The Lowdown on Plants

Charlie - Creeping JennyFind your perfect low-grower.

By Charlie Thigpen 

Whether you call them groundcovers, creepers, or spillers, most gardeners are on the lookout for low-growing plants that will cover some ground. In planters, these diminutive plants will often spread across the container and cascade down the sides. This gives the planter a more relaxed look. Whether you have shade or sun, there is a groundcover for you.

Made for Shade 

Forrest Gump just couldn’t do without his Jenny, and I also love my Jenny. I’m referring to creeping Jenny, which is an outstanding perennial that sports chartreuse dime-sized foliage. It grows nicely in low light and will take a good bit of sun as long as it receives plenty of water during the heat of the summer. Angel vine, also referred to as wire vine, also performs well in shade. English ivy and vinca vine are well-known groundcovers that I hesitate to mention because many times they spread too much and get out of control. That’s why I like to plant them in containers where their movement can be limited. Trailing coleus, such as burgundy wedding train, works well and has become one of my new favorite trailers for containers. Its foliage is very showy and these plants will also take some sun if watered frequently.

Bring on the Sun 

As we head into the hottest part of summer, everyone searches for plants that require little water. There are many different perennial-succulents in the sedum family that work well in planters and in the ground. I especially like lemon ball sedum, which sports yellow-green foliage. Herbs such as trailing rosemary and thyme also don’t require too much water and the bonus is that you get to cook with them. Probably the most popular trailing plants include margarita, blackie, and ace of spades sweet potato vine.  Although these vines are good performers, their leaves are susceptible to tiny beetles and potato loopers, which love to feast on their foliage, leaving it with small holes. These pests can be controlled using insecticides.

Low-Growing Bloomers

It’s hard to find low-growing flowers for the shade to part-shade, but the trailing torenia or wishbone flower works well in these conditions. Blue is the most popular color of trailing torenia, but you can also find it in amethyst and yellow. Portulaca and purslane are sun-loving, drought-tolerant plants whose blooms open when the sun hits them in the morning and close when the sun sets. Evolvulus or blue daze has silvery foliage and small blue flowers that also open and close with the sun. Scaveola or fan flower is another free-flowering trailer that’s great for the beds and containers. Calibrochoa has become a flowering favorite for summer planters. It looks like a miniature petunia but performs much better than petunias and comes in a wide array of colors.

Just because plants don’t grow big or tall doesn’t mean they can’t create a large impact. Try using one or several of these low-growers to spill or flow across your summer landscape.

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