night and open mid-morning. The vivid flower colour make this a showy plant for borders, rockeries and pavements. It is also suitable for containers and hanging baskets, especially on sunny patios and decks.
Portulaca ‘Rio Grande’ (picture) and ‘Happy Trails’ are low growing, spreading portulaca that can be used as a quick growing ground cover for hot slopes and pavements. Although not indigenous, both are extremely drought and heat tolerant, able to keep flowering through times of low rainfall. ‘Rio Grande’ has single flowers and a controlled spread for 25 to 30cm. ‘Happy Trails’ has large double flowers and a 45cm spread. Plants will perform as perennials in frost free areas.
Few plants can match Verbena ‘Endurascape’ for its intensity of colour and ability to survive sizzling summer temperatures as well as cold. ‘Endurascape’ provides a constant carpet of flowers throughout summer, and the dense spread of leaves shades the roots allowing it to withstand irregular watering. Only a few plants are needed to cover a large space.
Euphorbia ‘Glamour’ produces masses of tiny white flowers that look like baby’s breath. It is a spreading landscape variety, growing up to 60 cm high and wide. It grows best in soil that drains well, and it copes with heat and drought. It also rebounds fast from wet weather. It is a vigorous grower and flowers all year round in frost free or sheltered gardens.
Petunia ‘Easy Wave’ is a quick growing groundcover petunia with a spread of up to 1m. It is free flowering, botrytis resistant and good performer in heat or cooler conditions. The mounded plant fills out well in the centre and stays full. Plant in fertilise soil that drains well and do not over water.
Made for shade
For semi-shade there’s Begonia ‘Hula’ which is the first of its kind spreading begonia. The many small flowers that cover the plant brings high impact colour to shady areas. Its trailing habit (70cm spread) makes it a good bed filler as well as for spilling out of containers and hanging baskets. It grows in sun or semi-shade.
For more information contact BallStraathof.
Text: Alice Coetzee