Lose the Lawn!
Don’t want grass? Grow a ground cover.
Lawns are such fixtures in the South that many communities require lawns be installed whenever a new house is built. But what if you don’t want to fool with a lawn? What if your yard to too shady to grow grass or too steep to mow? Then it’s time to consider a ground cover. I’ve divided the following ground covers into two groups – the first five are ones that like sun, while the last five are ones that like shade. Not all will be suited to where you live, so check with your local garden center, nearby botanical garden, or The New Southern Living Garden Book before making your choice.
Asian star jasmine
(Trachelospermum asiaticum). Attractive, dark green leaves. Tough and covers quickly. Grows 6-8 inches tall and roots as it spreads. Creamy yellow flowers in late spring and early summer. Evergreen.
(Euonymus fortunei radicans). Fast-spreading, tough, vining shrub with dark green leaves. Grows about a foot tall and roots as it goes. Will climb plants and structures if given the chance. Evergreen.
(Juniperus horizontalis). Tough, drought-tolerant, evergreen. A popular selection called ‘Wiltonii’ (aka “blue rug”) grows 4 inches tall and up to 8 feet wide.
(Cotoneaster horizontalis). Grows 2-3 feet tall and up to 15 feet wide. White flowers in spring and red berries and leaves in fall. Deciduous.
Yellow creeping Jenny
(Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’). Bright yellow, rounded leaves. Stems spread quickly, rooting as they grow. Forms a mat about 4 inches high. Will climb over small plants it encounters. Loses bright color in shade. Deciduous.
Big blue liriope
(Liriope muscari). Forms large clumps 1-2 feet tall and wide, but doesn’t spread by underground stems. Showy blue, purple, pink, or white summer flowers. Leaves may be solid green or striped with yellow. Cut back to 2 inches tall in late winter to remove ragged leaves.
(Ajuga reptans). Grows 4 inches tall with green, bronze, purple, or variegated foliage and showy blue, white, or pink flowers. Spreads rapidly by runners to form low mat. Evergreen. Good drainage is essential to avoid disease.
(Hedera helix). Fastest ground cover to spread and fill in. Attractive, lobed, evergreen leaves. Many selections, some with variegated white or yellow foliage. Stems root as they spread. Will climb anything and can be invasive.
(Pachysandra terminalis). Luxurious, glossy, dark green leaves. Grows 8-12 inches high. White flowers in summer. Spreads by runners at a moderate pace. Evergreen.
(Ophiopogon japonicus). Slender, dark green, grasslike leaves form a carpet 6-8 inches tall. Spreads by underground stems to make an excellent, no-mow lawn after several years. Evergreen.