Drought-Tolerant Ground Covers with Showy Flowers
OENOTHERA BERLANDER SISKIYOU 'PINK'
(Pink Evening Primrose)
Full Sun, Zones 5-9
Oenothera berlanderi siskiyou 'Pink' is a super drought-tolerant evening primrose that produces a plethora of pale pink flowers that appear luminous in the sun. A wildflower native to North America, 'Pink' is also called evening primrose, sundrops, Mexican primrose and desert primrose.
Because it spreads rapidly, blooms profusely and requires little care, Oenothera berlanderi siskiyou is perfect as a ground cover or in a rock garden.
How to Sow Pink Evening Primrose
For optimal results, sow 'Pink' seeds in well-drained, slightly acidic or sandy soil in early spring or fall, and be sure to choose a sunny locale. It will reseed yearly on its own.
How to Care for Pink Evening Primrose
To keep Oenothera berlanderi siskiyou 'Pink' looking pretty, pinch off spent flowers periodically. 'Pink' will bloom heavily from May through July and sporadically through October.
If your area is prone to Japanese beetles, you may have to treat 'Pink' with insecticidal dust or hand pick beetles from its blossoms, which they love to munch.
VERBENA CANADENSIS 'HOMESTEAD PURPLE'
(Homestead Purple Verbena)
Full or Partial Sun, Zones 6-10
Verbena canadensis 'Homestead Purple' is a moderately fast-growing creeper that produces showy, purple flowers from late spring into fall. Its stems set roots as they grow along the ground, making 'Homestead Purple' a good plant for erosion control. It spreads up to about three feet and can grow up to a foot high.
In addition to being drought tolerant, Verbena canadensis 'Homestead Purple' is heat tolerant, and it doesn't mind humidity and salt, which makes it a good ground cover for coastal locations. Although deer tend to avoid Verbena canadensis, butterflies love it.
Verbena is also known as rose verbena, rose vervain, creeping vervain and clump verbena.
How to Care for 'Homestead Purple' Verbena
'Homestead Purple' prefers full sun and good drainage. Once it's established, 'Homestead Purple' is fairly drought tolerant; however, if the dry spell is a long one, it may require a little watering.
If using as a ground cover, plant individual 'Homestead Purple' plants about a foot apart. In areas with harsh winters, be sure to mulch it in the fall. In areas outside Zones 6-10, treat verbena as an annual in hanging baskets and mixed containers.
Full Sun to Partial Shade, Zones 7-11
Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) produces drifts of dainty, sweet-smelling white flowers from spring into fall. Despite its frilly appearance, however, it's one tough plant.
Sweet alyssum is drought tolerant, frost resistant, and heat resistant, and it grows well in just about any soil.
For best results, plant sweet alyssum in full sun or partial shade. It reaches only 8-12 inches high and makes a pretty ground cover, especially in flowerbeds and along walkways.
Sweet alyssum is an annual; however, it self seeds, so you'll probably only have to plant it once.
How to Start Sweet Alyssum from Seed
Sweet alyssum is easy to start from seed.
Sow alyssum in early spring. Because they need light in order to germinate, sweet alyssum seeds should be broadcast on loose soil and sprinkled lightly with more soil. Mist spray periodically if the weather is dry. The seeds will germinate in about 15 days.
Full Sun, Zones 4-9
Hardy, colorful and low maintenance, coreopsis (a.k.a. tickweed) is an excellent choice for poor-soil areas along roadways and driveways.Low-growing varieties make excellent ground covers, producing small, daisy-like flowers from late spring into fall--even under hot, dry conditions.
Although most varieties of coreopsis produce yellow flowers, some pink-blooming varieties are also available.
Two low-growing types of coreopsis to try include Moonbeam, which may reach up to a foot in height. The deep pink Mahogany Midget variety of coreopsis is less than a foot tall.
How to Grow & Care for Coreopsis
Plant coreopsis in full sun. It doesn't mind poor soil, so long as it's well drained.
Coreopsis spreads easily. To keep it healthy, divide patches of it every 2-3 years, just as you would Rudbeckia hirta (blackeyed Susan) or Shasta daisies.
In the fall, after the first hard frost, mow or cut coreopsis down to about two inches in height and apply a light layer of mulch.
(The Hardy Ice Plant)
Full Sun, Zones 5-11
Delosperma, the hardy ice plant, is a succulent ground cover that blooms from spring into fall. In Zones 9-11, delosperma will produce flowers all year long.
Delosperma's cheerful flowers, which open as the sun rises and close at night, come in a wide range of colors, including white, yellow, red, purple and pink.
Delosperma grows well in poor soil and requires virtually no maintenance. It's also drought tolerant, fire retardant and easy to propagate.
How to Care for Delosperma
Learn more about growing and caring for Delosperma.
Full to Partial Sun, Zones 7-10
Salvia sonomensis (creeping sage) is a perennial ground cover native to California. It grows best in well-drained, sandy soil in full sun or partial shade.
Creaping sage is a good ground cover choice for hillsides or those bare spots under shade trees. It's also a nice addition to the nature lover's garden, attracting birds, bees and butterflies.
In spring and summer, S. sonomensis's flowers draw butterflies and bees. In the fall, it produces seeds that birds like to eat.
Creeping sage is also low maintenance. Once it's established, it's a vigorous grower. It can spread up to ten feet across, creating broad swathes of color from May through June when it produces six-inch spikes of violet flowers.
The foliage itself is a gray-green that grows anywhere from a foot to two feet tall. In the fall, if drainage is good and the weather dry, leave creeping sage as it is for the birds to enjoy. For a neater look, clip off the flower stalks in the fall. "Cleaning up" will also reduce the likelihood of fungus, which creeping sage can develop during wet weather if drainage is poor.
About the Author
The Dirt Farmer has been an active gardener for over 30 years.
She first began gardening as a child alongside her grandfather on her parents' farm.
Today, The Dirt Farmer gardens at home, volunteers at community gardens and continues to learn about gardening through the MD Master Gardener program.
© 2012 Jill Spencer