Ground covers are useful landscape additions that can be used where grass does not thrive. They are very useful to unify a landscape design featuring diverse plantings. They can capture and hide blowing leaves and fruits that would otherwise create a litter problem. Some of the larger ferns like the fishtail and `Macho' are particularly effect in covering the roots of aggressive trees like ficus, schefflera, bischofia, beautyleaf and others. Groundcovers need less maintenance than lawns and offer an excellent alternative for more mature gardeners who are beyond lawn mowing. Q. Is there a groundcover other than grass that can be walked on?
A. Most groundcovers will not tolerate foot traffic. Dichondra and lippia are shade tolerant, but are considered weeds in most yards. Wedelia can tolerate some light foot traffic. It will grow in the sun or shade and can be mowed back (mower set at the highest setting) if it grows too tall. It is very invasive and will climb up into branching shrubs, eventually covering them. I suggest using railroad ties to edge where you want the wedelia to grow. Separate your shrubs and walking areas from the wedelia. If it tries to climb over the railroad ties, trimming it back will be an easy task. Mulch is another possibility.
Q. What can I use for a narrow garden bed between the house foundation and a walkway facing north?
A. You could try some of the hardy forms of aglaonema, spathiphyllum, bromeliads, Dracena thalioides, Boston fern, spider plants or Liriope muscari, which does not get as tall as liriope `Evergreen Giant'. Make sure you have a watering system or hand water the plants, because anything under eaves will not receive natural rainfall. Insects such as mites flourish under eaves, because the rainfall does not wash them off. If the house needs tenting for termites, all plants behind the tent will be gassed and will die. Decorative stone like red lava rock may be another option.
Q. I'd like a northern looking groundcover like ivy. Can I use ivy here?
A. Most groundcovers here do not have a northern look such as ivy. Some ivies have been used outside with some success. The green small-leafed types are best, but will not be as vigorous as in more northern locations. We are somewhat beyond the southern limit where ivy is happiest. Liriope grows north to at least Baltimore and has a grassy look with purple flower spikes. Peperomia crassifolia is good groundcover for shade and some people think that it has a northern look. Some groundcover junipers grow here but need full sun to do well.