Look around Central Oregon and the groundcover of choice appears to be Kentucky Blue Grass which turns a lovely shade of green in the summer when we pour hundreds of gallons of water and fertilizer on it. Grass has its place in some landscapes, but we should be looking for other alternatives to use.
There are a variety of groundcovers that can be used to solve many landscape challenges such as steep banks or slopes, shady areas under trees and next to buildings; transitioning from driveways or sidewalks to shrub borders; areas where tree roots grow close to the surface; and very dry conditions.
Groundcovers under trees can be used to reduce the possibility of mower damage to the base of the tree. Some ground covers can protect the roots of shallow rooted trees by shading the soil and keeping it from drying out rapidly.
If you decide to use groundcovers in your landscape, make sure the area is clean. Remove all turf and plant only on a site that is free of weeds. Add compost to our sandy soil to provide nutrients and to help hold onto water. After planting, soak plants well and keep the soil moist until they are established. Apply 3” of mulch to help keep out weeds while the plants are filling in the space. Some hand pulling of weeds may need to be done in the first one or two growing seasons.
Cornell University conducted a five year study on groundcovers that are useful for suppressing weeds and there are some that thrive in Central Oregon. Groundcovers with a Good to Excellent Weed Suppressive Rating that grow in Central Oregon are:
- Lady’s Mantle – Alchemilla mollis ‘Thriller’ – Large round leaves that hold moisture droplets, bright yellow flowers – Sun or shade
- Basket of Gold – Aurinia saxatilis – Evergreen, green-gray foliage, yellow blooms in spring- Full Sun – Drought Tolerant
- Ice Plant – Delosperma nubigenum – Mat forming, trailing succulent with light yellow flowers midspring – Full Sun – Drought Tolerant
Coral Bells – Heuchera – Several varieties, yellow, deep red, purple foliage, small delicate flowers on spikey stems – Full Sun or Part Shade
- ‘Walker’s Low’ Catmint – Nepeta x faassenii ‘Walker’s Low’ – Long lasting blue flowers spring and summer – Full Sun – Drought Tolerant
- Moss Phlox – Phlox subulata – Mat forming profusion of early spring blooms, evergreen – Full Sun – Moist well-drained soil
- John Creech Stonecrop – Sedum spurium – low growing with evergreen fleshy leaves and pink flowers – Full Sun to Part Shade – Drought Tolerant
- Lamb’s Ear – Stachys byzantine – Evergreen, clump forming, gray-green wooly foliage – Full Sun – Drought Tolerant
- American Germander – Tecrium Canadensis – purple, cream, or pinks flowers July – September – Full Sun or Part Shade – Drought Tolerant